The Warsaw Voice » Culture » Monthly - December 30, 2016
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Ancient Chinese Culture in Warsaw

Visitors to the National Museum in Warsaw are the world’s first audience to see some of the millennia-old artifacts that have been brought to a special exhibition from the National Museum of China in Beijing.

Entitled Life in the Midst of Beauty: The World of a Chinese Scholar, the Chinese exhibition focuses on the life, work and legacy of learned Chinese officials called literati. These “scholar-officials” went through a long process of comprehensive education, studying Confucianism, poetry, calligraphy and painting. Forming a distinctive social class like no other in the world, they shaped the political, social and cultural life of China for centuries.

According to Joanna Popkowska, the curator of the National Museum exhibition, nobody can tell for sure when or where the literati came from. “The first confirmed accounts of the officials come from as early as 3,000 years B.C.,” says Popkowska. “The literati tradition is closely related to calligraphy and music and so we have used them to tell the story of Chinese culture.”

The historical background for the story is composed of 165 objects, some of which have never been exhibited before, not even in China. They include a stone slab with Confucian law codes on it, dating back to the early years of the first millennium, and a terra-cotta tomb figure of a Chinese official. These and other objects give visitors an insight into the remarkable lives of the erudite officials. Other noteworthy items on show include landscape scrolls, calligraphy samples, painted fans and ancient bronze vessels used in rituals.

One of the exhibition highlights are famous china vessels manufactured under the Ming and Qing dynasties. Visitors can also see a variety of colors, shapes and ornamentation in utensils that the literati used to make tea for reading sessions and social meetings.

Every scholar-official needed to have four “treasures” in his studio: a brush, ink, paper and an ink grinding stone. Their look and quality spoke for the craftsmanship of their owners.

The items on show at the National Museum delight the eye with the stunning beauty of the finest details, showcasing the best of Chinese art of the Ming and Qing periods. The treasures include gold-plated Xuan paper, a bamboo brush with a dragon motif on it, colorful ink bars and a grinding stone adorned with a bas-relief image of a horse being harnessed by a man.

Until Jan. 8
National Museum in Warsaw; 3 Jerozolimskie Ave.