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China: Dawn of a Golden Age

China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200–750 AD
October 12, 2004–January 23, 2005
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

China’s “medieval” period that followed the Han Dynasty, on through the early Tang, is the least well explored. This exhibition, one of the largest ever to come out of mainland China, presents more than 300 rarities and recent archaeological finds drawn from top museums and institutes. The emphasis is on sculpture, ceramics, and textiles, but with enough jade, bronze, gold, paintings, personal adornment (jewelry), and “luxury items” to interest readers of Adornment. The objects range in size from a huge sculpture of a mythical animal to a tiny gold coin. Most of the items are Chinese, but the influence of the growing cultural interchange with North China, Central Asia, and the West is clearly shown as well.

The exhibit opens with a large, spectacular set of fourteen bronze cavalry and charioteer figures, arranged in formation as an official procession (Han Dynasty). Typical of the luxury personal adornment items is a superb fifteen-piece ornamented jade belt that belonged to a famous Tang general, a cousin of the Emperor. With so many reproductions commonplace today, it is educational to recalibrate one’s eye with this exhibit’s magnificent examples.

An audio guide can be rented for the exhibit. There is a massive (488 pages, 12 × 9 inches), fully illustrated (500 figures, 400 in color), scholarly catalog available at $75 for hardbound or $50 paperbound.

— © Eric J. Hoffman

(Originally published in Adornment, the Newsletter of Jewelry & Related Arts, Vol. 5, No. 1, Dec 2004)

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