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Paintings at Ohio museum depict China’s rich history

Paintings at Ohio museum depict China’s rich history
Listening to the Qin (Zither) by Liu Songnian. CHINA DAILY

China’s deep, rich history is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the US state of Ohio, which has gathered rare paintings and precious artifacts from several prominent Chinese museums and private collections worldwide.

The exhibition, Six Dynasties of Chinese Painting, will run from Nov 10 last year to Sept 1 at the museum, which is known for having one of the largest and most distinguished Asian art collections in the West.

It covers six dynasties up until the modern era and depicts a wide range of subjects, including landscapes, animals, birds and flowers, along with religious and historical themes.

The museum said it acquired the paintings from the museum’s founding in 1913 to the most recent additions, “demonstrating a continuous commitment to Chinese painting, a field that has always been the strongest asset of the Chinese collection”.

Some of the works featured include Landscape after Ni Zan by Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715) and Listening to the Qin (Zither) by Liu Songnian (c. 1150-after 1225).

There is also a statue, Bodhisattva Guanyin of the South Sea from Fujian province in the 1600s, depicting the most revered enlightened being in East Asia.

The museum’s general Chinese art collection spans more than 5,000 years. Some of the most important paintings are from the Song (960-1279) to Qing dynasties (1644-1911).

The museum said it hopes it will showcase the “highest level of Chinese artistic accomplishment”. This includes bamboo carvings, jades, bronzes, lacquer, sculptures, paintings, calligraphy and furniture. It also has paintings, ceramics, Buddhist sculptures and textiles, which it describes as “works of international significance”.

The curators are continuously updating their Asian art to reflect the rich traditions and continuing artistic developments of China, it said.

William Griswold, the museum’s director and president, worked with exhibition curator Clarissa von Spee to highlight work from all over the globe, especially Asia.

Illuminating Chinese art was a central mission to Sherman Lee, former director of the museum, who was in charge from 1958 to 1983. He established the bulk of the institution’s Chinese painting collection.

In another recent exhibition at the museum, China’s Southern Paradise, which ran from September to January, more than 200 items sourced from institutions in China and beyond were on display.

It featured Jiangnan, the region south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and its changes over the years and its long-running importance in producing key products such as jade and silk.

China’s Southern Paradise also hearkened back to Neolithic times, such as grains of rice that are believed to be the first rice cultivated anywhere in the world, recovered from Tianluoshan, an ancient site found in the 2000s, which scientists believe was inhabited around 7000 BC.

Working with the Zhejiang Archaeological Institute in China, the rice was carefully packaged and sent to the United States for the exhibition.