You may have seen the display case in the library , or passed it on your way up to the second floor, and wondered, what is that stuff in there? Well, among the various plaques, coins, and traditional eating utensils, there are three particular items that have important significance to Chinese culture, and are identified by the numbers in the picture below. Keep reading to find out a bit more about these items, their connection to Chinese cultural history, and for a few book recommendations if you’re interested in delving more deeply into the subject of China.
1. The first item–actually items–of interest are the miniature figurines in the top right corner of the display case. These figurines are models of the much larger, life-size terra-cotta soldiers that make up the underground army that was found in the tomb complex of China’s first emperor, Shihuangdi, of the Qin dynasty. Shihuangdi was known for unifying the empire, starting the Great Wall of China, and building himself a massive tomb, complete with 9,000 of these terra-cotta soldiers, which are arranged in military formation, poised for battle, and facing East, in the direction of the emperor’s enemies. For more info, check out this article in Brittanica.
2. The second item on display is a set of miniature (you’re probably noticing a theme here 🙂 ) masks that are decorated with makeup styles from traditional Chinese opera. The stories of Chinese opera are told through a blend of music, art, literature, and makeup styles that use lines and colors to tell the audience about each character’s personality, role, and fate. The color red can signify loyalty and bravery; the colors yellow and white, treachery; and the colors gold and silver, mystery. Click here to read about Chinese performing arts through the ages.
3. The third item in our display includes two cases of small bottles painted with a running scene that resembles the famous Chinese painting, “Qingmingshanghetu” or “Along the River During the QingMing Festival.” This famous panorama–sometimes called the Chinese Mona Lisa–was painted during the Song Dynasty by Zhang Zedoun and shows the bustling streets and waterways of Bianjing (modern Kaifeng) during the Qingming festival. To see the original, you’ll have to visit the National Palace Museum, but, until then, you can check out this cool, interactive painting on the museum’s website.
For more information on these items and Chinese culture, check out these books in the college library:
Cambridge Illustrated History of China (DS 706 .E37 1996)
China: A History (DS 735 .K39 2009)
Fodor’s Exploring China, 4th edition (DS 712 .K66 2001)
See you in the library!
“Along the River During the QingMing Festival.” China Online Museum. 21 Mar. 2009. Web. 1 May 2013. http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-along-the-river.php
“Chinese Opera.” TravelChinaGuide.com. Web. 1 May 2013. http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/arts/chinese-opera.htm
“Qin tomb.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 01 May. 2013. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/111785/Qin-tomb