Sunday, 1 August 2010

The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty

The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty

This is the catalogue, accompanying the exhibition in the MET in NY.

In 1215, the year Khubilai Khan (1215–1294) was born, the Mongols made their first major incursion into North China and initiated a period of extraordinary creativity in the arts that was encouraged by the confluence of many cultures and ethnic groups. This period lasted approximately 150 years and had its greatest flowering in the Yuan dynasty, founded by Khubilai in 1271 and lasting until 1368.

Xanadu to Dadu is a groundbreaking study of the art and culture produced at this time by the Chinese and by the highly skilled craftsmen from Western and Central Asia, who were selected for their abilities and brought together in Northern Chinese workshops, where they exchanged ideas, styles, and art forms. The works they produced created a new art style that would influence the arts of China in all subsequent periods. In the 11 essays included in this volume, art historians discuss the origins of new art forms, daily life in Yuan China, in particular at the imperial court and in the capital cities of Xanadu (Shangdu) and Dadu (Beijing), and the impact on the arts of the religions practiced at this time, including Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, Manichaeism, Hinduism, and Islam. The essays are accompanied by beautifully reproduced color illustrations of artworks from Chinese and international collections.

The details of this exhibition are following:
The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

•September 28, 2010- January 2, 2011
•Press preview: Monday, September 20, 10:00 a.m. - noon

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a major international loan exhibition devoted to the art of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)—one of the most dynamic and culturally rich periods in Chinese history—beginning September 21. Bringing together some 220 works drawn principally from China, with additional loans from Japan, Europe, and the United States, The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty will explore the art and material culture that flourished during the pivotal and vibrant period in Chinese culture and history dating from 1215, the year of Khubilai Kan's birth, to 1368, the fall of the Yuan dynasty. The assemblage of extraordinary works will include paintings and sculpture, as well as decorative arts in gold and silver, textile, ceramics, and lacquer, and the exhibition will highlight new art forms and styles that were generated in China as a result of the unification of the country under the reign of Khubilai Khan. The majority of works on view have never before traveled outside China.

The exhibition is made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Dillon Fund, The Henry Luce Foundation, Wilson and Eliot Nolen, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Jane Carroll.

During the Yuan Dynasty, China was completely subjugated by foreign conquerors for the first time in its history and became part of a larger political entity: the Mongol empire. Ironically, during this century of alien occupation, Chinese culture not only survived but was invigorated. The Mongols—lacking experience in the administration of a complex empire—gradually adapted Chinese political and cultural models in order to rule the vast domains. As the most skilled craftsmen from all over Western and Central Asia were brought into North China's workshops, the exchange of idea, styles, and art forms between native Chinese and immigrant artists began. The stimulus of this communication resulted in the creation of new art styles that provided the model for the arts of China in all subsequent periods until the 20th century.

Organized thematically, the exhibition will be presented in four parts. It will open with a section on daily life illustrating the appearance of things in China during the Yuan dynasty, particularly at the imperial court and the capital cities: Xanadu (Shangdu) and Dadu (present-day Beijing). It will include portraits of emperors and their consorts, architectural elements in stone and pottery, costumes, jewelry, and other luxury items for daily use. This section will provide the visitor with a very good idea of what greeted the eyes of Marco Polo when he first reached Dadu, the capital of the Great Khan Khubilai.

The next section will feature paintings and sculpture relating to various religions practiced in Yuan China, including Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, Islam, Manichaeism, and Hinduism. It will also feature works associated with Nestorian Christianity, which is not well known in the U.S. and Europe but flourished in Central Asia for centuries; extremely rare examples from Inner Mongolia will be on view in this section.

Paintings and calligraphy of every major artist and school of the period will also be featured in the exhibition. Highlights of this third section will be two paintings datable to the period between the Mongols' initial incursion into north China in 1215 and the conquest of the Southern Song in 1276; they will be put in a proper context in Chinese art history for the first time in an exhibition. Chinese art became a major influence on Persian painting in Iran and Central Asia in the 14th century.

The final section of the exhibition will concentrate on the decorative arts, with emphasis on porcelain, lacquer, and textiles. The beginning and early development of underglaze decorated porcelain will be presented by important examples, particularly blue-and-white, which eventually became a universal type of porcelain in both Asia and Europe up to the present time. Textiles will be represented by luxury silks from Central Asia and China—apart from their visual appeal, they also demonstrate the exchange of motifs and weaving techniques between China and the Iranian world. A magnificent example on view will be the "cloth of gold," made famous over the world by travelers to Yuan China such as Marco Polo. A highly unusual carpet woven in the tradition of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes, with a Chinese motif surrounded by a Kufic border, will also be included in this section.

The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Metropolitan Museum and distributed by Yale University Press.
The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum will offer a variety of educational programs.
A special feature on the Museum's website ( will acquaint visitors with key works of art and themes from the exhibition.
The World of Khubilai Khan is organized by James C. Y. Watt, Brooke Russell Astor Chairman of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art

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