Posted by StreetWise in From the Streets
By Madeline Cohen and Zara Khan
China is one of the world’s leading superpowers, with its rapidly evolving landscape and rich culture. To enlighten us about this eminent country and its heritage, the Field Museum has opened the permanent exhibit, the Cyrus Tang Hall of China.
During the recent media preview Julie Chavez, Bank of America Illinois market manager, said “the exhibit will educate [Chicago’s] students, teachers and communities, and teach us more about global citizenship.” Exhibition Project Manager Tom Skwerski said that Chicago visitors see China’s powerful role in the world, and that by focusing on China’s past, “visitors will gain an understanding of where that role grew out of.” Cyrus Tang Hall will be the first Chicago exhibit dedicated solely to China, and the largest permanent exhibit of Chinese culture in the U.S.
While strolling through the exhibition, visitors will notice three overarching messages—“there is no one China, constant change and strong continuity define the history of Chinese culture, and each object in the exhibition has multiple stories to tell.”
Those three messages are woven through the anthropological stories told in five galleries:
*Diverse Ways of Life, Ritual and Power
*War and Unification, Shifting Power
*Enduring Traditions, Beliefs and Practices: Symbols and Stories
*Crossing Boundaries: Building Networks.
Audiences can learn about the roots of Chinese culture, while comparing and contrasting it to the beginnings of their own diverse cultures, which will leave them with an innate appreciation of present-day Chinese customs and traditions.
Thousand-year-old artifacts help us to also understand the present, remind us what happened to get us to where we are now, and allow us to use that historical knowledge to shape the outcome of our future. Rather than serving merely as pieces of art, each of the 350 artifacts in the exhibit was carefully chosen from a collection of 3,300 to tell a story.
Two 13th century stone lions guard the entry to the exhibit, highlighting the Chinese belief that lions possess attributes of power and strength. The lions also communicate the role that the wealthy and powerful held in Chinese society, since these statues often guarded homes of the affluent or imperial buildings. A portion of a 27 foot-long Qingming scroll painting also sits on display, a 17th century version of the famous 12th century original. The scroll not only gives visitors a glimpse into an idealized China, but as a copy, it shows values that were retained over hundreds of years. And a rare porcelain bodhisattva statue dating back to the Yuan period (1271-1368) tells the story of the Buddha coming to China and the country’s complex history of changing religions.
Businessman and philanthropist Cyrus Tang emigrated to the US from China in 1950 at age 20. The exhibit lives up to his Cyrus Chung Ying Tang foundation’s purpose, to “promote greater understanding and mutual respect between the US and China through effective investment in community service and cultural exchanges.”