Sunday, 10 January 2016

Celestial Empire at NLA

The National Library of Australia has a current exhibition of material from China.  Expecting it to be busy it has been necessary to book, and folk are admitted on the hour (but allowed t stay as long as they want once in there.
The character second from the left in the image was a depiction of Monkey, in the court theatre version rather than the TV series.  Apparently a special team of eunuchs did the performing - presumably this facilitated switching between male and female roles!

I didn't see any signs about no photos, and saw many others wielding their phones and tablets so took a few snaps as souvenirs.  Here are some of them.  This very colourful little work has the title "Imperial Translation of Praise for the Budda-mother of Salvation".
 Unfortunately that was all that was on the card, so I don't know any more about it.  Quite a few of the works were accompanied by much more information about the content and context of the item but none seemed to have anything about the artistic methods and materials.  That is reasonable as it is a library exhibition but it would have been nice to know if things were rubbings or pen and ink etc etc.  Perhaps I am just hard to please!

This next was a map from 1794 of Shanxi Province.  The card explained a good bit about the arrangement of towns etc at the time and indicated that it showed the Yellow River on the West and the Great Wall running across the Northern area.  I wondered what symbol they used for the Wall: the  curved linear feature with crenellations gave a big hint!
The next illustration shows one of the many examples of a drawing accompanied by rows/columns of neat characters.  It was part of a book showing the path to individual perfection.
What really intrigued me was the name of the author - Yin the Perfected - suggesting he (? - making an assumption there) had practised what he preached. If it had come from the pen/brush of "Yin who hasn't quite got there yet" it probably wouldn't have been a big seller.

This nest one is attributed to the Farmer of Mount Mao!  Presumably an aquaculturist, as the work is an 'Illustrated Guide to Goldfish'  or possibly part of a 'Study of Moral Conduct".
 Everything in the exhibition was pretty interesting and it was brought together in a very large 2m<2 touch screen showing a map of China.  There were small dots (I have highlighted on with a red ring) on it which when tapped produced a sub image about the area.
 In some cases this led to a whole set of texts which could be drilled down.  In the case of Beijing there were about 8 subtexts some of which had 6 images  contained therein.

Getting back to the initial image I estimated that about a quarter of folk in the gallery were of Chinese ancestry.

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