The exhibition, ‘Treasures of Ancient China’, is the result of one and a half years of hard work by experts from India and China. It opens in the National Museum (New Delhi) in February and then tours Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay (Mumbai), Salar Jung Museum (Hyderabad) and the National Library (Kolkata).
Early in 2006, when the exhibition, ‘Treasures of Ancient India’, celebrated its grand opening in the Capital Museum in Beijing, its co-sponsors, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), decided to hold an itinerant exhibition composed of Chinese antiquities in India as an exchange.
This exhibition is the product of co-operation and diligent work of the archaeological organizations and researchers from the two countries. Four outstanding museums and institutions in India provide the venue for this exhibition. The exhibits are drawn from the Capital Museum, Henan Museum, Three Gorges Museum and Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King where the exhibition, ‘Treasures of Ancient India’ was housed. Besides, the Shaanxi Provincial Bureau of Cultural Heritage and Liangzhu Museum also lent generously to the exhibition. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the above-mentioned organizations for their contribution to China-India exchanges in the field of cultural heritage. In the meantime, a large debt of gratitude is owed to the Chinese Embassy and the Indian Embassy, which have spared no efforts in supporting this exhibition.
Seven thousand years ago, the Yangtze River Basin nurtured a rice-cultivation culture, the Hemudu Culture, whereas the Yellow River Basin bred a millet-cultivation culture, the Peiligang Culture and the Yangshao Culture. Exhibits representing the above cultures include polished stone tools, daily-use potteries from the Neolithic Age, and the bronze ritual vessels which the nobles of Shang and Zhou dynasties sacrificed to their ancestors; while the concept of serving the dead as if they are still alive’ in traditional Chinese culture can be said to be vividly reflected by the daily-use bronze vessels and jade objects of the Han nobles, compared to their burial potteries and funerary representations. Porcelain is a great invention of ancient China, to the extent that in many languages, the word ‘china’ means both the nation and porcelain. In this exhibition, selected porcelain objects, some of which date to the l3 century, are presented. The collection of these exhibits reveals aspects of the material and spiritual life led by people of different historical phases, which is also a reflection of the historical evolution of dynastic China as well as its civilization and wisdom.
Both China and India are amongst the world’s greatest and oldest civilizations. Originating from both sides of the Himalayas, the rivers — Yangtze, Yellow, Indus and the Ganges — nourished two great nations and their glorious civilizations. The cultural exchange between the two nations dated far back to the Han Dynasty, when the envoys sent to Central Asia brought back information of a warm and rich India. Since Buddhism was introduced into China, communication between the two civilizations became more frequent and closer, of which, Master Tang Xuanzang was a representative. Initiating his journey from Chang’an, Master Xuanzang spent more than ten years studying Buddhism in the Nalanda Temple, from where he brought back volumes of Sanskrit sutras to China. The introduction of Buddhism provided an exceptional opportunity for philosophical and intellectual exchanges in ancient China. The friendly exchange between the two civilizations was recorded by many Buddhist artifacts, some of which are selected for this exhibition.
The recent years have witnessed a wider and deeper cultural link, devoted to preserving cultural heritage for the benefit of the people of the two nations. An excellent example of this link was the exhibition, ‘Treasures of Ancient India’, that took place between 2006 and 2007, and attracted more than 3,10,000 visitors. Religious and secular statues from the well-known Buddhist sites of India, including Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Nalanda, and the renowned World Cultural Heritage Site of Khajuraho, were shown to Chinese viewers. The solemn Buddhist statues, the lithe and graceful Yakshis and other sculptures fascinated the Chinese viewers.
While that spectacular exhibition is still fresh in our memory, four years later, today’s right before the most important festival of China, the Spring Festival, we have brought approximately 95 sets of Chinese treasures to Indian viewers, among which are the world-famous terracotta warriors of the First Emperor, the tn-coloured glazed pottery of the Tang dynast and Buddhist statues from the famous Longmen Grottoes, to comprise the exhibition, ‘Treasures of Ancient China’.
We sincerely hope that this exhibition will set an example for cultural exchanges between the two countries and serve as a bridge to promote understanding and friendship between the two peoples. I wish complete success to the ‘Treasures of Ancient China’ exhibition.
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