Art created 2,000 years ago that still influences Chinese society today is featured in a new exhibition in New York.
Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.– A.D. 220) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art explores “the role of art in creating a new and lasting Chinese cultural identity.”
“The Han Empire represents the ‘classical’ era of Chinese civilization, coinciding in importance and in time with Greco-Roman civilization in the West,” said Jason Sun of the Met’s Department of Asian Art.
Like the Roman Empire, the Han state was known for building a network of roads and a centralized government that spread a unified legal code and a consistent written language. These changes were first introduced under the Qin dynasty.
The exhibition includes rare ceramics, metalwork, textiles, sculptures, paintings, calligraphy and renowned terra cotta warriors. The pieces are drawn from 32 museums and archaeological institutions in the People’s Republic of China.
Thomas P. Campbell, the museum’s director, called the exhibition a “new milestone in U.S.-China cultural exchange.” The exhibit closes in July, but you can see highlights here:
Burial Suit of Dou Wan, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.E. to 9 C.E.), of jade with gold wire. Excavated in 1968, tomb number 2 (Dou Wan), Manchen, Hebei Province (Courtesy of Hebei Provincial Museum, Shijiazhuang)
Chariot Model (Modern Replica after Qin Originals), Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.E.), of bronze with pigments (Courtesy of Qin Shihuangdi Mausoleum Site Museum, Lintong)
Ornament with Two Dancers, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.– 9 C.E.), of gilt bronze. Excavated in 1956, tomb number 13, Shizhaishan, Jinning, Yunnan Province (Courtesy of Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming)
Head Ornament, Warring States period (475–221 B.C.E.) of gold, turquoise and carnelian. Excavated in 2008–2009, tomb number 16, Majiayuan, Zhangjiachuan, Gansu Province (Courtesy of Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Lanzhou)
Tripod Food Container (Ding) with Cloud Pattern, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–9 C.E.) of lacquer over wood. Excavated in 1972, tomb Number 1 (Lady Dai, d. ca. 168 B.C.E.), Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan Province (Courtesy of Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha)