Friday, June 6, 2008

China Day 07: Shanghai Museum

Our last activity of the afternoon was a visit to the Shanghai Museum. This is a very interesting place; I only wish we had had longer.

The museum building is designed to look like a clay pot:
Shanghai Museum
and it has curious statues along its facade:
Inside, it's built around a large light well:
There are four floors, and we could easily have spent two or three days here; we only explored a couple of exhibits in the hour and a half Fred gave us. The first exhibit we picked was the Scroll Painting collection, since Dad paints watercolors and I love scroll paintings. When we listened to those Teaching Company lectures before we came on this trip, my favorite lecture was the one on the art of scroll paintings.
I couldn't believe it - they let us take pictures in the museum! I was hoping Dad would be inspired to do some painting again, but we'll see how that works.
One thing I found interesting: I didn't realize how many Chinese scroll paintings were laid out horizontally; I'd only ever seen the vertical ones. I like the way they draw mountains shrouded in mist.

They also have a clever lighting scheme to preserve the delicate colors. When anyone stands in front of a picture, the light fades on (fairly quickly) and then over about a minute or so it fades down. By the time it's getting hard to see the picture, you were done looking at it anyway. This way, the lights are only shining on paintings that are being actively admired!

The other exhibit we explored was the Chinese Minority Nationalities's Art Gallery. There are (as we were frequently told) 55 recognized minority peoples in China, who make up 10% of the population; the other 90% are the Han Chinese. This gallery displays the art of these 55 minorities, like the Miao people who live in south central China:
This is the costume of a Miao maiden; I think the description said the headdress weighed over 15 pounds.

Because these minority peoples were often sort of nomadic, a lot of their art is portable: clothing (as above) and accessories like this:
If I remember correctly, this is a (highly embroidered and decorated) baby backpack. Like a Miao baby sling. We saw canoes, weapons and other items of daily life for these people.

We also wandered into the pottery gallery, where I saw this:
I didn't get it for Robert either.

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