Homage to the ancestors
ritual art from the Chu kingdom
Dragon pendant, Warring States period, 4th century BCE, pale green jade, 6.35 × 2.1 × 0.35 cm. Excavated from tomb No 1 at Jiuliandun in Zaoyang, Hubei province, 2002
In ancient China, ritual ensured the power of the state and social cohesion. Banquets were offered to the ancestors and heavenly deities, with elaborate bronzes used to hold food and wine and musical instruments playing an important role. The items used in these ceremonies were commonly placed in their owner’s tomb after death to provide the person in the afterlife with the same material environment they’d enjoyed while living.
This exhibition features some 70 stunning ritual objects from one particular region and time – the ancient Chu kingdom in the Warring States period (481-221 BCE). Most are from the treasure-filled tombs of the Marquis Yi of Zeng and an anonymous aristocrat at Jiuliandun, which rank among the most astonishing discoveries ever made in Chinese archaeology.
Drawn from the holdings of the Hubei Provincial Museum, the superb artefacts include bronze vessels, musical instruments, lacquer wares and jades, many demonstrating an artistic perfection and a technological sophistication unparalleled anywhere in the ancient world.
Homage to the ancestors complements the Gallery’s major exhibition The First Emperor: China’s entombed warriors, together providing an insight into two essential aspects of the Chinese state more than two millennia ago – ritual and war.
The exhibition has been organised to coincide with the City of Sydney 2011 Chinese New Year Festival in conjunction with the Chinese government and Hubei province.
4 Feb – 26 Apr 2011
Upper Asian gallery