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300 national treasures on display at Heritage Museum

More than 300 invaluable relics will be featured at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (March 14) until June 10, showing the artistic and cultural changes that took place in China from Eastern Han to High Tang (25-755).

The exhibition, "From Eastern Han to High Tang: A Journey of Transculturation", is jointly presented by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, organised by the Heritage Museum and Art Exhibitions China and sponsored by the Tsui Art Foundation.

Officiating guests attending the exhibition's opening ceremony today (March 13) included the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping; the Deputy Director-General of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Mr Tong Mingkang; the Standing Member of National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Mr Tsui Tsin-tong; the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Ms Anissa Wong Sean-yee; the Director-General of Publicity, Culture and Sports Department, the Liaison Office of The Central People's Government in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Ms Zhang Yanjun.

The cultural relics on display were selected from 46 museums and cultural institutions in 14 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. Many of these national treasures are grade-one relics from the most significant archaeological discoveries in the past 50 years. They include valuable wooden objects of the Han dynasty, pottery guardian figures and Buddhist sculptures of the Northern dynasties, porcelain ware of the Southern dynasties and objects imported from Western Asia and beyond, such as glassware, gold and silverware and gold coins.

At the end of the Eastern Han in AD 220 there emerged a number of political leaders, and the state of fragmentation into which China was plunged lasted for nearly 400 years. Political disarray did not, however, impede cultural development. The period of the Three Kingdoms, the Jin dynasty and the period of the Southern and Northern dynasties were a time when China was receptive to many foreign influences, particularly from Central and Western Asia, this all-embracing ethos culminating in the glorious Tang dynasty.

The exhibition is divided into six sections. Section One covers the Eastern Han period. Highlights of the exhibition include a retinue of bronze carriages and mounted guards unearthed from Wuwei, Gansu, and a large pottery model of a watchtower that demonstrates the power of wealthy landowners in the late Han period.

Section Two introduces 2nd–5th-century artefacts of the Xianbei and other northern peoples, the Xianbei's distinctive style most tellingly illustrated by a group of objects with animal motifs. The Buddhist images and secular objects with Buddhist decorative motifs featured at the exhibition attest to the mixture of Han and Xianbei characteristics.

Section Three covers the Hexi region (west of the Yellow river) and Gansu, highlighting the fusion of artistic conventions between various peoples along the Silk Road. Textiles, gold and silverware imported from Central Asia, and early Buddhist statues illustrate the flow of objects in an easterly direction.

Section Four displays works of traditional Chinese themes and styles of the Eastern Jin and the Southern dynasties. Highlight –are a nautilus cup and the glass vessels with ground decoration, which bear witness to the quality of imported goods from the west.

Section Five covers the Northern dynasties. Through 6th-century artefacts the effects of transculturation whereby east and west, Han Chinese and non-Han Chinese were altered through contact with each other are made manifest. The Northern Qi Buddhist figures carved in stone and ornamented with gilding recovered from Longxingsi in Shandong are superb examples of the sculpture of this period.

Section Six displays relics of the Sui and Tang dynasties. These include pottery with three-colour glazes, porcelain, stone and bronze statues, gold and silver vessels, jade, jewellery, and rarely seen paintings and textiles, some of the latter unearthed from Turfan. These relics evolved in style from those developed in north China during the period of the Northern dynasties to reach a level of splendid achievement in the High Tang period.

To coincide with the exhibition, a series of activities will be organised. A seminar will be held on April 17, from 2.30pm to 5.30pm. The speakers include the Honorary Professor of Fine Arts, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor Ho Puay-peng; the Honorary Professor of Fine Arts and the Director of Art Museum, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor Peter Lam; Dr Simon Kwan (PhD in Fine Arts, University of Hong Kong) and Ms Xu Xiaodong (PhD in Fine Arts, the Chinese University of Hong Kong). They will discuss the transculturation of east and west in ancient China from the Buddhist images, ceramic works, gold ware and clothing. For details of the seminar and reservation of seats, please contact the Education Team of the Heritage Museum at 2180 8260.

A fully illustrated catalogue will be available at the Gift Shop of the Heritage Museum.

Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

A free shuttle bus operates between the Sha Tin KCR Station and the Heritage Museum from 1pm to 6pm on Saturdays and from 1pm to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays.

For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at .

Ends/Sunday, March 13, 2005

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