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Exhibition showcases auspicious beliefs in Chinese culture

More than 220 antiques and paintings which reflect the auspicious beliefs inherent in Chinese culture will go on display tomorrow (November 25).

The "Auspicious Emblems: Chinese Cultural Treasures – 45th Anniversary Exhibition of the Min Chiu Society" will run at the Hong Kong Museum of Art until July 19, 2006.

The exhibition, jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Min Chiu Society, was opened today (November 24) by the Director of the Leisure and Cultural Services, Ms Anissa Wong Sean-yee, the Chairman of the Min Chiu Society, Mr Leon M Lee, and the Chairman of the Committee on Museums, Dr Philip Wu Po-him.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Wong said that the 45-year old Min Chiu Society had established itself as a prestigious art organisation recognised by Chinese art and antiques lovers. Its social events, art exhibitions, academic talks and various publications had always been held in high regard by international museums and academic institutions, including the Hong Kong Museum of Art which has collaborated with the Min Chiu Society for many years, bringing to the Hong Kong public a series of memorable art and antiques exhibitions.

Ms Wong said that to celebrate the 45th year of the Min Chiu Society, the exhibition "Auspicious Emblems" was organised, bringing a vast array of antiques with auspicious motifs to demonstrate the Chinese people’s love of propitious symbols and designs.

"In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the theme of auspiciousness became so popular that it gave rise to the saying that 'any image would carry a meaning and any meaning would suggest auspiciousness'.

"Thanks must go to Min Chiu Society members, who offered to lend to the museum the exhibits which are divided into five categories demonstrating the five main themes of auspiciousness in Chinese culture – 'Dragon and Phoenix Bringing Forth Good Fortune', 'Advancement of Bureaucratic Rank and Salary', 'Prosperous and Multitudinous Offspring', 'Blessings and Longevity', and 'Festive Celebrations'," Ms Wong said.

The exhibits, including Chinese paintings and calligraphy, jade, ceramics, glass, lacquer, enamel as well as carvings in bamboo and wood, date from the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The image of dragon and phoenix is a symbol signifying auspiciousness and festivities and also represents the emperor and the empress. The two creatures are the motifs of countless artworks. Moreover, the pair is always placed in the most noticeable spot to signify utmost auspiciousness. In the "Dragon and Phoenix Bringing Forth Good Fortune", the long history of dragon and phoenix-worship is featured.

In the "Advancement of Bureaucratic Rank and Salary", it shows the common thought of pursuing higher financial and social rewards in Chinese culture. There are many works of artistic themes expressing the popular hopes and dreams of fame and glamour, as well as material wealth.

The "Prosperous and Multitudinous Offspring" reflects the primitive desire for plentiful offspring deeply rooted in Chinese culture in its early days. As time progressed, this desire remained strong and contagious, even giving rise to an artistic culture based on auspicious symbols. Within this tradition, artists sought to represent the idea of plentiful offspring and thriving households using natural objects. Fruits and plants supposedly blessed with extraordinary vitality and reproductive power were chosen for designs.

A blessed long life was the most enduring desire of everyone in ancient China and this concept is clearly shown in the "Blessings and Longevity". During the Ming and Qing dynasties the emperor's birthday was named the Longevity Festival, one of the most important celebrations at the imperial court. Items made to elicit auspicious happenings poured from imperial and local workshops, stimulating the development of a full-blown culture that venerated long life and pleasure. Artisans and craftsmen in private and imperial workshops endeavoured to produce original creations linked to blessings and longevity for use during court celebrations, rituals and feasts. On other occasions, artistic motifs featured objects whose names rhymed with auspicious ideas.

In the last category, "Festive Celebrations", a vast array of images carrying auspicious meanings in traditional Chinese culture is on display. Among them are "longevity accompanied by blessings" and "thousands of generations of offspring", both of which represent certain basic wishes in life. Some auspicious symbols were seen only during special festivities.

The Museum of Art is at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm daily and from 10am to 5pm on Christmas Eve and Lunar New Year's Eve. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Lunar New Year. Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

For enquiries, call 2721 0116 or visit the Museum of Art's website at .

Ends/Thursday, November 24, 2005

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