Exquisite legacy of China's Ming Dynasty to visit Scotland in government cultural deal

By Culture24 Reporter | 05 November 2013

The iconic blue and white porcelain, sumptuous silk textiles, enamelled cloisonné and jade and gold of the Ming Dynasty – the empire which ruled China for nearly 300 years – will make their only appearance in a British gallery at the National Museum of Scotland next year, following a cultural agreement between the Scottish and Chinese governments.

A photo of a square gold box from ancient China
A Cloisonne Square Censer from the Ming-inspired 2014 exhibition in Scotland© Nanjing Museum / Nomad Exhibitions
Beijing’s Forbidden City, built in the early 15th century, will be portrayed in a rich painting of the palatial seat of power for 500 years of emperors and their households. The world’s largest palace complex was the home for a lineage of leaders during an era when China produced treasures far beyond the reach and imagination of the west.

A photo of a large ancient blue and white porcelain vase
Blue and White Porcelain Vase© Nanjing Museum / Nomad Exhibitions
Life-size portraits will show the faces of the “educated elite” at the top of the Ming social ladder. Ornate paintings on silk and detailed calligraphy will show a different strand of society from the opulence of the luxury and rare objects, and works by some of the leading Ming painters of the time will portray the preoccupations of the hoi polloi.

Speaking at a St Andrew’s Day reception in the Chinese capital, the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, said the display was a result of a cultural memorandum of understanding signed with the Chinese Ministry of Culture.

“I am delighted that this partnership will see this exciting and special Ming exhibition brought to Edinburgh next summer, with National Museums Scotland and the Nanjing museum in China working together to exhibit the wonder of the Ming dynasty,” he declared.

“As a result of the commitments by both the Scottish and Chinese governments we have seen a greater number of collaborations across the arts, creative industries, heritage and national collections allowing the people of both our countries to share some unique experiences.

“This is a fantastic example of a cultural exchange that is helping us enhance the mutual understanding between our countries, creating an atmosphere of respect, trust and celebration.”

A photo of an intricate drawing of a scene from ancient China
Forbidden City© Nanjing Museum / Nomad Exhibitions
The economic prosperity of the period, when a thriving consumer culture prevailed, will be exploring in an interactive display linking the Ming to present-day China.

A detailed 17th century map made by Jesuit Matteo Ricci, the Italian who was the first Westerner to serve at the Ming court from the mid-16th century, will also reflect the later age of European expansion in a combination of western cartographic techniques and Chinese text.

“The Ming Empire represented a great period of cultural and social transformation but also produced truly beautiful works of art,” said Dr Gordon Rintoul, of the museums group.

“We are thrilled to be bringing a remarkable collection of treasures to the UK for the first time.

“Visitors to the exhibition will experience both a visual feast and a compelling story.”

“We are delighted to collaborate with the Nanjing Museum, one of the most prestigious in China, in hosting the only UK showing of this exhibition.”

  • Ming: The Golden Empire opens at the National Museum of Scotland on June 27 2014.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of a painting of a woman playing some sort of flute in ancient China
Tang Ying, Young Lady on her Flute. Ming scroll© Nanjing Museum / Nomad Exhibitions
A photo of a gold sculpture of a small bug on a green leaf made in ancient China
Gold Cicada on Jade Leaf© Nanjing Museum / Nomad Exhibitions
An image of a drawing of a map of the world illustrated with animals and figures from China
Matteo Ricci's map© Nanjing Museum / Nomad Exhibitions
A photo of a painting of a nobleman from ancient China
Portrait of He Bin© Nanjing Museum / Nomad Exhibitions
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Interesting that buying into an existing show (available off the shelf) is being claimed as the result of a diplomatic endeavour. Go and see it now in Amsterdam, Nieuw Kerk. But it is a really great exhibition, to be sure,
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