Chinese blooms being arranged next to an 18th Century Chinese armorial dinner service as part of the exhibition. © Leeds City Council
Lucy Richards went to get a flavour of Chinese Culture at the Chinese Treasures exhibition at Lotherton Hall in Leeds, which runs until December 312008.
‘Chinese Treasures’, showcasing Chinese culture, has opened in Leeds. It is part of ‘China in Yorkshire’, a project celebrating Chinese identity in the region, which involves galleries and museums across Yorkshire.
It includes items from the Chinese and Chinoiserie collections and features stunning costumes and textiles, children’s toys, ceramics and sculpture, as well as jades and ivories.
Lotherton Hall already has Chinese elements amongst its exhibits, as the Gasgoigne family who originally owned the building had links with China and much of the Chinese furniture on show actually belonged to the Gasgoignes.
The Edwardian Rooms and the Costume Galleries of the hall have been transformed to display stunning Chinoiserie and artefacts. Themes include ‘To and Fro’, ‘Fashion and Finesse’, Performance and Play, ‘Festivals and Faiths’, ‘Pots and Precious Things', 'Food and Drink’ and ‘Pen and Ink’.
© Leeds City Council
(Above) Cllr Bill Hyde, Lead Member for Leisure, Leeds City Council and Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Frank Robinson, with the Chinese vice-consul general, Shutong Wang at the exhibition opening.
The former Still Room was also renovated for the exhibition to make a viewing room showing film footage of aspects of local Chinese people and their lives. The local Chinese community played an invaluable role in the creation of the exhibition, working with curators for a year before its opening.
Amongst those involved were the Chinese Elders and the Leeds Chinese Women’s Group who worked alongside photographer Yan Preston, whose photographs can be seen throughout the exhibition.
The Oriental Gallery downstairs has a vast array of ceramics and pots. It also demonstrates the theme of Faith and Culture, with cabinets showing objects from Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism. There are also Tomb Figures on show dating back to 618 AD.
Amongst the stunning jades on display is a sword from the 1800’s, with dragons on the hilt and the blade, lent by the International Taoist Society in Leeds. It is a sacred symbolic weapon which when used by its master is said to attract and channel cosmic energy, enabling him to connect heaven and earth through his own body.
There are also beautiful ivories and ambers and bronzes, including an ornate opium pipe decorated with butterflies.
Staff from Lotherton Hall try on some of the Chinese costumes at the exhibition. © Leeds City Council
Upstairs some of the most colourful aspects of the exhibition are showcased – a large selection of textiles and fashion. There are opportunities to dress up in fabrics and hats, and take photographs. Included in the costume section, showing clothing worn for celebrations like New Year is a large decorative Lion’s head to be worn as part of a lion dance.
There are also highly ornate and detailed fabrics from the Qing Dynasty, including such items as the amazing orange silk Dragon Robe, part of a mandarin or official’s outfit, featuring ten dragons embroidered in gold thread.
Outfits and fabrics are featured from many social situations - including weddings, officials’ outfits and those worn by children or peasants. Different outfits are demonstrated in detail on small dolls, made by abandoned girls from the Doors of Hope Mission in Shanghai.
‘Chinese Treasures’ at Lotherton Hall is the main part of two exhibitions celebrating Chinese culture in Leeds as part of China in Yorkshire. The second will take place at Leeds Central Library, between August 6 and 24 2008. There is also a programme of accompanying events, including kite-making and calligraphy.
For more information about these events and China in Yorkshire visit www.chinainyorkshire.co.uk