We should note particularly some relics of Chinese writing – inscriptions dating from the fourteenth century B. C. on the bones of animals. These texts which were used for telling the future, are simple in content – isn’t it time the harvest was begun, will the hunt be sussessful – and they enable us to determine the economic structure of the very ancient inhabitants of the country.

The basis of the exhibition in room 351 is a rare collection of loess sculpture andsome fragments of sixth to ninth century murals, brought in 1914-15 from the monastery of Chi ien-fo-tung (the “Cave of a thousand Buddhas ‘) near the town of Tunhuang by the expedition of the academician Oldenburg. Among these relics of medieval art the figures of two monks, a Bodhisattva, and fantastic beasts which guarded the entrance to a temple are particularly striking.

Bodhisattva and monk from the monastery known as the “Cave of a Thousand Buddhas”. 9th century
Moon deity. Khara-Khoto, 12-I3th centuries

Presented in room 352 are items found in Khara-Khoto, a dead town discovered among the sands of the Gobi by the Russian traveller Kozlov. At one time this was the capital of the Tangut kingdom, which fell in the thirteenth century under the attacks of Jen-ghiz-Khan. The paper money, fabrics, ceramics, tools and household articles found at Khara-Khoto testify to the extent to which crafts and trade had developed in this medieval eastern town. Some valuable works of art have come from Khara-Khoto, including paintings on canvas, paper and silk of the Tibeto-Tangutan and Chinese schools, sculptures, and some carved wooden boards for printing books and etchings.

Rooms 354-362 contain porcelain, lacquers, enamels, ivory and examples of painting and sculpture from the period of 1300 to 1900. The exhibition is rounded off by some examples of twentieth century art; room 363 contains the work of the famous Chinese artists Chi’i Pai-shih (1872-1957) and Hsu Pei-hung (1894-1953), and in room 364 there are examples of modern applied art.

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3 May 2007