November 19, 2010

The World of Khubilai Khan - At the Met

Long ago and far away, the great leader Khubilai Khan ruled the vast Mongol Empire during what became known as the Yuan Dynasty (1215-1368). It was a time of unparalleled growth and freedom in art and religion and its impact reverberated throughout the world for centuries to come. For a limited time we can explore this remarkable period in a landmark exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During the Yuan Dynasty all roads led to Dadu (now Bejing) the city built by Khubilai Khan as the capital of the empire. Chinese theater flourished as did architecture, the applied arts, painting and calligraphy. Men and women wearing elaborate head pieces and magnificently embroidered or woven silk robes were free to travel and to pursue their devotion of choice. Zen Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism and Islam were practiced and accepted although Esoteric Buddhism, a Tibetan influenced hybrid, was the most prevalent religion. It was a period of prosperity, creativity and progress.

Through loans from many leading Asian museums, the Metropolitan has assembled a wealth of marvelous objects to give visitors a first hand look at the sumptuousness of the era. Huge stone statues, delicate carved jade hat ornaments, classic blue and white porcelain serving platters, painted silk hanging scrolls and deeply sculpted red lacquer boxes are evidence of the sophistication of this ancient culture. More unusual items included a porcelain pillow with a glazed, three-dimensional scene of a celestial celebration under the head rest and a tea cup with a chi dragon handle done in an ethereal bluish finish called qing bai ware. Each of the artifacts on display was a superb example of a very advanced and cultivated people that treasured beauty.

"The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty" is a fabulous exhibition and will remain on view until January 2, 2011.

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