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New Exhibition Featuring Liangzhu Jade

Updated: 2019-07-16 12:45:02
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Location: Hall of Martial Valor (Wuying dian)
Dates: 2019-07-16 through 2019-10-20
Admission: Free with general admission ticket
Catalogue: Available for purchase at the Hall of Martial Valor museum shop

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16 July 2019—The exhibition “Liangzhu and Ancient China: The 5,000-Year Civilization Demonstrated by Jades” is currently being held at the Hall of Martial Valor (Wuying dian) in the Forbidden City. The opening ceremony on 16 July featured a speech by Liu Yuzhu, member of the leading Party members group of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. Additional thoughts were shared by Chen Rugen, deputy Party secretary and district director of Yuhang District of Hangzhou; Wang Xudong, member of the leading Party members group of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and director of the Palace Museum; and Cheng Yuechong, deputy governor of the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province. The ceremony was hosted by Chu Ziyu, director of the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism. Under the guidance of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the exhibition is jointly organized by the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province and the Palace Museum with support from the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, People’s Government of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage, People’s Government of Yuhang District of Hangzhou, and the supervisory committee for the Liangzhu archaeological site in Hangzhou.

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On 6 July of this year, during the forty-third session of the United Nations World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan, the site known as the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City was recognized as meeting the Committee’s third and fourth standards for world-heritage status and officially added to the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. To date, this addition is the fifty-fifth site in China. The first major exhibition of its kind, “Liangzhu and Ancient China: The 5,000-Year Civilization Demonstrated by Jades” is a showcase of 260 pieces (or sets) of the finest examples of Liangzhu art from seventeen Chinese cultural heritage institutions based in nine provinces and cities.

Covering a span of five millennia from the late-Neolithic Liangzhu culture (ca. 3300–2300 BCE) to the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, the exhibition is divided into four sections—“Introduction”, “Country of Divine Kings”, “Legacy of Civilization”, and “Conclusion”—and presents the characteristics of that early state and its influence on later generations in a scientific and comprehensive way that highlights its contributions toward the development of the symbolism of Chinese civilization. Meanwhile, an introduction to the archaeology and conservation of the Liangzhu ruins may be seen in the east and west side galleries of the Hall of Martial Valor.

The archaeological site of Liangzhu and the Palace Museum are two eminent symbols of China’s outstanding traditional culture. During the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the Palace Museum’s showcase of Liangzhu civilization holds extraordinary significance.

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General Secretary Xi Jinping indicated that the Liangzhu archaeological site is a sacred place with evidence of China’s five-millennia history of civilization and a rare treasure which must be protected. The late former-director of the Palace Museum and eminent archaeological scholar Zhang Zhongpei (1934–2017) believed the Liangzhu site was the unabashed testimony of Chinese civilization. Indeed, Liangzhu culture is the most magnificent cultural treasure of China’s prehistoric period represented by its wealth of excavated jades. Representing the apex of Chinese prehistoric jade art, these works have been found in abundant quantities with a diversity of types and exquisite craftsmanship. The Liangzhu king and upper echelon of society employed an elaborate system of jades and associated rites to signify status. Divine authority facilitated a monopoly on royal prestige, military might, and fiscal control. Quantities of jade have been unearthed from the large-scale tombs of the society’s dominant men and women. The burial goods show social hierarchy, traditional gender roles, and the centrality of divine-authority in the political system, all of which have been adopted to varying degrees during the development of Chinese civilization.

The exhibition is a result of the combined efforts of the Liangzhu Museum, Palace Museum, Zhejiang Provincial Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Museum, Changzhou Museum, Yuhang Museum of Hangzhou, Tongxiang Museum, Guangdong Museum, Haifeng County Museum, Kaifeng County Museum, Jinsha Site Museum in Chengdu, Cultural Heritage Institute of Yan’an, Gansu Provincial Museum, and Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology. Cai Xiaochun, deputy secretary-general of the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province; Chang Liuhe, director of the Zhejiang Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage; and Zhang Junjie, secretary of the Party work committee and director of the supervisory committee of the Liangzhu archaeological site in Hangzhou, were also present at the opening ceremony. Additionally, various leaders, representatives, groups, and individuals from the joint-organizing institutions and media outlets were in attendance.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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