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30 July 2019—The Palace Museum, Tibet Autonomous Region Administration of Cultural Heritage, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery (Zhashilunbu si), and China Construction Bank jointly announce the upcoming exhibition “The Fortune and Longevity of Sumeru: An Encounter between the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Palace Museum” (provisional English title), which will be held at the Palace Museum from December 2019 to February 2020. Director Wang Xudong of the Palace Museum, Deputy-Secretary Wang Yongqing of China Construction Bank, Director Liu Shizong of the Tibet Autonomous Region Administration of Cultural Heritage, and representatives from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery were present to witness the formal statement.
Since its founding in 1925, this exhibition is the Palace Museum’s first showcase of artifacts related exclusively to the first through ninth Panchen Lama and the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. With most of the items being displayed to the public for the first time, the exhibition presents over 220 pieces (or sets) of art, including over 140 works from the Palace Museum collection and the remaining 80 from the Monastery. These treasures represent the tributary relationship between the successive Panchen Lamas and the central government of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) and reflect the difficulties faced by that imperial court to unify the entire country during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As the fourth, fifth, and sixth Panchen Lamas served as religious leaders amidst a constantly shifting political climate, they made unique contributions to ensure the stability of Tibet and the Qing dynasty’s administration of the region and surrounding areas. The artwork on view present a testimony of this unique period of history and display the auspicious beauty of China’s cultural heritage.
The exhibition is made possible with generous support from China Construction Bank. For the occasion and in an effort to stimulate Tibetan cultural innovation, the Museum and Bank have partnered to create innovative cultural products associated with the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and have designed collectibles featuring the auspicious creatures of the Palace Museum (Gugong ruishou) in a tangible representation of traditional Chinese culture. The two animals central to these designs are the pixiu (a creature with the head of a dragon, body of a lion, and wings) and an auspicious elephant (jixiang). The pixiu is designed after depictions in art from the Museum’s collection while the portrayal of the elephant was inspired by “Fourfold Auspiciousness in Harmony” (Sirui hemu tu) at the Monastery and elephants in the Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City. These featured creatures represent the theme “Harmonious Goodness and Auspiciousness” (heshan jixiang), combining the “harmony” (he) of the Palace Museum with the “goodness” (shan) of China Construction Bank and the “auspiciousness” (jixiang) of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery as a blessing for the general public. In an innovative trial for the cultural industry, the items will be on sale prior to the exhibition.
As the first ray of sunlight of 2020 bursts upon the Meridian Gate (Wu men), this exhibition will give every enthusiast of traditional Chinese culture an unforgettable experience, inaugurate the auspicious sixth centennial of the Forbidden City, and open a new chapter in the imperial palace’s next six hundred years.
This duo of innovative cultural products represents the theme “Harmonious Goodness and Auspiciousness” (heshan jixiang). The first is the pixiu. Also known as tianlu shou (expressing divine prosperity via an official’s salary) and dibao (lit. “imperial treasure”), this mythical creature is a type of chimera depicted with the head of a dragon, the body of a lion, and a pair of wings. The decorative knobs and tassels of imperial seals where often decorated with pixiu, second only to the dragon as the most-prevalent motif. The beloved creature has a pair of wings, which represent soaring through the air (tengfei). The flames at each of the four hoofs represent brilliance (guangming) with the implication of auspiciousness and warding off evil (bixie jixiang).
The other animal in this pair is an auspicious elephant (jixiang), which was designed after the elephants in the “Fourfold Auspiciousness in Harmony” image (Sirui hemu tu) at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Imperial Garden at the north end of the Forbidden City. The ceremonial ornamentation on the elephant’s back is embellished with a dragon motif as an invocation of good fortune. The forehead is decorated with red enamel in a ruyi-sceptre motif, which signifies the auspicious fulfillment of wishes. The elephant’s feet represent the “Four Supports for Miraculous Ability”(si ruyi zu) with implications of peace and the fulfillment of aspirations.
(Please note the aforementioned English title for the exhibition is tentative and may be subject to change.)
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying