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Han Meilin: Chinese Zodiac Art Exhibition

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Location:Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian)

Dates: 2019-01-06 through 2019-02-20

The opening ceremony for “Han Meilin: Chinese Zodiac Art Exhibition” was held in front of the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian) on 5 January 2019 and attended by the artist Han Meilin, Chairwoman Tie Ning of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the China Writers Association, Chairman Liu Aili of China Post, Director Shan Jixiang of the Palace Museum, the writer Feng Jicai, and Deputy-Director Lou Wei of the Palace Museum. During the opening ceremony, Han Meilin gifted ten of his works to the Museum.

This exhibition presents Han Meilin’s depictions of the Chinese Zodiac (i.e., shengxiao, the twelve animals) in painting, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, zisha pottery, wood carving, ironwork, furniture, and folk art. Giving insight into the artist’s understanding and preservation of traditional art forms, the exhibition reflects his unique character and the modern zeitgeist through his artistic breakthroughs and innovation. The five sections of the exhibition are “Continuous Cycle of Life,” “Mystical Wall of Art,” “Art Caravan,” “Tribute through Postage,” and “Forested for Beauty.”

Han Meilin stated, “The path of my ‘Art Caravan’ has taken me through ancient culture, across the expanse of China, and through Africa and the Americas; after forty years, I have returned home and entered the Palace Museum. The Palace Museum is one of the largest homes of Chinese art; my exhibition on the Chinese Zodiac will celebrate the New Year with everyone here at the Palace Museum.” Throughout his career, Han has received honors from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; International Olympic Committee; and the President of the Republic of Korea. Before this exhibition in the Forbidden City, he showcased his art in Venice, Paris, Seoul, and other locations as part of his global tour.

During the opening ceremony, Director Shan Jixiang shared how artistic depictions of the Chinese Zodiac are an integral part of traditional Chinese culture and, especially, the customs surrounding the Spring Festival (i.e., Chinese New Year). The exhibition coincides with the Museum’s “Celebrating the Spring Festival in the Forbidden City” exhibition and special museum-wide decorations.

The opening ceremony was held in tandem with a launching ceremony hosted by Chairman Liu Aili for a new series of postage stamps for the 2019 jihai year (i.e., the Year of the Boar) designed by Han Meilin for China Post. After the ceremony, Han personally signed commemorative sets of his stamps in the Museum book shop. This series of postage stamps is the third Chinese Zodiac series Han has designed for China Post; the previous series were issued for the 1983 guihai year (Year of the Boar) and 2017 dingyou year (Year of the Rooster). This “Jihai Year” series focuses on the concept of “home” with a combination of the unique characteristics of the boar and the love of family and country. Each set features two stamps. The image on the first stamp is called “Ample Blessings of the Fattened Pig” and shows one jubilant pig in a dynamic pose. The second image is called “Gathering of Five Blessings” and has a family consisting of a boar, sow, and three piglets. In addition to these Chinese Zodiac series, a stamp featuring pandas issued in 1985 by China Post was designed according to Han’s original painting.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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