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THE MAKING OF ZHONGGUO: Origins, Developments and Achievements of Chinese Civilization

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Location:Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian)

Dates: 2022-01-26 through 2022-05-04

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On 25 January 2022, the opening ceremony for the exhibition “The Making of Zhongguo: Origins, Developments and Achievements of Chinese Civilization” was held at the Belvedere of Literary Profundity (Wenyuan ge) in the Forbidden City. Overseen by the National Cultural Heritage Administration, the exhibition is jointly organized by the Palace Museum, China Media Group, and twenty-nine other museums. Li Qun, member of the Party Leadership Group and Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Secretary of the Party Leadership Group and Director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration; Wang Xudong, member of the Party Leadership Group of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Director of the Palace Museum; Liu Xiaolong, member of Editorial Board of the China Media Group; and Wang Jiang, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and President of the China Construction Bank, attended the opening ceremony and visited the exhibition. Director Wang Xudong hosted the ceremony.

This exhibition presents Chinese civilization with its long history and profundity as a great flowing river and interprets the origin, propagation, and development of the civilization as a Sources (yuan), Streams (liu), and Confluence (hui). Indeed, these three concepts comprise the foundation of the exhibition’s three sections, which demonstrate how the diverse yet unitary Chinese nation and civilization has endured with inclusive cultural qualities and explain the overall course of the origin and development of Chinese history, the brilliant achievements of the Chinese people, and the significant contributions China has made to human civilization. In comprehensive and distinctive fashion, the exhibition presents the how and why of the formation of Zhongguo (i.e., China), the greatness of the Chinese nation, and the immortality of Chinese civilization.

Each of the exhibition’s three sections has three respective sub-sections, which combine to form a perfect set of nine. The exhibition explores the rise of Chinese civilization from millions of years of human evolution, ten-thousand years of cultural history, and five-thousand years of civilizational history. The first section, “Sources” (yuan), opens with an exposition of China’s geography and elucidates the birth of Chinese civilization with its unique material culture, philosophical schools, values, systems, and multiple ethnic groups. The second section, “Streams” (liu), presents the glorious history of the fusion of regional cultures and ethnic distinctiveness into unified and mutually appreciative Chinese national identity, human destiny, and global life. The third section, “Confluence” (hui), explains the Chinese concepts of benevolence, the traditional concept of the unification of family and state, and the spirit of perfection, innovation, and wisdom found in the achievements of China’s excellent traditional culture, which has been created by the people, enjoyed by the people, and propagated by the people.

Li Qun, member of the Party Leadership Group and Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Secretary of the Party Leadership Group and Director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, spoke on how, with President Xi Jinping as its core, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party values the development of the museum and cultural heritage industry and has for the first time added the propagation and promotion of China’s excellent traditional culture to the Party’s historical resolution. He noted how this momentous exhibition demonstrates the thriving of Chinese civilization and how, this year with the upcoming 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the national museum and cultural heritage industry is focused on this main thread and presenting related exhibitions and activities.

China Construction Bank Corporation, as a joint promotion unit, has assisted in the exhibition. Wang Jiang, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and president of the China Construction Bank, talked about the strategic cooperation between China Construction Bank and the Palace Museum since 2018. The two parties have a new mode of “Finance + Culture” and work to infuse China’s excellent traditional culture as represented by the Palace Museum into the financial services provided to hundreds of millions of customers so as to assist in the construction of a “powerful cultural country”. Meanwhile, the innovative cultural products “Auspicious Animals of the Palace Museum” (Gugong ruishou) promoted by the two parties have become a favorite brand among customers.

This exhibition presents over 130 pieces (or sets) of precious cultural relics from the Neolithic age all the way through the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), including artifacts and works of art fashioned from stone, pottery, jade, bronze, gold, and silver as well as calligraphy, paintings, rare documents, and seals. (Due to the environmental limitations of the gallery, most of the paper and silk works on view are reproductions.) Some of the featured national treasures are the He zun (wine vessel), Changxin Palace lantern, and the Four Medical Tantras (Sibu yidian). Due to the current epidemic, the relics from some of the museums in Henan and Shaanxi are not able to be displayed at the opening of the exhibition but may be added later.

Located on the north side of the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian), the final “display item” for the exhibition is the Belvedere of Literary Profundity (Wenyuan ge), which harmonizes with the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries (Siku quanshu) (printed reproduction)—the last set of displayed items in the gallery of the Hall of Literary Brilliance. Built in the forty-first year (1776) of the Qianlong reign (1736–1795), the Belvedere of Literary Profundity is the largest imperial library in the Qing palace and the receptacle for the first Complete Library of the Four Treasuries. At the center of the main hall on the first story of the Belvedere is displayed a large plaque engraved with “Pure Mirror of Confluent Streams” (Huiliu chengjian).

Since this exhibition finds its origin as an innovative special presentation of the television program The Nation’s Greatest Treasures (Guojia baocang), the China Media Group is one of the main organizing partners and has provided immense support for the exhibition. Apart from the main exhibition, the western side hall of the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian) will host a joint exhibition about the program The Nation’s Greatest Treasures featuring intangible cultural heritage and regional customs with twelve “National Treasure ID Cards”, which will serve to model the legacy of outstanding traditional culture and “bring cultural relics to life” in scientific, pluralistic, and modern ways.

Held over Spring Festival, the Beijing Winter Olympics, and Tomb Sweeping Festival, the exhibition is the Palace Museum’s first large-scale exhibition for 2022. Continuing until May of this year, the exhibition offers a broad range of topics with expository content and novel expressions in a unique Palace-Museum style.

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Notice on Advanced Reservations
“The Making of Zhongguo: Origins, Developments and Achievements of Chinese Civilization” is on view in the galleries of the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian) from 26 January through 4 May 2022. In accordance with current epidemic prevention and control measures, the exhibition requires advanced reservations, limiting the number of daily visitors, and setting visiting-time intervals. Reservations close once the quota is reached. Visitors may reserve tickets via the Palace Museum’s online ticketing service (https://gugong.ktmtech.cn/) or the Palace Museum’s official WeChat account by real-name registration with a second-generation ID card (for Chinese residents) or passport (for foreigners). When entering, each visitor may need to present the ID card or passport used at the time of reservation.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu

 

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