Foreword by Janet Yellen
Another World Lies Beyond: Chinese Art and the Divine
Premodern China teemed with images of the divine. From the humblest printed image of the Stove God, hung in the kitchen, to the most lavish ritual painting created for a Buddhist monastery, people filled their world with objects that served as portals to realms beyond their own and to forces beyond their control. This exhibition will present a rich display of such images—mostly drawn from the Museum's collection—ranging from serene, monochrome Buddhist paintings to raucous, colorful sculptures of popular deities.
The exhibition begins with galleries devoted to Buddhist art. Arising in India and brought to China by traveling teachers around two thousand years ago, Buddhism became a major force in Chinese spiritual life and a wellspring of popular and liturgical imagery. One gallery is devoted to the arts of Daoism, a native religion that draws on both ancient Chinese philosophy and popular religious practice. The final galleries are devoted to the divine presence in the home and in the countryside, as expressed in popular deities and fantastical creatures.
An important characteristic of spiritual life in premodern China was its fluidity. This can be seen throughout the exhibition in the easy mixing of ideas and iconographies, with Daoist figures appearing in Buddhist paintings, for instance. In the same spirit, the presence of artworks from Persia, Tibet, Japan, and Korea demonstrates how readily deities, teachings, and artistic styles crossed political and cultural boundaries in the premodern world.
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