Ming 50 years that changed China

British Museum's new blockbuster exhibition to feature rarely-seen treasures from the Ming Dynasty that reveal how China became a superpower in the 15th Century

Leon Watson

Source -  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2536016/British-Museums-new-blockbuster-exhibition-feature-rarely-seen-treasures-Ming-Dynasty-reveal-China-superpower.html#ixzz2qMlACLnh 

  • Show in London will focus on how China became a superpower in the first half of the 15th century

  • Loans to the museum will be coming from 10 Chinese institutions and 21 international lenders

  • According to museum bosses, it is the first time an exhibition of this kind has been attempted

A landmark exhibition of rarely-seen treasures from the golden age of Chinese history is to be put on at the British Museum, it was announced today.

The show in London will focus on how China became a superpower in the first half of the 15th century and the wealth of beautiful objects it produced during the Ming dynasty.

Loans will be coming from 10 Chinese institutions and 21 international lenders and the exhibition will feature new research and discoveries from the Far East. According to museum bosses, it is the first time an exhibition of this kind has been attempted.

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A British Museum employee poses behind a 15th century 'Longquan Shrine'

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Rarely-seen: A Ming Dynasty 16th century stoneware figure
The show will demonstrate how China was undertaking major sea expeditions decades before Christopher Columbus, printing books before England had the press, and fighting battles with guns when Europe was using bows and arrows.

Curator Jessica Harrison-Hall told the Evening Standard that she believed audiences would be dazzled by the treasures from a history that was only now being fully understood.

'This is zooming in on 50 particular years when China was becoming a global superpower. It is like our Elizabethan era, it was a golden age. Probably the most beautiful things ever made in China were made at this time,' she said.

The autumn show will include priceless vases of some of the best quality porcelain, silk robes, golden vessels and jewellery, weapons, paintings, furniture and arguably the world’s first encyclopaedia.

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A British Museum employee poses behind a 15th century Imperial Ming Vase

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A 7th or 8th century 'Painted pottery or tomb Guardian' stands in a case

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A series of early 8th century tomb figurines are displayed in a case at the British Museum

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A lacquered wooden dish makes up part of the '50 years that changed China' exhibition

Among the portraits is one of Yang Hong, an army commander famed for his fortitude. He is pictured in a ceremonial military helmet.

The exhibits were produced under the four emperors who reigned between 1400 and 1450 when the Ming dynasty, which began in 1368, consolidated power following a civil war.

Although there was little contact between China and northern Europe, the country’s most intrepid explorer, Zheng He, was leading expeditions to south-east Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

At home, the imperial family was building the Forbidden City and creating a new court in Beijing. Loans for the exhibition are coming from 10 Chinese museums and another 21 international lenders.

Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor said: 'The political, social and cultural changes to China during the first half of the 15th century make this a remarkable story which is only now being fully understood.

'New discoveries and research have led to a new perspective on this significant period that moves away from a Euro-centric view of China's history.

'Temporary exhibitions of this nature are only possible thanks to external support so I am hugely grateful to BP for their longstanding and on-going commitment to the British Museum.'

Peter Mather, BP's group regional vice president for Europe and head of country for the UK, said: 'BP is extremely pleased to support Ming: 50 years that changed China, the second BP exhibition of the new five year partnership with the British Museum.

'BP has had operations in China for more than 30 years and our activities there are a vital component of BP's global portfolio.

'Our support for this exhibition is part of BP's wider contribution to UK life, enabling people to connect through cultural activities. We are delighted to help bring this major exhibition to the British Museum.'

Ming: 50 years that changed China, sponsored by BP, will run from September 18 to January 4, 2015.


The Ming Dynasty is one of the most illustrious names amongst the ruling dynasties of the Chinese empire - it held sway in China from 1368 to 1644.

During the period China witnessed a vast improvement in techniques to make embroidered silks, glazed porcelain, carved lacquer wares and other artworks.

It was an extraordinary period of innovation in ceramic manufacture and the artifacts from this era have been held up as some of the most influential in art history

This period was also was a time of extraordinary engagement with the world and of fascinating cultural diversity. 

The explorer Zheng He pioneered China’s maritime history, sending treasure ships to South East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

China also enjoyed a period of unprecedented global contacts from Kyoto to Mogadishu, through trade and diplomacy evidenced through gifts of gold, silver, paintings, porcelains, weapons, costume and furniture.