Ming: 50 Years That Changed China At British Museum

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 44 months ago
Ming: 50 Years That Changed China At British Museum ★★☆☆☆ 2
Cloisonné enamel jar and cover with dragons. Metal with cloisonné enamels,
Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), Beijing. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Cloisonné enamel jar and cover with dragons. Metal with cloisonné enamels, Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), Beijing. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Detail from ‘Amusements in the Xuande emperor’s palace’
showing the emperor playing an arrow-throwing game. Handscroll, ink and colours on silk.
Xuande period, 1426–1435. Anonymous. The Palace Museum, Beijing. © The Palace
Museum
Detail from ‘Amusements in the Xuande emperor’s palace’ showing the emperor playing an arrow-throwing game. Handscroll, ink and colours on silk. Xuande period, 1426–1435. Anonymous. The Palace Museum, Beijing. © The Palace Museum
Porcelain bottle with underglaze cobalt blue decoration. Yongle era, 1403-
1424. Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. Height 33.50 cm; diameter 18.60 cm. Sir Percival David
Collection. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Porcelain bottle with underglaze cobalt blue decoration. Yongle era, 1403- 1424. Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. Height 33.50 cm; diameter 18.60 cm. Sir Percival David Collection. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Carved red lacquer on wood core, Yongle mark and period 1403-24, South China.
Diameter 34.8 cm © The Trustees of the British Museum
Carved red lacquer on wood core, Yongle mark and period 1403-24, South China. Diameter 34.8 cm © The Trustees of the British Museum
Sword and scabbard with inscription. Iron, gold, silver, wood and leather.
Yongle era about 1420, Beijing. © Royal Armouries
Sword and scabbard with inscription. Iron, gold, silver, wood and leather. Yongle era about 1420, Beijing. © Royal Armouries
Ming prince’s ‘dragon robe’. Silk, c. 1389. Excavated from the tomb of Zhu
Tan (1370-1389), Prince Huang of Lu at Yanzhou, Shandong province. © Shandong Museum
Ming prince’s ‘dragon robe’. Silk, c. 1389. Excavated from the tomb of Zhu Tan (1370-1389), Prince Huang of Lu at Yanzhou, Shandong province. © Shandong Museum

Londonist Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The Ming period is probably best remembered in the UK for its intricately decorated porcelain, but it was a ruling dynasty that did so much more for China, including making it the largest state in the world at the time (14th-17th centuries) with over 85 million inhabitants.

This exhibition focuses on 50 years of this dynasty, denoted 'the golden age' due to the establishment of the new capital city at Beijing and for overseas trade extending right across the Indian Ocean.

There are many artefacts on display including the famous delicate Ming vases with depictions of dragons and a collection of impressively detailed red lacquer ornaments and furniture.

There is a strong focus on art in this exhibition, including a scroll of plum blossoms several metres in length. But we have seen a lot of Chinese art over the last year at the V&A and also at the British Museum itself — visitors to both of those exhibitions will view similar works and may feel like they've seen most of this before.

Where this exhibition shines is the section on beliefs featuring a fantastically detailed jade shrine, monastery tiles decorated with mythical creatures and a depiction of the Tibetan 'conqueror of death' looking like a multi-limbed winged bull. It's a short section, but features the most eye catching items on display, and is the most insightful part of the show revealing the influence of many religions during the Ming period.

As with all British Museum exhibitions it is fantastically researched and full of information, but restricting it to a 50 year period makes it more of a snapshot rather than a narrative, which somewhat hinders the flow of this show. Though there are many exceptional artefacts on display, with the exception of the section focusing on religion, this exhibition feels like it lacks a certain wow factor and left us a little underwhelmed.

Ming: 50 years that changed China is on at The British Museum until 5 January. Tickets are £16.50 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 29 September 2014

Guest

luckily i'ma a member,so don't feel too aggrieved about it- but it's no way worth the £16.50 entrance fee!!!

Larry

Thanks for the useful review. Really keen to I but I find the price a bit too much, and I can't think I'm the only one. Wouldn't it be better to get more people in for £10??