Shanghai Museum launches major 2022 exhibition revealing the essence of Chinese civilization
Published: Jul 31, 2022 07:00 PM Updated: Jul 31, 2022 07:16 PM
The Shanghai Museum exhibition Photo:Chen Xia/GT

The Shanghai Museum exhibition Photo:Chen Xia/GT

The Shanghai Museum launched The Making of China: the Civilization of the Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties on Saturday. Featuring more than 300 rare Chinese relics, the exhibition is one of the museum's largest of the year.

The exhibition display 314 relics from the Xia (c.2070BC-c.1600BC), Shang (c.1600BC-1046BC) and Zhou (1046BC-221BC) dynasties excavated in Henan Province. 

 "Star" relics at the show include an owl-shaped zun (wine vessel) with the inscription "Fuhao." 

The Bronze Owl-shaped zun is one of the earliest bird-shaped wine vessels ever discovered in China. It was excavated from the Fuhao Tomb of the Yin Ruins in 1976 along with 468 bronze wares, which provide convincing evidence of the Shang Dynasty's highly developed bronze civilization.  

The Kneeling-Figure-Shaped Jade Pendant and Turquoise-Inlaid Mythical Creature are two other highlighted pieces at the Shanghai show. 

With an iconic kneeling position representing Shang Dynasty culture, the jade pendant vividly demonstrates the excellent jade-carving skills of the late Shang Dynasty, while the exquisite late Spring and Autumn(770BC-476BC) turquoise piece is a rare treasure showing the imagination of ancient Chinese craftsmen. 

Such relics are the earliest record of China and its ancient civilizations. 

Kneeling-figure-shaped Jade Pendant at the Shanghai exhibition Photo:Chen Xia/GT

Kneeling-figure-shaped Jade Pendant at the Shanghai exhibition Photo:Chen Xia/GT

"The Chinese name of the exhibition, Zhai Zi Zhongguo (lit:) was inspired by the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046BC-771BC) bronze wine vessel He Zun, the earliest artifact engraved with the characters 'zhongguo,' or 'Middle Kingdom,'" Liu Zheng, a member of the China Cultural Relics Academy, told the Global Times. 

As a show introducing China's origin, it has captured the attention of the public, leading to tickets selling out quickly. 

"It is packed for the first few days, but I see tomorrow is fully booked too, maybe [the daily visiting numbers] is around 4,000 people," a volunteer at the exhibition, told the Global Times on Saturday.   

"I feel very happy when such cultural events are held in Shanghai. Not only us, locals can learn about Chinese history. Additionally, these cultural exhibitions help international audiences to learn about Chinese culture, especially when it is in Shanghai," Zhu Xu, a visitor of the exhibition, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The show is a collaborative project between more than 20 Chinese cultural institutions such as the Henan Museum and the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It is the first show in the Shanghai Museum's exhibition series The Essence of China, which focuses on major Chinese archaeological findings. 

"Presenting relics and archives in people's everyday lives is an effective way to tell the China story. Museums have to be the most important medium for this," Peng Xingxing, a museology researcher, told the Global Times.

Yang Zhigang, director of the Shanghai Museum, revealed to media that the museum will hold a series of exhibitions on Chinese cultural relics and archaeology in the next five to ten years.
Owl-shaped Zun (wine vessel) with the Inscription:

Owl-shaped Zun (wine vessel) with the Inscription: "Fu Hao" Photo:Chen Xia/GT