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Exhibition highlights recent excavations found in Shanxi Province

— February 2012

Associated media

Opera figures, detail from the south wall of tomb. Jin dynasty (1115-1234). Courtesy of Shanxi Museum

Theater, Life, and the Afterlife: Tomb Décor from Ancient Shanxi, Tenth through Thirteenth Centuries

9 February  – 17 June 2012

New York – A new exhibition at China Institute Gallery will explore how theatre and art intersected in the realm of the Chinese afterlife. The first exhibition in the US to showcase the traditional folk art of brick carving, 'Theater, Life, and the Afterlife: Tomb Décor from Ancient Shanxi, Tenth through Thirteenth Centuries', will be on view from 9 February  through 17 June  2012.

Since the 1950s and as recently as a few years ago, hundreds of brick tombs from the Jin dynasty (1115-1234) have been excavated in Shanxi Province, located in the north central region of China. The exhibition features recent discoveries and presents more than 80 beautifully sculpted objects revealing a passion for both theater and opera during the Jin dynasty. One of the highlights, a re-creation of a recently excavated tomb, will enable visitors to see how thoughtfully prepared art patrons were for the afterlife.

The ancient Chinese believed in an afterlife and imagined they would have needs that were similar to their lives on earth. Not only were the nobles buried in elaborate tombs, filled with household goods, but the tomb décor in Shanxi Province, like that of many tombs found in China, featured numerous references to entertainment.

Famed for their brick carving, artists in Shanxi developed sophisticated techniques, creating lively sculptural images in the reddish-grey stone. Among the dozens of intricate and dramatic brick carvings found in tombs dating back to the Song dynasty (960-1127), those that depict theatrical performances are the most intriguing. The carvings serve as evidence of the popularity of the theater in ancient Shanxi, said to be the cradle of Chinese opera and drama. The tombs of Shanxi, adorned with beautiful, intricate brick carvings and other décor, illustrate two kinds of popular entertainment: Za Ju, formal performances of written plays and San Qu, performances related to village festivals.

Under the direction of Willow Hai Chang, Director, China Institute Gallery, the exhibition is curated by Shi Jinming, Director, Shanxi Museum, China.

China Institute, 125 East 65thStreet, New York (between Park and Lexington Avenues)

9 February  - 17 June 12012
Monday - Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday & Thursday to 8:00 p.m.


$7, $4 for students and seniors, and free for children under 12.
Free, Tuesday and Thursday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Group tours can be arranged.

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