Exhibition: How to Make the Universe Right – The Art of Priests and Shamans from Vietnam and Southern China

Exhibition dates: 30 July 2017 – 7 January 2018

‘How to Make the Universe Right’ presents a large selection of rare religious scrolls, ceremonial clothing and ritual objects of the Yao, Tày, Sán Dìu, Cao Lan, Sán Chay, Nùng and other populations of northern Vietnam and southern China. Each group has their own traditions of educating and initiating priests and shamans, who serve as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds and between the community and deities, in order to make the universe right through healing, balancing the forces of nature, and communicating with ancestors. The Yao’s practices are most prominently associated with Daoism, a religious and philosophical tradition of Chinese origin, while for the other peoples, Daoist beliefs are combined with aspects of Buddhism, Tantrism and Confucianism.

The works of art in the exhibition, most of which date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, provide the material foundation for the regional manifestations of religious practices. Examples in the exhibition include vibrantly coloured and intricately embroidered ritual robes and headdresses worn by priests, and a spectacular set of eighteen scrolls of elaborately painted deities, made for those engaged in the higher levels of initiation. The exhibition also features a display evoking the shrines constructed for ceremonies, a film on contemporary religious practices in the region, and a selection of scrolls highlighting their recent conservation and what this has revealed.

All of the works on view are part of the Barry and Jill Kitnick Collection generously donated by the Kitnicks to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2015.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

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Exhibition: From the Imperial Theater – Chinese Opera Costumes of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Met Museum - From the Imperial Theater

Exhibition dates: open until 9 October 2016

Drawn entirely from The Met’s collection, this exhibition in New York examines these luxury textiles from artistic and technical points of view. It is organized in two rotations. The first focuses on costumes used in dramas based on historical events, and the second will feature costumes from plays derived from legends and myths. The presentation showcases eight robes, each of which was created for a specific role – court lady, official, general, monk, nun and immortal. A set of album leaves faithfully depicting theatrical characters wearing such robes is also displayed.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed a flowering of Chinese drama. Under the patronage of the Qing court (1644–1911), performances – including the ‘Peking Opera’ – filled the Forbidden City in Beijing. A form of traditional Chinese theatre, Peking Opera was developed fully by the mid-nineteenth century, and because of the form’s minimal stage settings and the importance of exaggerated gestures and movements, costume played an unusually significant role.

This exhibition includes superb examples with interior markings indicating their use in court productions.

For more information, visit the website of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA.