Qing Dynasty. Cockfighting. Guangzhou Museum.

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– Gameness til the End

Guangzhou Museum Exhibiting Cutural Relics

By Cultural China

Time: May 16 – August 16, 2009
Venue: Guangzhou Museum (Zhenhai Tower)
Admission: 10 RMB

An ongoing exhibition including more than 180 pieces of treasures is being held in Guangzhou Museum to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its founding. The exhibition commenced on May 16 and will last for four months, and is expected to be the biggest cultural relics exhibition of Guangzhou Museum in recent years.

Of these treasures, most are first-class or second -class cultural relics involving bronze wares, blue and white porcelain of the Tang and Song Dynasties, porcelain plate with cockfighting pattern presented by Sweden, armor awarded by Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908) and personal letters of Kang Youwei, Li Hongzhang, Zhang Zhidong as well as precious paintings and calligraphies.

The highlight of this exhibition is porcelain from the Tang and Song Dynasties, especially the celadon porcelains from Yue Kiln of Zhejiang, celadon glazed porcelain from Longquan Kiln, black glazed porcelain from Jizhou Kiln of Jiangxi province and shiny red glazed porcelain of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911), which will be a feast for the visitors’ eyes.

Among such porcelain, the Blue and White Porcelain Plate with Cockfighting Pattern is perhaps the most attractive one that you shouldn’t miss.

Made in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Blue and White Porcelain Plate with Cockfighting Pattern bears witness to the longstanding and good relations between China and Sweden. In 1745, the Swedish ship Gotheborg arrived in Guangzhou and purchased lots of porcelain from China, but unfortunately, the ship sank on its return voyage. 160 years later, it was salvaged from the sea and this blue and white plate was still in good shape when it was found. It was presented to China by the Swedish king in 1996 when he sailed with the imitation ship Gotheborg III paying a friendly visit to Guangzhou.

Qing Dynasty

The Qing dynasty (Chinese: 清朝; pinyin: Qīng Cháo; Wade–Giles: Ch’ing Ch’ao; IPA: [tɕʰíŋ tʂʰɑ̌ʊ̯]), officially the Great Qing (Chinese: 大清; pinyin: Dà Qīng), also called the Empire of the Great Qing, or the Manchu dynasty, was the last imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The Qing multi-cultural empire lasted almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for the modern Chinese state.

The dynasty was founded by the Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria. In the late sixteenth century, Nurhaci, originally a Ming vassal, began organizing Jurchen clans into “Banners”, military-social units. Nurhaci formed these clans into a unified entity, the subjects of which became known collectively as the Manchu people. By 1636, his son Hong Taiji began driving Ming forces out of Liaodong and declared a new dynasty, the Qing. In 1644, peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng conquered the Ming capital Beijing. Rather than serve them, Ming general Wu Sangui made an alliance with the Manchus and opened the Shanhai Pass to the Banner Armies led by Prince Dorgon, who defeated the rebels and seized Beijing. The conquest of China proper was not completed until 1683 under the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722). The Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong Emperor from the 1750s to the 1790s extended Qing control into Central Asia. While the early rulers maintained their Manchu ways, and while their official title was Emperor they were known as khans to the Mongols and patronized Tibetan Buddhism, they governed using Confucian styles and institutions of bureaucratic government. They retained the imperial examinations to recruit Han Chinese to work under or in parallel with Manchus. They also adapted the ideals of the tributary system in international relations, and in places such as Taiwan, the Qing so-called internal foreign policy closely resembled colonial policy and control.

The reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735–1796) saw the apogee and initial decline in prosperity and imperial control. The population rose to some 400 million, but taxes and government revenues were fixed at a low rate, virtually guaranteeing eventual fiscal crisis. Corruption set in, rebels tested government legitimacy, and ruling elites did not change their mindsets in the face of changes in the world system. Following the Opium War, European powers imposed unequal treaties, free trade, extraterritoriality and treaty ports under foreign control. The Taiping Rebellion (1850–64) and Dungan Revolt (1862–77) in Central Asia led to the deaths of some 20 million people. In spite of these disasters, in the Tongzhi Restoration of the 1860s, Han Chinese elites rallied to the defense of the Confucian order and the Qing rulers. The initial gains in the Self-Strengthening Movement were destroyed in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895, in which the Qing lost its influence over Korea and the possession of Taiwan. New Armies were organized, but the ambitious Hundred Days’ Reform of 1898 was turned back by Empress Dowager Cixi, a ruthless but capable leader. When, in response to the violently anti-foreign Yihetuan (“Boxers”), foreign powers invaded China, the Empress Dowager declared war on them, leading to defeat and the flight of the Imperial Court to Xi’an.

After agreeing to sign the Boxer Protocol the government then initiated unprecedented fiscal and administrative reforms, including elections, a new legal code, and abolition of the examination system. Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionaries competed with reformers such as Liang Qichao and monarchists such as Kang Youwei to transform the Qing empire into a modern nation. After the death of Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor in 1908, the hardline Manchu court alienated reformers and local elites alike. Local uprisings starting on October 11, 1911 led to the Xinhai Revolution. Puyi, the last emperor, abdicated on February 12, 1912.

Zhenhai Tower (Guangzhou)

The Zhenhai Tower (Chinese: 镇海楼; pinyin: Zhènhǎi Lóu), or colloquially the Five Stories Pagoda (五层楼) is a five-story tower in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.

History

It was built in 1380, at the beginning of the Ming dynasty, by the Yongjia Marquis Zhu Liangzu (朱亮祖). It is located in Yuexiu Park, in central Guangzhou. It now houses the Guangzhou Museum.

It is built for sealing the dragon gas of Guangzhou, when the Ming Emperor believed that the dragon gas would make the new emperor of a new dynasty to replace his one.

Popular Culture

By the time it was the highest building of Guangzhou when it was constructed. For a long period of time, it is the symbol of Guangzhou before the Wuyang Statue was built.

There is a folk rhyme around the residents about the pogoda, “肥仔個頭,大過五層樓,肥仔隻手,細過荷蘭豆” which literally means “Fat boy’s head is even bigger than the five stories pagoda, fat boy’s hands are even smaller than the snow peas.” (Cantonese refers snow peas as Dutch bean as its first imported from Europe to Guangzhou)

The “fat boy” could be replaced by any person.

Guangzhou Museum

Located in the Yuexiu Park in Guangzhou City (Canton), the Museum is a comprehensive history museum with local characteristics. Established in 1929, it is a place used for collection and exhibition of historical data and cultural relics of the city. It has two major exhibition areas – the Zhenhai Tower housing the historical relics and the Art Gallery showing many exquisite local craftworks.

Zhenhai Tower

The historical exhibition is housed in a five-story building named Zhenhai Tower (Sea Guard Tower), which dates back to 1380. Zhenhai Tower is 28 meters (92 feet) high and 31 meters (102 feet) wide. It has been destroyed and rebuilt five times and was changed from a wooden structure to reinforced concrete in 1928. The reddish-brown bricks and grey tiles made the building primitively simple and unique. At the front of the building, there is a pair of two-meter-high stone lions in red sandstone made in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The tower houses nearly a thousand pictures, data and other exhibits on history of the city’s history. Those collections display the changes of culture, custom and city developments. Walking into it, you can see a geographical model and a diagram of the ancient Guangzhou city at the first floor. On the second floor, there are historical relics (4000 BC – 589 AD) and unearthed remains of the Neolithic Age. When you come to the third floor, you can look around the historical relics of Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. The fourth floor mainly exhibits plentiful historical relics of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). Modern Chinese cultural relics since the Opium War (1840 – 1842) are displayed on the fifth floor. Besides, there are also special showrooms at the east side of the tower where all kinds of temporary or memorable special exhibitions are often held. At the west side, there is a barbette with cannon on it and 23 ancient stone tablets.

The Art Gallery

To the east of the Zhenhai Tower lies the Art Gallery. Zhongyuan Tower, the major building of the museum, was built in 1930 and imitated the architectural style of the Hall of Literary Glory in the Forbidden City in Beijing. There are two exhibition halls – one in front of the Zhongyuan Tower and the other to the east – housing steles representing masterpieces of Chinese calligraphy from the Jin Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty.

Since the end of the Ming Dynasty, Guangzhou acted as an important port for foreign trade on the marine Silk Road. Many delicate local craftworks with features of south China became more and more popular among western countries. The Art Gallery exhibits some culture relics and handicrafts showing the Chinese and Western culture exchange at that time. On the ground floor exhibits the silk, textile and embroidery artwork, which are for long the favorites of westerners. The second floor shows porcelain and a large number of Chinese paintings of various dynasties in ancient Chinese history. The painted porcelain, lacquer work and ivory carvings are on the third floor. Apart from these precious collections, there is a Paleontology Exhibition Hall to the east of the Zhongyuan Tower, displaying the Paleozoic and Mesozoic fossils and the models of the life scenes of the ancestors of human beings in the remote past.

Besides the Zhenhai Tower and the Gallery, Guangzhou museum offers another two exhibition areas (Sanyuanli Revolution Memorial Hall and Site of Headquarters of Mar. 29 Uprising) for special interest in the city’s revolutionary history. There are also some other popular nearby spots which you can visit if you have extra time. White Cloud Mountain with great natural scenery is only 2.1 kilometers (about 1.3 miles) from the museum. About 4.9 kilometers (about 3 miles) away lies the South China Botanical Garden.




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