Exploring Shanghai Museum's cultural treasures

Xu Wei
Short documentary series "Treasures in Shanghai Museum" provides insights into the city's rich cultural resources and the brilliance of ancient Chinese culture and arts.
Xu Wei

Shanghai Media Group's short documentary series "Treasures in Shanghai Museum" has been well received since its debut on Knews and Dragon TV earlier this year.

Produced by SMG News, the 25-episode series provides insights into the city's rich cultural resources and the brilliance of ancient Chinese culture and arts. It also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Chinese archeology.

Shanghai Museum has a collection of more than 1 million cultural relics, about 140,000 of which are very precious. The series examines 25 items in the categories of bronze, ceramics, paintings and handicrafts, including the bronze tripod "Da Ke Ding," the silk tapestry "Lotus Pond and Ducks" and Dong Qichang's painting "Eight Views of Autumn Moods."

The length of each episode is four to five minutes. Director Wang Linlin said the biggest challenge making the series was figuring out how to introduce the relics and the stories of the past to viewers in a creative and light-hearted way.

Vivid, youthful and interesting narration coupled with hi-tech methods for the visuals are used to tell the unknown and touching stories behind the relics.

Suspense and relevant archeological expertise are combined with the narration to cater to young viewers, providing answers to many questions about the items' artistry, value and influence.

Special effects like 3D digital scanning and animated illustration are also applied to present stunning visuals.

For example, in an episode about a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) red sandalwood painting desk, 3D animation is used to display the principle of the mortise and tenon structure in Chinese classical furniture.

Without nails or glue, the desk was made using only pieces of wood, which fit together perfectly with concave-convex splicing.

The relic's artistic charm embodies the wisdom of traditional Chinese carpenters, as well as ancient Chinese philosophies that emphasize balance and long-term stability.

The exquisite silk tapestry "Lotus Pond and Ducks," a famous artwork made by Zhu Kerou during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), is introduced with the illustration of poetic watertown landscapes and the sounds of flowing water and singing birds.

Exploring Shanghai Museum's cultural treasures

A scene showcasing the silk tapestry "Lotus Pond and Ducks"

The last 30 seconds of each episode is a panoramic display of the item along with details about it.

The series also pays tribute to the artworks' creators and generations of preservers.

All 25 items in the series were donated to Shanghai Museum years ago. To date, more than 33,000 of the 140,000 or so precious relics in the museum were donated by people from all walks of life.

Pan Dayu, a former collector of "Da Ke Ding," hid the bronze tripod in a big wooden case underneath her living room with the help of two loyal servants during the turbulent period of war in the 1930s and 1940s. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, she donated the relic to Shanghai Museum.

Exploring Shanghai Museum's cultural treasures
Ti Gong

A bronze ritual wine vessel from the late Shang Dynasty (16th century-11th century BC)

Historical and cultural heritages tell stories of the past while influencing contemporary and future lives. The relics are non-renewable and irreplaceable cultural resources.

In the eyes of Xing Wei, who is in charge of this documentary project, the series is more than simple stories about the relics. They also hope to build an emotional connection between the relics and people of today. In addition to local TV channel and video-sharing platforms, the series has also been broadcast on subways, buses and office buildings to reach a wider audience.

Huang Zheng, deputy director of SMG News, said several well-received historical and cultural programs have been produced this year, such as in-depth reports on the Sanxingdui Ruins site in southwest China's Sichuan Province and a special program about China's major historical discoveries. However, this is the first time short-length documentaries about cultural relics have been produced. An English version of the series is underway, aiming to bring it to a worldwide audience.

Exploring Shanghai Museum's cultural treasures

A poster for "Treasures in Shanghai Museum"

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