Relics from China's ancient Summer Palace go on display in Minhang
Five of the 12 bronze animal head sculptures of China's Old Summer Palace are on display in Shanghai, at a joint exhibition launched on Monday by the Minhang Museum, the Old Summer Palace, and the Poly Art Museum.
The head sculptures of the Ox, Tiger, Monkey, Pig and Horse are part of the over 40 bronze exhibits at the "China's Retrieved Cultural Relics Exhibition" that will run through December 18 at the Minhang Museum.
A total of 12 sculptures were created based on the 12 zodiac animal symbols in traditional Chinese culture, to decorate China's Old Summer Palace, also known as Yuanmingyuan, built by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Serving as a water clock, they took turns sprouting water every two hours and sprayed water together at noon every day, becoming a unique scene in the royal garden.
They also represented an ideal combination of eastern and Western art and technology, integrating the designs of Chinese zodiac animals and Western clock and fountain mechanics.
But they were looted from the garden by Anglo-French allied forces in 1860 during the Second Opium War (1856-1860). China has been trying its best to return the lost treasures back home.
By now seven of them, the bronze head sculptures of the Ox, Monkey, Tiger, Pig, Horse, Rat and Rabbit, have returned to China, while the rest are still unaccounted for.
Four of the exhibits were obtained by the Poly Art Museum by auction or donation, and are now an important part of its collection.
The other one, the head sculpture of the Horse, was donated by deceased Macau billionaire Stanley Ho to the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) and returned to its original home, the Old Summer Palace, in 2020. The one on display is a replica of the original.
The head sculptures of the Rat and Rabbit are collected at China's National Museum.
At the exhibition in Minhang, visitors can take a close look at the superb work of ancient craftsmen from the details of the sculpture, such as the lifelike animal hair.
There is also a section to show the materials and foundry technique. The dewaxing casting used to create the sculptures were found by the Peking University's School of Archaeology and Museology.
Digital technology was used to create an immersive experience for visitors, allowing them to see the original splendor of the water clock at the Old Summer Palace.
The other exhibits at the exhibition are precious bronze items from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) to Han dynasties (202 BC-AD 220), which can provide a glimpse into the life in ancient China.
Some of the other exhibits at the exhibitionDong Jun / SHINE
The exhibition is free but reservations are required.
Visitors can make reservation at the Minhang Museum's WeChat account which can be accessed by scanning the QR code below.
Reservations and green health codes, as well as body temperature and a negative nucleic acid test report from 72 hours prior to the visit, will be checked at the entrance.
Visitors should wear masks throughout their stay in the museum.
Dates: 9:30am - 4:30pm Tuesday to Sunday through December 18
Venue: Minhang Museum
Address: 1538 Xinzhen Road, Minhang District