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Crow Collection of Art Presents On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce

Dragon jar and cover. Song¬–Yuan dynasty, 13th century, Longquan kilns.

Dragon jar and cover. Song¬–Yuan dynasty, 13th century, Longquan kilns.

On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce
Crow Collection of Asian Art
September 1, 2012 through January 27, 2013

The Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art opens On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce to the public Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 10 a.m. 

This collection of 73 works drawn from the Doris and Leo Hodroff collection at the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, tells the stories of why Chinese ceramics were so special at home and particularly abroad. The superb examples of Chinese ceramics featured in this exhibition are considered to be some of the finest in the world, and were rarities in the West until the mid-18th century.

Examples of proto-porcelain appeared in China about 3,000 years ago and hard-paste porcelain began to be made around 1,800 years ago.  This precious product was sometimes called “white gold,” especially in the West. Foreign trade and changing domestic markets played a role in stimulating Chinese potters to continually reinvent their repertoire of shapes and decorative techniques. These exchanges also illuminate important episodes in cultural history.

The earliest era of Chinese trade with lands to the west began over 2,000 years ago. Before there was a Silk Road, Chinese records refer to a Jade Road where traders from the East and West met at the oasis of Khotan in Central Asia.  There the Chinese acquired the type of gemstone they valued most. From the 1st through the 14th centuries, overland and maritime exchanges of ideas and goods between China, the Mediterranean world, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia were never controlled by a single political power. The overland road for much of its length was a fragile chain stretched across inhospitable desert and mountain terrain. Ships sailed unpredictable seas from one small city-state to another. Many were swept off course and sank, such as two recently discovered cargos of 9th- and 14th-century Chinese ceramics.

During the 18th century a flourishing shipping business, known as the “China Trade,” developed between Western nations and the Chinese port of Canton in the upper reaches of the Pearl River Delta. Trade concentrated on tea, silk, and inexpensive porcelain. “Fancy” goods and special orders, like the armorial porcelain and large decorative pieces—particularly punch bowls—were privately traded by ships’ officers. At this time, the European porcelain industry was in its infancy and production of large pieces of porcelain was problematic in their new pottery workshops.

Throughout history, the exchange of goods and ideas was never one-sided. Novel ideas from the West fascinated the emperors of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) inspiring the creation of imperial wares, such as the pattern known in the West as mille-fleur and in China as wanhuajin. Jesuits working in Chinese imperial workshops were a conduit for European imagery and thoughts, such as the mille-fleur design often depicted in easily transportable 18th-century European engravings. The Chinese version of the mille-fleur motif found favor as a pattern on Yongzheng imperial porcelain (1723–1735) and continues to be admired in China to this day.  On such wares, flowers from each of the four seasons miraculously bloom at the same time. One reason for the appeal of this design is its association with a pre-existing Chinese proverb foretelling prosperity: “May one hundred flowers bloom.”

On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce explores these and other tales at the Crow Collection of Asia Art in the Dallas Arts District. On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce was organized by the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida.

Admission is free. The Crow Collection of Asian Art is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. and closed on Mondays. For more information, please go to crowcollection.org or call 214-979-6430.

About The Crow Collection

The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art features a variety of spaces and galleries with changing exhibitions of the arts of China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia drawn from cultures ancient and contemporary. Just 14 years in operation, this lovingly curated free museum offers a serene setting for quiet reflection in the heart of the Dallas Arts District.  The Crow Collection continues to grow in art and service to the Dallas-Fort Worth community with an emphasis on shared learning and fun.  New initiatives include the development of an Asian physical and mental wellness center endorsed by Dr. Andrew Weil as well as an Asian Sculpture Garden slated to open in the fall of 2013. For more information, please go to crowcollection.org.

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