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Home is where the art is

Updated: 2024-01-06 09:46 ( China Daily )
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Here, Yue refers to the ancient state of Yue, whose prolonged war with its neighbor, the state of Wu, fought between the late 6th century BC and mid-5th century BC, is well-chronicled. For some time, the two occupied the Jiangnan area, which explains why the region is traditionally referred to as "the land of Wu and Yue". After Wu's total defeat in 473 BC, the rulers of Yue decided to move their power base to the former capital of Wu — the city of Suzhou.

According to Yang Haitao, a veteran researcher from the Nanjing Museum, despite commonly held beliefs, Jiangnan during the time of Wu and Yue had interacted frequently with the land to their immediate north, land long considered to be the sole birthplace of the Chinese civilization before historians were persuaded by overwhelming archaeological evidence to greatly modify their conclusions.

"Bronze swords and mirrors with intricate patterns were produced in relatively large numbers in Jiangnan around this time, testifying to the spreading into the region of metallurgical know-how from the north, where it had been put to the creation of magnificent, bewilderingly complex ritual bronze ware," says Yang.

The exhibition features an ox-shaped bronze lamp on loan from the Nanjing Museum, located in the Jiangnan city of Nanjing, 200 kilometers from Suzhou. Opulently patterned and ingeniously designed — when in use, the smoke and soot resulting from burning fuel is channeled through a connecting pipe into the animal's water-filled body — the lamp was believed to have been locally made between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

"You can tell the story of Jiangnan through craftsmanship," says the exhibition's curator Clarissa von Spee, pointing to the fact that the region, during the entire Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), had served as the single largest base for China's handicraft industry, with the city of Yangzhou noted for its mirror production.

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