2023 CHF Day @ Mia- Eternal Offerings
On March 4 the much-anticipated exhibit, Eternal Offerings, Chinese Ritual Bronzes, opened at Mia. Curated jointly by Mia Curator Liu Yang and world-renowned designer Tim Yip, there was a great deal of excitement when the exhibit opened to the public on the morning of March 4. Throughout the exhibit’s run until May 21, hushed audiences have filed by the entrance room, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling wall paintings of ancient Chinese mountains, with formal Chinese script depicting mythic stories of old, of creation and succession, of deities and royalty, striding forward through time.
Modern 3D printed replicas of bronze shards dangle above a reflecting pool while an owl, mythic and yet recognizable as a possible ancestor of the modern-day tawny fish owl, stands sentry in front of a billowing split curtain, invited the audience to step right through the roaring waters of the Yellow River into a mountain scene with rushing streams. Who would dwell in such mythic surroundings? Mythic beings – half human, half beast — roamed, together with dragons, tigers, as well as birds such as the hoopoe, this animistic world and interceded for the newly arrived humans.
To recognize ancestors in one’s clan / royal rulers, ancestral temples came into being. Under superb and yet subtle lighting in the temple room, various shapes of bronze vessels for food and wine shine and come alive. Flanked by curtains of warm evening or cool daylight colors and looking more like stone than bronze, their iridescence is breathtaking.
In the next room, an altar shaped like the Chinese character ya (for Asia), leads one’s eye up to the oculus showing the moving sky, much like smoke wafting upward to the heavenly deities. Here, a bronze tripod cauldron (ding) at the center, with four smaller ones at each corner, is the primary ritual vessel, as well as the symbol of power and a mandate to rule.
What to do after having made offerings to the gods and one’s ancestors? Have a banquet of course! Surrounded by wall paintings of a banquet in process, utilizing many of the bronze vessels for food and drink in the exhibit, timed lighting showcases the bronze vessels for food and drinking. Warm colors of pink and brown, as well as images on the floor, conspire to generate a feeling of frivolity in this most human activity.
To cement social structure and maintain hierarchy that came about during the bronze age, the concept of ‘li’, a moral code, emerged. Every aspect of life became codified. Human figures, depicting both the ruler and the slave, started to appear. Music began to augment rituals. Motifs and symbols for wealth and status abounded, and the bronze mirror heralded self-awareness. The Room of Rules of Propriety signals a fully developed hierarchical society.
Connecting all these rooms are a set of mirrors that allows the visitor to look forward and back all at once. The illusion of life is one of fluidity and continuity. Remembering the past fortifies one to move forward. This spiritual journey through ancient Chinese ritual bronzes anchors the yearning soul, offers comfort and directions, and arms one to move forward with confidence.
To celebrate this magnificent and path-breaking exhibit, CHF collaborated with Mia to create a CHF Day @ Mia on April 16. Mia offered a special 50% discount code on all tickets for that day, and CHF offered a further 50% discount to all young Chinese parents (resulting in free tickets) if they would bring their children (tickets for students up to 18 are always free at Mia). These offers went out to all weekend Chinese Language Schools as well as regular schools offering Chinese immersion programs. It was a terrific deal and Mia reported that the special code was used 180 times!
On April 16 we had a wonderful and excited crowd, young families, professionals, seniors joined together and listened intently as Curator and Co-creator Liu Yang offered introductory remarks and a brief guide. Then everyone went in to experience the exhibit. A hush of awe fell over everyone. The immensity and breadth of Mia’s bronze collection, coupled with Tim Yip’s genius conception and Liu Yang’s meticulous scholarship, made for an unforgettable experience. Everyone left in exhilaration, proud to be part of an ancient heritage, still vibrant 4,000 years later, ready to move forward and engage the world. Tim would be pleased!