Asian Arts | Exhibitions
The University of Pennsylvania Musuem of Archaeology and Anthropology
Treasures of the Chinese Scholar
The traditional Chinese scholar spent years studying the ancient classics and philosophical treatises while steeping himself in the moral principles of Confucianism in hopes of passing the Civil Service Examination. Passing this examination allowed him to enter governmental service, the key to entrance into a life of privilege, social status, politics, and aesthetics. Within his studio, his room for study and contemplation, he surrounded himself with "treasures" created for scholars-brushes, inkstones, water droppers, toggles, figurines and scholar's rocks. More than mere art curios, these treasures embodied the shared wisdom, traditions, and values of the Chinese literati who governed China for more than two millennia.
Dr. John K. Fong is curator of the exhibition Treasures of the Chinese Scholar, which first opened at the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (October 25 through December 14, 1997). Dr. Fong, a psychiatrist, has studied and collected Chinese art, developing the Ji Zhen Zhai Collection, for more than 25 years. Treasures of the Chinese Scholar (Weatherhill Publishers, 1997), a full-color illustrated book edited by Dr. Fong, is available in the Museum Shop.
The tools of the scholar, the "four treasures" distinguishing him from the common tradesman, were those of writing-brush, inkstone, ink, and paper. The scholar hoped to become proficient in the art of poetry, painting, and, most importantly, calligraphy-"the three perfections." Brushes, bitongs (brush holders), inkstones, paper weights, wrist rests and other related paraphernalia became coveted items in the scholar's study as reproduction of these items reached a high level of refinement-and many of these items are displayed in the Ink and Brush section.
Human figures were depicted in Chinese art as early as the late Neolithic period (beginning 10th century B.C.) Immortals, from a seated Buddha to Guandi, the God of War, carved in ivory, bamboo, boxwood or jade, depicted in porcelain or cast in bronze, are featured in the Figural Portrayal section.
A section of Related Collections looks at a variety of items collected by the scholar, an avid collector and cataloguer of objects that were historically or culturally significant to him. Here are all manner of lacquered and carved boxes, teapots and trays carved of ivory, scepters of boxwood or iron with inlaid silver or carved tortoiseshell; porcelain water vessels and amphora; flutes of bamboo and of nephrite stone, and more.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 350 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.
The Museum is located at 33rd and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Closed Mondays, holidays and summer Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Museum admission donation is $5 adults; $2.50 senior citizens and students with ID; free to Museum members, children under 6, and University of Pennsylvania staff, students and faculty with a PENNcard. FREE ON SUNDAY AFTERNOONS through May 17, 1998! Visit the Museum's web site at http://www.upenn.edu/museum or call (215) 898-4000 for general information.
Asian Arts | Exhibitions