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"5,000 Years of Chinese Jade"
at San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas
Recommendation by Dan R. Goddard

"Spinach Jade Brushpot," Qing dynasty, 18th century, nephrite, 6 3/4 x 6 1/4"

Continuing through February 19, 2012

Subtle and intricate, Chinese jade carving can seem coolly aloof and perplexing to Western sensibilities, but “5,000 Years of Chinese Jade” presents a tightly focused, high quality, chronological survey of 89 objects. Making their United States debut, these selections are drawn from the National Museum of History in Taiwan, the Smithsonian Institution’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Dating from 770 to 476 BC and excavated in 1936 from a tomb in central China, the five Taiwanese treasures include a spectacular reticulated pendant decorated with undulating dragons. Most mysterious are the solemn, minimalistic Neolithic pi discs, made and used by shamans to channel supernatural powers. However, realistic animal figures are probably the most endearing works to American tastes, including the Sackler’s famous Han dynasty bear as well as a Song dynasty hound. The 19th-century pieces from the Springfield museum, such as an elaborately carved dragon bowl and a luxurious elephant vase, reflect the influence of more ornate Western motifs.

Fiber optic lighting enhances the fine details of these ancient ritual objects, weapons, jewelry and vessels. A “Jade Quest” app for iPhone and Android users provides visitors to this exquisite exhibit with the historical context.

San Antonio Museum of Art

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