The blue colour was mesmerising and I wanted to touch it even though it was shown on a newsletter advertising the Ming exhibition at the British Museum. The only thing I could do was to follow a link and book tickets for the following day. Instead of mingling with the masses of shoppers on Black Friday in Oxford Street, I headed to the first national public museum in the world, the British Museum.
The exhibition started with an introduction to the Ming Dynasty showing the imperial family tree and its influence over China and the World throughout history. The founder of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Hongwu, chooses the name Ming which means ‘brightness’ to contrast with the dark age China was coming out of. The brightness was beaming out of the exhibition – the palate of colours incorporated in each item and mixed with gold easily took you back to China of 1450. During the Ming Dynasty the Chinese navy sailed all the way to India, Arabia and East Africa. According to a book “1421, the year China discovered the World”, with the all knowledge they gathered they managed to circumnavigate the globe and reach America seventy years before Columbus and Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook. The capital city of China was moved from Nanjing to Beijing during the Ming reign and in order to accommodate both the extended imperial family and governmental offices, Hongwu’s son, Yongle, built “Zjijin Cheng” – the Purple Forbidden City. The colour purple was a reference to the night sky and its purplish constellation with the North Star, and his hope was to have his new capital city as a navigational star on Earth. It’s no surprise that the first encyclopaedia in the world was written during the Ming Dynasty and covered various subjects such as art, astronomy, history, religion, medicine, agriculture and technology. The encyclopaedia is known as the Yongle Encyclopaedia, the son of the establisher of the Ming Dynasty.
The exhibition is an extraordinary and unique collection of very fine porcelain, gold, exquisite jewellery, sculptures and textiles and shows a powerful and strong country. My favourite exhibit I thought would be the giant cloisonné jar, decorated with dragons and imperial mark on the publicity material for the exhibition, but in the end it was he stunning hair ornament in the shape of a large golden flower created for the Empress that captured my imagination – its detail and fragility is exquisite. There was a 700-year-old shimmering silken robe, miniature carriages from imperial tombs, lacquer ware and scrolls – a hugely enjoyable glimpse into the magnificence of the Ming dynasty.
Ming: 50 years that changed China, sponsored by BP, will run until January 5, 2015, with an admission charge of £16.50. You can book tickets on-line by clicking here.