Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

Jade the Ultimate Treasure of Ancient China at the National Gallery of Canada 4 October 2002 to 5 January 2003

Ottawa, Canada - October 2, 2002


 « Jade Trésor suprême de la Chine ancienne »  

This autumn the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) will offer its visitors an unparalleled opportunity to appreciate the most remarkable collection of jade sculptures ever shown outside China. Jade, the Ultimate Treasure of Ancient China brings together 120 jade pieces and groupings created for ceremonial and decorative purposes between the Neolithic times (c. 7000-1600 BC) and the Qing dynasty (1644-1911 AD). Don't miss the opportunity to admire these exquisite examples of the art of ancient China.

The realization of this magnificent jade exhibition in Canada is a dream come true. The Ottawa showing of Jade, the Ultimate Treasure of Ancient China at the National Gallery is the final stop on a Canadian tour that has brought the exhibition to Victoria, Vancouver, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Quebec City. This is the last chance to discover how jade was worked and how these objects, imbued with mystical properties and intimately linked to moral values, became symbols of social class and objects of art.

Jade symbolizes the highest virtues and qualities and reflects not only beauty, creativity and refinement but the evolution of an entire civilization. It speaks to us of the historical and cultural achievements of humankind.

For more than four millennia, the Chinese have used jade to make both household utensils and ritual objects -- jewellery, swords, dragon-handled cups, protective amulets. These objects, embodying qualities of social position, longevity and beneficence, were valued even more highly than gold. As viewers discover the works in the exhibition they will come to appreciate jade's ancient link with immortality. The objects evoke not only those who made or used them, but also those who were buried with, or in, the jade pieces.

The Jade Mortuary Suit of Princess Douwan
The exhibition's highlight is Princess Douwan's jade mortuary suit, a funerary garment reminiscent of Egyptian mummies. Covering the entire surface of the body, it consists of 2,160 square or oblong pieces of jade, sewn together with 700 grams of gold thread. Today, such a creation would represent the equivalent of 100,000 working days. Made during the period of the Western Han dynasty, (206 B.C. to 25 A.D.), the suit still has the nine jade "buttons" meant to keep the "humours" from departing. Decomposition led to the calcification of the jade, an idea that exerts a morbid fascination. Technically the princess is still in her shroud. She and the suit have become one!

Jade, the Ultimate Treasure of Ancient China is organized by the Canadian Foundation for the Preservation of Chinese Cultural and Historical Treasures and the China Cultural Relics Coordination Centre, with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage. National partner: Columbia International College, Hamilton (Ontario). The NGC wishes to thank the exhibition's media sponsors, CBC TV, La Télévision de Radio-Canada, Ottawa Citizen and Le Droit, for their invaluable support.

An illustrated catalogue is available, produced by the Canadian Foundation for the Preservation of Chinese Cultural and Historical Treasures. It includes forewords by Nelly Ng and Fan Shimin, and essays by Yun Xizheng, Barry Till and Paula Swart. The catalogue is on sale at the NGC boutique.

Sunday, October 6 at 3 pm
Chinese Jade through the Ages, by Barry Till, curator of Asian art at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and one of the contributors to the catalogue. In English with simultaneous translation. Tickets: adults $5, seniors and full-time students $4, Friends $3; under 18, free (tickets required). In the Lecture Hall. 

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