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Chinese Works of Art

Chinese Works of Art in the University of Canberra Art Collection.

The close connection the University of Canberra  has held with  China and South East Asia  goes back to almost the very beginning of  the institute's days as a College of Advanced Education.  The University of Canberra proudly holds in its collection  25 Chinese works of art that include  caligraphy, watercolour paintings, embroidered silk scrolls, brass tomb rubbings and more.  Many of these were official gifts and have been displayed in  exhibitions and on loan to significant societies such as the Eastern Asia Art Society over the years. Below,  are some of the  Chinese works of art held in the Collection.

Ching Choong's Lychees.

This is a beautiful  watercolour on paper that depicts a branch with lychees. The work was acquired in early 1977  by the College of Advanced Education . It is stamped with the maker's mark in the lower right corner.  Although it isn't a large work, it is well composed with the Lychee fruits adding a  splash of colour.

The lychee is a troical tree that is native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of Southeastern China. Its small fleshy fruits are a pink-reddish colour, roughly textextured of which the covering is used for many different dessert dishes.

Yap  Teow-Khoon's Thunderstorm

This work of art was acquired  about the same time as  the Lychees work above. It is a  highly evocative watercolour using gradiated inks and Chinese brush techniques and depicts a storm beating down on a hillside (as shown by darkened trees). One can imagine the heavy pounding of rain  and the thunderous noise being so close to  the clouds.  Storms have always posed  a  worthy subject for artists  throughout the history of art. An oncoming storm can provide striking  images as  light and dark clash (chiarascuro). Other artists that have depicted storms include  Leonardo Da Vinci and  J.M. W Turner.

4 Brass Rubbings from a Chinese Tomb

This charming group of 4 women in various poses comes from a tomb  of a Princess from the T'ang Dynasty  of Zian and were a gift from the Chinese Museum of History, Beijing in 1978. The T'ang  Dynasty ruled an empire that  stretched into  Central Asia  from the 7th to 10th Centuries  Current Era. The effigies depict a Woman washing plates, a woman combing and decorating herself,  a woman brewing tea and a woman chopping white bait. As well as  being  works of art in their own right, the images provide cultural and social information about the times they depict.

The Tang dynasty (/tɑːŋ/,[5] [tʰǎŋ]; Chinese: 唐朝[a]), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Historians generally regard the Tang as a high point in Chinese civilization, and a golden age of cosmopolitan culture.[7] Tang territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, rivaled that of the Han dynasty.

The Lǐ family (李) founded the dynasty, seizing power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire and inaugurating a period of progress and stability in the first half of the dynasty's rule. The dynasty was formally interrupted during 690–705 when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, proclaiming the Wu Zhou dynasty and becoming the only legitimate Chinese empress regnant. The devastating An Lushan Rebellion (755–763) shook the nation and led to the decline of central authority in the dynasty's latter half. Like the previous Sui dynasty, the Tang maintained a civil-service system by recruiting scholar-officials through standardized examinations and recommendations to office. The rise of regional military governors known as jiedushi during the 9th century undermined this civil order. The dynasty and central government went into decline by the latter half of the 9th century; agrarian rebellions resulted in mass population loss and displacement, widespread poverty, and further government dysfunction that ultimately ended the dynasty in 907.

The Tang capital at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) was then the world's most populous city. Two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries estimated the empire's population at about 50 million people, which grew to an estimated 80 million by the dynasty's end. From its numerous subjects, the dynasty raised professional and conscripted armies of hundreds of thousands of troops to contend with nomadic powers for control of Inner Asia and the lucrative trade-routes along the Silk Road. Far-flung kingdoms and states paid tribute to the Tang court, while the Tang also indirectly controlled several regions through a protectorate system. The adoption of the title Khan of Heaven by the Tang emperor Taizong was eastern Asia's first "simultaneous kingship". In addition to its political hegemony, the Tang exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring East Asian nations such as Japan and Korea.

Chinese culture flourished and further matured during the Tang era. It is traditionally considered the greatest age for Chinese poetry.[13] Two of China's most famous poets, Li Bai and Du Fu, belonged to this age, as did many famous painters such as Han Gan, Zhang Xuan, and Zhou Fang. Tang scholars compiled a rich variety of historical literature, as well as encyclopedias and geographical works. Notable innovations included the development of woodblock printing. Buddhism became a major influence in Chinese culture, with native Chinese sects gaining prominence. However, in the 840s Emperor Wuzong enacted policies to suppress Buddhism, which subsequently declined in influence.

Flying Waterfall of Huang Mountain by Kuo Chuan-Chang

This watercolour on paper depicts a scene that is described as one of the most famous landscapes of China.  Huang Mountain (Yellow Mountain)  is located in southern Anhui Province and features amazing scenery  including 36 peaks hot springs and waterfalls. Kuo Chuan-Chang's image  shows one of the more popular perspectives of the mountainside that shows the flying waterfall of Lushan.

The watercolour is made of traditional Chinese  brushstrokes with ink and watercolour that  cleverly depicts the clouds obscuring the scenery . The work of art i backed onto brocaded paper that would have been carefully rolled up  for storage and displayed only on special occasions. Unfortunately, little is known about this artist. It is believed taht the work of art was  acquired  sometime in 1978  from a donor in Shanghai.

A Pair of Ducks among Hibiscus flowers by Cheng Hsin Yang and Ms Wu Yu-Mei

Acquired at the same time as the Flying Waterfall and  Tomb Rubbings above, the art-work 'A Pair of Ducks among Hibiscus Flowers was donated to the University of Canberra back in 1978. This scroll was painted on paper using traditional Chinese watercolour techniques by two students  from the School of Fine Art, Shanghai,  ( mounted at the conservation workshop attached tot he Imperial Palace Museum in Peking).  The text to the right is a welcome to friends from the Canberra College of Advanced Education.