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Visions through the Ages

At the entrance of The Field Museum’s Cyrus Tang Hall of China, two Chinese stone guardian lions stand tall, gazing down intently at approaching visitors. One lion’s paw rests upon a decorated ball symbolizing power, while the other lion cradles a cub. Traditionally believed to possess attributes of strength and protection, statues such as these once stood guard outside imperial buildings, temples, and wealthy homes in China. Now, centuries later, they guard this incredible permanent exhibition.
China’s long history is one of the richest and most complex in the known world, and the Cyrus Tang Hall of China offers visitors a wonderful, comprehensive survey of it through some 350 artifacts on display, spanning from the Paleolithic period to present day. Now, with China: Visions through the Ages, anyone can experience the marvels of this exhibition through the book’s beautifully designed and detailed pages. Readers will gain deeper insight into The Field Museum’s important East Asian collections, the exhibition development process, and research on key aspects of China’s fascinating history. This companion book, edited by the exhibition’s own curatorial team, takes readers even deeper into the wonders of the Cyrus Tang Hall of China and enables them to study more closely the objects and themes featured in the show. Mirroring the exhibition’s layout of five galleries, the volume is divided into five sections. The first section focuses on the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods; the second, the Bronze Age, the first dynasties, and early writing; the third, the imperial system and power; the fourth, religion and performance; and the fifth, interregional trade and the Silk Routes. Each section also includes highlights containing brief stories on objects or themes in the hall, such as the famous Lanting Xu rubbing.
With chapters from a diverse set of international authors providing greater context and historical background, China: Visions through the Ages is a richly illustrated volume that allows visitors, curious readers, and China scholars alike a chance to have an enduring exchange with the objects featured in the exhibition and with their multifaceted histories.

354 pages | 225 color plates, 1 table | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2017

Art: Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Art

History: Asian History, General History


“This book—with its 225 plates—is certainly gorgeous. It is also deeply learned. The editors curate the almost 30,000 objects in Chicago’s Field Museum, which holds agricultural remains dating from earlier than 10,000 years BC, and precious treasures loved by emperors and learned connoisseurs. Visitors to the museum, dazzled by what they see, probably form convictions about the cultural identity of this material, namely its ‘Chineseness.’ As I have studied China since 1954, I, too, have accumulated impressions about its long past and identity. But those who read this book will find much to learn—and their visions will change, as have mine.”

Times Higher Education

"One interesting feature of China: Visions through the Ages is that, as it has its roots in a curatorial department, it offers some insights into museum practices, such as acquisitions and personal opinions about different artefacts, changing standards and expectations of labels and displays, and techniques available to conservators. With this museum-based dimension, and splendid images of sites and artefacts, the book is a multi-faceted and comprehensive guide to China’s past and how we view it."

Current World Archeology

Table of Contents

Lisa C. Niziolek, Deborah A. Bekken, and Gary M. Feinman


1 Building the China Collections at The Field Museum
Deborah A. Bekken

Section 1 Diverse Landscapes, Diverse Ways of Life

2 Domestication and the Origins of Agriculture in China
Gary W. Crawford

Highlight 1: Zhoukoudian: Peking Man and Evidence for Human Evolution in East Asia
Chen Shen

3 China during the Neolithic Period
Gary M. Feinman, Hui Fang, and Linda M. Nicholas

Section 2 Ritual and Power, War and Unification

4 The Bronze Age in China: What and When
Yungti Li

Highlight 2: Sanyangzhuang: Life and Death in the Yellow River Floodplain
Tristram R. Kidder and Haiwang Liu

5 Written on Bamboo and Silk, Inscribed in Metal and Stone: Varieties of Early Chinese Writing
Edward L. Shaughnessy

Highlight 3: Consort Hao’s Inauspicious Delivery
Edward L. Shaughnessy

Section 3 Shifting Power, Enduring Traditions

6 Along the River during the Qingming Festival: A Living Painting with a Long History
Lu Zhang

Highlight 4: Conserving a Treasure: Preparing Along the River during the Qingming Festival for Display
Rachel Freeman and Shelley R. Paine

7 Men of Culture: Scholar-Officials and Scholar-Emperors in Late Imperial China
Fan Jeremy Zhang

Highlight 5: Commemorating a Gathering of Friends: The Lanting Xu Rubbing
Yuan Zhou

Section 4 Beliefs and Practices, Symbols and Stories

8 Daoism and Buddhism in Traditional China
Paul Copp

Highlight 6: Sealed in Time: A Manuscript from Dunhuang
Yuan Zhou

9 Shadows between Worlds: Chinese Shadow Theater
Mia Yinxing Liu

Section 5 Crossing Boundaries, Building Networks

10 The Silk Road: Intercontinental Trade and the Tang Empire
Lin Meciun and Ran Zhang

11 The Java Sea Shipwreck and China’s Maritime Trade
Lisa C. Niziolek

Highlight 7: Herbs and Artifacts: Trade in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Amanda Respess

Conclusion: Legacies of Qin Unification: A Hinge Point of Chinese History
Gary M. Feinman


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