Sichuan Museum – #1 Treasures in the West 西蜀瑰宝

Sichuan, rich in natural resources and strong culture, is reputed to be the ‘The Land of Abundance’ 天府之國. Thus, a range of the province’s historical collections can be found in the Sichuan Museum.

Calligraphy by Deng Xiaoping

Sichuan Museum, adjacent to Huanhua Stream Park in the west of Chengdu city, is the largest comprehensive museum in southwestern China.

Panoramic view of the museum

Sichuan Museum was built in 1941, it has a history of more than 70 years. Currently, there are over 320,000 collections in the museum, among which more than 50,000 are precious cultural relics. In 2009, a new Sichuan museum has been built. The new museum covers an area about 5867 square meters and is located in the historical and cultural scenic spot of Huanhuaxi in Chengdu.

The cultural relics of Sichuan Museum are generally categorized into ceramics, stone sculpture, bronze wares, pottery, ancient coins, calligraphy and paintings, folk art and crafts, stone inscription and modern works of art. All of these collections bear various stories relevant to strong Shu-Han (221 – 263AD) overtones.

The three-floor museum hosts a dozen galleries, and each gallery accommodates an abundance of items on display.

1FExhibits of Pottery of Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD);
Multifunctional Reception Hall
2FBronze Wares of Ba and Shu States (original name of Sichuan);
Paintings and Calligraphy Hall; Fine Ceramics Hall;
Chang Dai-Chien Art Center
3FTibetan Buddhist Relics; Wanfo Temple Stone Sculpture Center;
Cultural Relics of Sichuan Ethnic; Folk Art and Crafts
Directory of Sichuan Museum

Zhang Daqian Art Gallery 張大千書畫展

Zhang Daqian or Chang Dai-Chien (張大千, 1899–1983), original name Zhang Yuan (張爰) and pseudonym Daqian, was one of the best-known and most prodigious Chinese artists of the twentieth century. He is also regarded by many art experts as one of the most gifted master forgers of the twentieth century. He excelled at all types of paintings, and is especially famous for his landscape, as well as lotus paintings. Sichuan Museum has the largest collection of his works outside of Taipei, where he spent the last years of his life.

Zhang drawing in the Dunhuang Grottoes

In 1940, Zhang Daqian spent two years studying the Buddhist mural paintings at Dunhuang, which proved to be a pivotal experience in his development.

Zhang Daqian led a group of artists to the caves of Mogao (莫高) and Yulin (榆林) for the purpose of copying their Buddhist wall paintings.

The group completed over 200 paintings, and the experience left Zhang with a repository of religious imagery.

Zhang’s Calligraphy

Zhang Daqian was born in 1899 in Sichuan province in the final years of China’s last dynasty, the Qing. The upheaval of the succeeding decades provided the young artist with both challenges and opportunities — he was able to see and experience much throughout the world, but he spent the second half of his life unable to return to his homeland.

Zhang’s Calligraphy

As a child, Zhang Daqian was encouraged by his family to pursue painting. In 1917 his elder brother, Zhang Shanzi (an artist famous for his tiger paintings), accompanied him to Kyoto, Japan, to study textile dyeing. Two years later, Zhang Daqian went to Shanghai to receive traditional painting instruction from two famous calligraphers and painters of the time, Zeng Xi (曾熙) and Li Ruiqing (李瑞清).

Copying an ancient drawing, unfinished

Drawing on his early years of copying old paintings, Zhang Daqian was a known forger who took great glee in revealing that an ancient treasure in a famous collection was in fact a copy he had made. Ironically, Zhang Daqian’s paintings have become so popular that he, too, is now widely forged. Careful examination, however, should reveal his distinctive style and robust personality.

Pottery Tortoise Toad Lamp Holder 龜蟾魚陶燈

Pottery Tortoise Toad Lamp Holder 龜蟾魚陶燈, Eastern Han (25-220 A.D.)

While this is not the oldest or most important relic on display in the museum, it is definitely the cutest. The pottery lamp holder of turtle, toad and fish is divided into upper and lower parts and the upper part is toad. The toad is flanked by two fish. There is a hole in the center of each of the turtles and toads. And there are 4 small lamp panel annexes.

Pottery Tortoise Toad Lamp Holder 龜蟾魚陶燈, Eastern Han (25-220 A.D.)

This was a common household item during that period. In terms of rarity, it is believed to be the only remaining. The tortoise as a base is common in ancient art, as you can see similar stele in Forbidden City that use the tortoise as a symbol of longevity. The toad 蟾蜍 is a symbol wealth and the two fish is thought to be a symbol of a loving couple. This lamp holder, when undamaged, should hold 8 oil lamps. Unfortunately, only three cups survived the 2000 years.

The museum has a very innovative project – that is to bring the museum to the far corners of Sichuan province, to let the minority living in the far away villages access to the museum. You can read more about this innovation here, and for that they got the Most Innovative Museum in China award in 2017.

Sichuan Provincial Museum 四川博物院
251 Huan Hua Nan Lu, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Due to the pandemic situation, tickets are issued on an appointment basis. Here’s the link to get the tickets. Foreigners need your passports to receive the tickets at the door.

Date Visited : Aug 2018

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