Known as the “Empire of Great Brightness,” the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) was one of the most prosperous and exuberant dynasties in China. It restored the native rule by overthrowing the Mongolian regime of the previous Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) and established thirteen provinces to control the vast empire. After choosing Beijing as the new capital, the Ming dynasty extended the Great Wall along the borders and restored the Grand Canal to connect waterways between the north and the south. Besides establishing its military might, the Ming dynasty also produced a splendid material culture.
Royal Taste offers a unique glimpse into the luxurious lifestyles of princely courts in early- and mid-Ming China. Featuring more than one hundred fifty works of pictorial, sculptural, and decorative arts, this exhibition sheds light on some lesser-known aspects of the palatial lives and religious patronage of Ming princes. Their regional courts were at the center of art production, creating works that showcased imperial styles while reflecting local traditions. The quality of craftsmanship and beauty of design testify to the richness and sophistication of the art and culture in the provincial courts, as well as their abundant resources.
The majority of the objects on view were selected from recent archaeological finds now in the collections of four museums in China’s Hubei province. Also included are imperially commissioned statues from Daoist temples at Mount Wudang, the birthplace of tai chi. Select examples from the USC Pacific Asia Museum’s permanent collection and the noted local collection at the Chen Art Gallery are also included to further highlight the sophisticated material culture of the period.
Exhibition overview from Museum website
Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China, offers a rare opportunity to examine more than a hundred objects from five museums in Hubei, China, including metal and porcelain work, jewelry, paintings and sculpture. Highlights include important archeological finds from recently excavated royal tombs and state-commissioned Daoist statues from Mt Wudang that illustrate the luxurious life and religious practice of princely courts in early and mid-Ming China. With essays and entries from seven leading scholars, this beautifully illustrated catalog offers fresh perspectives on the material culture of China at a time before Europe entered its great age of discovery. Major themes include the impact of state patronage on Daoist and Tibetan Buddhist art, and the role of princely courts in defining late imperial Chinese art and culture.