The prosperous Tang Dynasty (618-906) is known as the golden age of Chinese art and culture, especially during the reign of the great music patron Ming Huang in the 700s. Music distinctly shaped behavior and social roles at court, from ritual music intended to cultivate morals and virtues for harmonious rule to the vernacular music of entertainment that came to represent the sensuality and decadence of Tang court life.
This exhibition revolves around the Museum's exquisite handscroll from the 1300s, Ming Huang and Yang Guifei Listening to Music, which depicts Ming Huang and his famous consort, Yang Guifei, as they listen to an elaborate court orchestra. The forbidden love between the emperor and the legendary beauty, which eventually became implicated in the decline of the Tang dynasty, has inspired numerous poets, writers, and playwrights as well as artists in China (and later in Japan) from the 800s to the present day. Drawing on rarely seen paintings and prints from the Museum's Asian Art collection as well as key loans, including musical instruments, this exhibition will explore the conflict between duty and desire as well as its gendered nature in Chinese art as articulated through music at court and the archetypal story of Ming Huang and Yang Guifei.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.