Treasures from Shanghai:
ancient Chinese bronzes and jades

30 January – 27 March 2009

Exhibition closed

Room 2

Exhibition co-organised by the Shanghai Museum and the British Museum with the guidance of the Chinese Embassy in the UK. Sponsored by the Information Office of Shanghai Municipal People's Government, Foreign Affairs Office of Shanghai Municipal People's Government and Bureau of China World Expo Coordination.

This display brings together examples of jades and bronzes from the Shanghai Museum collection.

It explores their role in ancient China as ritual objects and demonstrates their powerful legacy for later generations. This legacy is vividly presented in two scrolls that show the collection of the major official and diplomat Wu Dacheng. This is the first time that that these scrolls have been included in a major exhibition of the bronzes from Shanghai.

Jades and bronzes are the most important objects from ancient China. They were used from very early times for sacred rituals and burials and were associated with spirits and ancestors; they were also of great political significance.

Over the centuries, jades and bronzes were collected and treasured for their beauty and associations. The bronzes also became the model for vessel types used on later altars in Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism. The jades and bronzes of early China represent the beginnings of Chinese art, and through artistic excellence and technical virtuosity they set the standard for all Chinese art that was to follow.

Shanghai Museum is one of the leading museums in China and holds the finest collection of ancient Chinese bronzes. The museum preserves the artistic and archaeological record of ancient Chinese jades and bronzes.

The exhibition includes a selection of Shanghai Museum’s finest jades and bronzes, with sections on jade and Neolithic pottery; bronzes from the Shang dynasty; objects from the Zhou dynasty (c. 1050–221 BC); tombs, hoards and technology; and later objects and the Shanghai Museum.

Further information

For full press release

Portrait of bronze collector Wu Dacheng (1835-1890) (detail)

Portrait of bronze collector Wu Dacheng (1835-1890) (detail). By Ren Xun (1835-1893), face painted by Hu Qinhan. China, 1892, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.