Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta at Cleveland Museum of Art

China's Southern Paradise
Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta
Cleveland Museum of Art
September 10, 2023 - January 7, 2024

A new exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art called China's Southern Paradise: Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta will be open from September 10, 2023 to January 7, 2024.

China's Southern Paradise banner at CMA

China's Southern Paradise: Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta is the first exhibition in the West that focuses on the artistic production and cultural impact of a region located in the coastal area south of the Yangzi River called Jiangnan.

Jiangnan region of China

Jiangnan is a geographic area in China referring to lands immediately to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, including the southern part of its delta. The name Jiangnan means "South of the [Yangtze] River". This region has throughout large parts of its history been one of the wealthiest, most populous, and fertile lands. For millennia, it has been an area of rich agriculture, extensive trade, and influential artistic production.

Art from Jiangnan-home to such great cities as Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou (called the Venice of the East for its 300 bridges and canals), and Nanjing, as well as to hilly picturesque landscapes stretched along rivers and lakes-has defined the image of traditional China for the world. Jiangnan's lush, green scenery inspired artists to conceive it as heaven on earth.

It's a large and diverse exhibition. It features more than 200 objects from Neolithic times to the 18th century, ranging from jade, silk, prints, and paintings to porcelain, lacquer, and bamboo carvings.

For example, you can see intricately carved bamboo objects including an undershirt made of bamboo worn in the humid summer season. The garment was strung and sewn together from over 3,000 fine tubular bamboo segments.

Bamboo undershirt

I also liked the very large (160 x 65 x 50 cm or 63 x 25 9/16 x 19 11/16 in.) Taihu Garden Stone. It's limestone from Jiangsu province.

Taihu Garden Stone

Taihu Garden Stone

There are a pair of Chimera.

One of the pair of Chimeras

One of the pair of Chimeras

And how about this Raft Cup from 1345?

Raft Cup

Clarissa von Spee, James and Donna Reid Curator of Chinese Art, interim curator of Islamic art, and chair of Asian art, discussed the exhibition in an article in Cleveland Art Magazine. She said, "The idea of the exhibition is to make us aware that much of what we associate with the culture of traditional China today, such as silk and rice production, bamboo, green ware (called celadon in the US), color printing, garden culture, and landscape painting, originated from or flourished in the lower Yangzi delta. The core of this region in southeast China is smaller than Ohio! Like the US, China is a vast landmass, with great variation in climate and geography and a multiethnic population."

I liked the Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor and His Twelve Consorts. It's ink and color on a silk scroll. Here's one of the three on display.

Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor and His Twelve Consorts

Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor and His Twelve Consorts

This is a hanging scroll with a portrait of Kangxi from 1622 (Qing dynasty). It's from The Palace Museum, Beijing and at 107.5 x 45 15/16 inches it really stands out.

Kang Xi portrait

I have a lot of favorites like:

Perfected Warrior

Perfected Warrior and

Horseshoe Armchairs

Horseshoe Armchairs

The pictures don't do them justice. You really need to visit and see them live if you can. your favorites will undoubtedly be different from mine.

One piece that you have to see live to comprehend the scale is an over-95-foot-long handscroll depicting one of the Kangxi emperor's (reigned 1662-1722) southern inspection tours from Beijing via the Grand Canal south to Jiangnan. On loan from the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection, this painting is rarely seen and is one of a set that recorded the travels of the emperor to the south of the empire, where he visited historic sites, inspected water management sites, and met with people of various social levels. These paintings depict in fascinating detail the life of residents in the countryside and in cities of the lower Yangzi delta. One scene shows the emperor disembarking from his boat to be greeted by crowds of residents and countless officials who line the streets in the city of Suzhou.

It spans a couple of rooms and you can look carefully at the incredible detail work on the scroll but they also have some blowups above it showing some of the scenes as in this picture.

Blowup of 95' scroll at CMA

That image is just a small fraction of the intricate work on that 95' scroll!

You can find details (hours, tickets, docent tours, etc.) on visiting China's Southern Paradise: Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta. It's worth a visit.

But wait, there's more.

As a fan of maps and host of the Fun with Maps channel on YouTube I was very interested in some of the maps on display showing where the artifacts came from such as:

Map from CMA China's Southern Paradise exhibition

Map from CMA China's Southern Paradise exhibition

In addition, right across the hall at the Art Museum was the exhibit called "A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur." Udaipur is a city of the state of Rajasthan, India. It is also known as the 'City of Lakes.'

A splendid land - Udaipur

So I had to take advantage and record an atypical special episode of Fun with Maps which include a very quick walkthrough of the Udaipur exhibit and the new Jiangnan exhibit. We look at the maps and then take a quick tour of some of the art. Watch the video.

Again I have to stress that if possible you should visit the China's Southern Paradise: Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta exhibition in person.

China's Southern Paradise exhibition entrance

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