This new display explores the golden era of Chinese culture, and features some of the MFA’s greatest treasures, including masterpieces of ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, and sculpture of the Song dynasty (960–1279).
With its restrained and expressive taste, the prosperous and vibrant Song dynasty is regarded as a pinnacle of Chinese culture and aesthetics. The growing popularity of Buddhism in China coalesced with centuries-old foundations of Chinese philosophies and artistic techniques, inspired new heights of painting, calligraphy, ceramics, gardens, poetry, and art theory.
The centerpiece of the gallery is the larger-than-life painted wood sculpture, Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, which underwent a year-and-a-half conservation project before being put back on view for the first time since 1999. Surrounding Guanyin , the gallery is a contemplative space that evokes the restrained elegance of Song period aesthetics. Other masterpieces include a rare and exquisite pale-blue Ru ware dish—the official imperial ceramic for the Northern Song court—of which there are less than one hundred still extant in the world, and the celebrated Scenery of Yixing landscape scroll painted in the year 1356 by the artist Zhou Zhi, whose restrained monochrome work would influence generations of scholar artists.
The Scenery of Yixing scroll is accompanied by an interactive feature that invites visitors to explore the scroll in its entirety and see another landscape within the same handscroll created by the great Ming artist Shen Zhou as a response to seeing the Zhou Zhi painting.
Above: Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, 12th century. Wood with traces of polychrome and gilding. Hervey Edward Wetzel Fund.