“Private to Public: The History of Chinese Art Collecting in Hong Kong”

One of the opening shows at Gallery Six of the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) features 18 antiquities on loan from The University of Hong Kong Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG).

“UMAG and its collection are important in the context of the exhibition because it is the first continuously operated museum in Hong Kong,” said Dr Florian Knothe, Director of UMAG.

UMAG was previously known as The Fung Ping Shan Museum of Chinese Art and Archaeology, which was founded a two-room space in the post-war period, by scholars from HKU’s Institute of Oriental Studies.

Dr Knothe described a Neolithic (7000 to 2200 BC) earthen urn (Fig. 1), which still shows a spectacularly well-preserved net pattern on its surface, as a “highly important water pot.”

Of particular note are the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 CE) Nestorian Crosses, relics of early Christianity in China. The pieces on display at HKPM come from UMAG’s collection of 968 of these crosses, which is the largest in the world.

Other ancient artefacts include oracle bones from the Shang dynasty (about 1600 to 1046 BC). These objects, made of animal bone or tortoise shell, reflect the harshness of life in ancient China. They would be used for divination, to tell whether rains would be favourable for harvests, or whether escaped slaves would be returned to their owners.

Vessels include a bronze food vessel (Fig. 2) from the peak of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-221 BC) and a glazed stoneware pot from the Tang dynasty (618 to 907 CE).

 Neolithic (7000 to 2200 BC)

Fig. 1. Neolithic urn © University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong

bronze food vessel

Fig. 2. Bronze food vessel © University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong

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