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Cyrus Tang Hall of China at the Chicago Field Museum

Entrance to the exhibition

Entrance to the exhibition

The Cyrus Tang Hall of China, a permanent exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago, opened to the public in June. The wonderful exhibition consists of five galleries that cover a time span from the Neolithic period to the present.

“A total of 350 artifacts are selected from over 33,000 pieces in the Field Museum’s China collection for the exhibition,” Gary Feinman, the Museum’s East Asian Anthropology Curator, told me when I first visited the exhibition in June.

The exhibition is truly fascinating, both in its layout and use of technology. Visitors not only can examine the images of the objects on display, but also read the stories behind them, with the assistance of a rail—a touchscreen below each display window.

Dynasty and territories of China throughout history

Dynasty and territories of China throughout history

An exhibition with so much information could be overwhelming, yet walking through the galleries and touching a screen here or there, I’m amazed that despite the diversity of objects and long historical periods, I feel charmed and elated instead, almost like being entertained while absorbing all the information available. Perhaps it is because of its modern design and user-friendly technology. Quite remarkable.

The objects that attracted my immediate attention include two bronze blades that dated to the Shang period (1600-1046 BC), the oracle bones, a 27 foot-long painting called the Qingming Scroll, which reveals only a small portion at a time for conservation, but visitors can see the entire scroll on a large touch screen, with the interactive option to zoom in and look at the details, and the model of the Java shipwreck vessel, from more than 800 years ago.

Display items & touchscreen trail underneath

Display items & touchscreen trail underneath

Many people, especially children, were drawn to the shadow puppet section. In the display case are several exquisitely made puppets of characters from Journey to the West (Monk, Monkey King and Pigsy), a very popular vernacular novel of the Ming Dynasty (16th century). On a stand-alone screen in the middle of the room, a puppet show from the same story is being played out. If one is curious enough to walk over to the other side of the screen, she/he would be pleasantly rewarded by seeing the entire process of puppeteers orchestrating the characters behind the stage.

The Cyrus Tang of Hall is scheduled to be on display for 50 years, and certain items, depending on their frugality, will be rotated for preservation purposes.

Go for a visit if you have not done so. You can also get a feel about it by checking out its website at the Cyrus Tang Hall of China.

Enjoy!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning doc film. Jian, aka Jennifer Hou Kwong, is directing a doc film on Art Paul titled The Man Behind the Bunny: Art of Playboy.

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