Oriental Capital of Museums: Luoyang the Magnificent

Source: People's Daily Online | 2020-12-28 08:53

Dubbed “the oriental capital of museums,” Luoyang in central China’s Henan Province has about 100 museums that harbor more than four billion cultural relics. Do you want to know the history of Luoyang, the capital of 13 dynasties? Do you want to enjoy the beautiful peony porcelain accessories that has caused a fashion frenzy worldwide? Please follow us and have a look at the most prominent museums in Luoyang!

Luoyang Museum

Situated in the Yellow River Valley, Luoyang Museum is the most important museum in the city. It offers exhibits of the rich cultural heritage of Luoyang, a major Chinese cultural centre, which was the capital of numerous Chinese dynasties including the Eastern Zhou and the Eastern Han, and houses relics from excavation sites all over the city. They include antiquaries from palaces and temples. These artifacts establish the historical past of Luoyang, representing elements of the ancient city of nine capitals, from Neolithic times up to 937 AD.

Chipped, Battered, Broken, Yet Elegantly Beautiful – Northern Wei Clay Buddha facial figure

Discovered beneath the ruins of a Northern Wei (493 - 534 AD) temple in Luoyang in 1979, the battered facial portion of a clay Buddha figure is one of the most famous cultural relics in China. Visitors who lay eyes on the figure are usually awestruck by its elegance, despite the fact that the figure’s eyes and forehead are broken off the head. Like the Venus de Milo, which represents one of the highest ideals of feminine beauty in Western art, this broken figure represents one of the finest sculptures in China’s art history.

Representing Buddha, the figure has not only given off a vibe of solemnity, but also a hit of earthly beauty. Unlike the sedate expression most Buddha statues wear on their faces, this clay figure has a warm and kind smile on its face, making people feel closer to the heavenly God.

The figure was created in Northern Wei Dynasty, when Buddhism was highly appreciated both by the public and the royals. Many of the most important Buddhism heritages of China were built in the Northern Wei Dynasty, such as the Yungang Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes and the Shaolin Monastery.

Flowing light and color – Tang Tri-color glazed pottery camel

Luoyang Museum is famous for its abundant collection of tri-color glaze pottery wares. Tri-color glaze pottery is a versatile type of decoration on Chinese pottery using glazes, predominantly in the three colors of amber, green and a creamy off-white. In the early 20s, a large number of tri-color glazed pottery wares were discovered in the Mangshan Mountains of Luoyang, which was then acknowledged and valued by academics. Such wares are particularly associated with the Tang Dynasty (618 AD – 907 AD) and its tomb figures, therefore they are also named Tang Sancai in Chinese.

The tri-color glazed pottery camel was excavated from the tomb of An Pu, a general of the Tang dynasty. According to historical records, An was a Sogdian general who served in the Chinese army for his whole life. The tri-color glazed pottery camel, an animal not originating from China, represented An’s foreign identity, as well as a solid evidence of ancient China’s cultural and people-to-people exchange with the world.

Longmen Museum

The Longmen Grottoes represent the best of Chinese Buddhist art. Located 12 kilometres south of Luoyang in central China’s Henan Province, the Longmen Grottoes site has more than 2,300 grottoes with 110,000 Buddhist figures and images, more than 80 dagobas and 2,800 inscribed tablets, all of which were created between the Northern Wei (386-557) and Song (960-1279) dynasties.

Ultimate art perfection of Tang dynasty – the Big Vairocana

Being the largest Buddha statue at the Longmen Grottoes, the Big Vairocana was built between 672 and 676 for China’s only empress Wu Zetian. The Vairocana image’s features are plumpish and of peaceful and natural expression, while its unparalleled beauty and magnificence is considered as the “quintessence of Buddhist sculptures in China.”

It is said that Wu Zetian donated "twenty-thousand strings of her rouge and powder money" to complete this edifice. Hence, it is conjectured that the Vairocana Buddha was carved to resemble the Empress herself, termed a "Chinese Mona Lisa, Venus or as the Mother of China.”

A filial tribute to parents – the Middle Binyang Cave

The Middle Binyang Cave was built by Emperor Xuanwun to commemorate his father Xiaowen, and also his mother. It is said that 800,000 workers created it over the period from 500 to 523.

In the main wall of this cave, five very large Buddhist statues are carved all in Northern Wei style. The central statue is of the Sakyamuni Buddha with four images of Bodhisattvas flanking it. Two side walls also have Buddha images flanked by Bodhisattva. The Buddhas, arranged in three groups in the cave, are representative of Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future. The canopy in the roof is designed as a lotus flower. There were two large bas-reliefs of imperial processions that included Emperor Xiaowen, Empress Dowager Wenzhao, and the emperor's late parents in worship, which were stolen in the mid-1930s. The emperor's procession is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and two thirds of the empress's is in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

Peony Porcelain Museum

Known for its 1,500-year history of peony cultivation, Luoyang is famous for peony-related artworks. Li Xuewu, a local artist who uses ancient porcelain-making techniques to create modern peony-themed decorations, has a museum that harbors hisartworks.

The techniques Li uses to create peony-porcelain can be dated back to the Tang dynasty, while the style and function of the porcelain wares cater to modern people’s needs. Each year, over 50,000 peony-themed porcelain are sold both in China and abroad, creating an annual income of over 60 million yuan. Li’s artwork is selected by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as national gifts to foreign leaders, while his peony-porcelain jewelry received a warm welcome from the wives of foreign presidents during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit held in Qingdao in 2018.“In Luoyang, the old has never faded away and has nourished new opportunities. Our ancestors have brought our culture to the world through the ancient Silk Road, we are now doing the same – spreading our modern culture along the Belt and Road,” added Li.

YTO Agricultural Cultivation Museum

YTO Agricultural Cultivation Museum takes advantage of valuable photos of historical significance, cultural relics and historical data as well as modern acoustic lighting and electrical techniques. It presents a historical picture of agricultural cultivation in the world and the great achievements of agricultural mechanization in China.

Among the collection are the Curved Shaft Plough in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), tractors imported during the early years of modern China, a homemade first-generation caterpillar tractor, a homemade first-generation amphibious wheel-type tractor, a homemade first-generation small-capacity wheel-type tractor, a tractor and reaper driven by former Premier Wen Jiabao, and an up-to-date homemade tractor. Altogether, they represent the great changes of agricultural cultivation in China.

China’s first modern agricultural machinery – Dongfanghong tractor

Though tractors were widely used in western countries in the 1950s, for over 800,000 villages across China at that time, cattle and plough were the only options for farmers. The mission of creating China’s first tractor was designated to the Luoyang-based YTO Group Corporation. In 1958, Dongfanghong (Oriental Red), China’s first self-designed tractor, was put into use on over 60 percent of the nation’s farmland.

In a letter written by Bulekov, a Soviet tech expert who helped China’s industrial development, he noted: “Oriental Red, what an inspiring name! For thousands of years, Chinese farmers carried their hoes to work under the sun, but now, they are driving their own tractor to embrace the sun.”