Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China's Liao Empire (907-1125)



More than 200 stunning objects recently excavated from Inner Mongolia have been brought together in the landmark exhibition, Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China's Liao Empire (907-1125). The first major presentation of Liao artifacts outside of China, the exhibition reveals the complex cultural and religious legacy of the Liao dynasty, the most powerful in East Asia at the turn of the first millennium.

The recently excavated objects in Gilded Splendor shed new light on Liao-dynasty culture which, until recently, had generally been considered less sophisticated than the preceding Tang (618-907) and parallel Song (960-1279) dynasties. Archaeology in China over the last few decades has proven this characterization to be inaccurate as sites of Liao-period temples, tombs and city fortifications reveal spectacular objects that testify to a highly refined and culturally unique empire.

Established with astonishing speed in the beginning of the tenth century by the Khitan, a confederation of nomads whose homeland was the eastern end of the Eurasian steppes, the Liao empire eventually comprised the greater part of Manchuria, eastern Mongolia and north China. In geographic extent, it rivaled the other great powers of Asia such as the Khmer Empire of Cambodia and the Abbasid Empire of Iraq and Iran.

The exhibition is organized by Asia Society and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Historic Relics Archaeological Studies Research Institute and curated by Dr. Hsueh-man Shen, University of Edinburgh, in conjunction with Dr. Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Curator of Traditional Asian Art at Asia Society.

"Gilded Splendor brings together a selection of magnificent objects that have changed people's ideas of China in this period," says Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu. "Through this exhibition, major catalogue and symposium, Asia Society aims to provide new scholarship around archaeological finds in recent decades that reveal the significant role of the Liao dynasty."

"Earlier official Chinese histories treat the Liao as uncivilized nomads, even 'barbarians,'" says Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Curator of Traditional Asian Art at Asia Society. "These objects tell a different story. They illuminate the lives and practices of a nomadic people who settled and maintained distinct cultural traditions, while developing rich and complex social, political and trade relationships across Asia, including Persia, Korea, Japan and Song China."

The exhibition is accompanied by a groundbreaking catalogue that includes essays by Nicola Di Cosmo, Dieter Kuhn, Hsueh-man Shen, Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, Sun Jianhua, Ta La and Zhang Yaqiang. Catalogue entries are authored by Emma C. Bunker, Lynette Sue-ling Gremli, Marilyn Leidig Gridley, Hiromi Kinoshita, François Louis and Hsueh-man Shen.

Visit the exhbition online site.

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