The Ancient China Exhibit at The Metropoliton Museum of Art By: Devin Hirsch

The Ancient China Exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art was intriguing. Visiting the scholars garden and the Astor court gave me an insight into the lifestyle of 12th and 13th Century China. My favorite part of the exhibit was looking at all of the ancient Chinese scrolls, made by lower class citizens. These scrolls showed what life was like in China during this time period. What jobs people had, what types of clothing was worn, how their government worked, and how they spent their time. This was a special experience for me. This exhibit presented how these citizens portrayed the world around them. The importance of this is revealing how the lower class citizens of ancient China really lived instead of having their lives being portrayed by the elites in society. That is why I believe any future 8th grader should go to The Metropolitan Museum for this project. It gives the point of view of the lower class citizens not just the wealthy, so it gives you a different perspective of life at this time.
The lower class citizens portrayed the world they saw in these scrolls, many key principles and practices of Daoism, Confucianism, and Legalism were also exhibited in them. Two of these concepts are Li and The Five Great Relationships. Li is how two people act towards each other, while The Five Great Relationships are the five most common relationships in society. Both of these are principles in Confucianism. In one of the scrolls, (the first one you see above), an Emperor sitting on a throne with subjects bowing down to him. The relationship between a ruler and a subject is one of the five great relationships. In this relationship the ruler always acts strong and proud, while the subject is always respectful. This is what is shown in images conveying this relationship. In the other photo, you see two scholars who are friends sitting down by a lake. This is another one of the five relationships, one between two friends, where the respect between the them is mutual. As you can see both of the scholars look calm and relaxed which is how you act with a friend because there is nobody to impress. This is how Confucius would have wanted these people to act, when you are with your friends you should act like you are equal while when you a with a superior you must respect them.
Wu Wei, a Daoist principle was another concept portrayed in this exhibit. Wu Wei is the idea where taking action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort leads you to live a harmonious life. As seen in the scroll above there is a group of eight men sitting in an orchid pavilion around a stream. For starters the orchid represents innocence, calmness, and luxury, all of which exemplify Wu Wei. On top of that, the men in this photo are either praying, writing, or talking. These are causal activities. They are all relaxed and not struggling or using excessive effort. All they are doing is acting calm, and acting with the flow of life, wherever it takes them. This picture presents how Laozi the creator of Daoism wants everyone in the world to live. In his mind, if everyone acts like these eight men, calm, cool, and collected, then the world would be the ideal place we all would like it to be.
Legalism is the last key principle I identified in this exhibit. Legalism is a belief system where, to achieve a harmonious society, you must have a centralized and strict government. The scroll seen above, shows the practice of legalism because there is a clear hierarchy where the Emperor or ruler is the most powerful man in all of society. The Emperor is being carried into town while all of his subjects are kneeling, praising him as he walks by. This shows that he is the most powerful and that he is in charge. You can clearly see that the people in the crowd are in straight, even lines when the Emperor comes by. In a Legalist society, everything must be orderly. This scroll shown above perfectly presents how Han Fei, the creator of Legalism wanted society to be. In his mind if a ruler was strong, and powerful the common people must be organized so that the society would be just.
I would suggest any future eighth grader go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for this project. The Museum showed a unique view of life in 12th & 13th Century China, and they presented several key concepts like Li, Wu Wei, and Legalism in the process. After completing this project and looking back on it, this experience was a great way to learn about Chinese society at this time. It was a great learning experience.

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