The Kansas City Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art celebrated Chinese New Year on Friday with the grand opening of two renovated Chinese art galleries.
The new galleries showcase the museum's prized collection of jade disks, ancient vessels, bronzes, sculptures, and traditional Chinese paintings.
Museum guests had the opportunity Friday night to be the first to view the special "Ancestors, Ritual, and the Tomb: the Ancient Chinese Art Galleries" exhibit, which includes artifacts as old as 4,000 years and dating from the Xia to the Zhou dynasties.
Displays include a recreated Han Dynasty tomb featuring a door emblazoned with dragons and interior lined with ceramic tiles, while the launch featured special performances, such as a dance by the Shaolin Lohan Pai Lion Dance Troupe.
The lively gallery opening also featured activities from traditional Chinese music performances, and competitions in Chinese chess and the board game, wei qi.
Children particularly delighted in a 1950s Hong Kong rickshaw that served as a backdrop while parents took photos of them dressed in traditional Chinese robes and costumes.
With about 8,000 different works of Chinese art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum has one of the most extensive and richest Chinese art collections in the world.
Nelson-Atkins Senior Curator of Chinese Art Colin Mackenzie told Xinhua that, since he took up the post in July 2009, he has seen increasing interest in the Chinese galleries.
"The residents of Kansas City have always understood that we have a great collection, but definitely more recently it's amazing how many Chinese have come to see the collection," Mackenzie said in an interview, adding that both visitors from China and local Chinese bringing their families had frequented the gallery.
The majority of the Nelson-Atkins' Chinese purchases were made in the early 1930s, around the time of the Warlord Era in Chinese history. Mackenzie said, in those times of economic duress and relative chaos, many in China were forced to sell artwork for money, and that some pieces were destroyed entirely.
For this reason, Mackenzie said he was especially happy to share the Nelson-Atkins' Chinese collection with people of Chinese descent. They could see a rich part of their cultural past that has been professionally preserved at the museum for almost 80 years.
"We really believe that this collection is first and foremost for the Chinese community that we have here in Kansas City," Mackenzie told Xinhua.
"When a Chinese delegation comes here, people kindly bring them to show those pieces to them, and we make a special effort to be hospitable to them and say that we really honor and respect these objects and want to preserve them for eternity," Mackenzie said.
Among the Nelson-Atkins' most prized Chinese artworks are landscape paintings by Li Cheng and Xu Daoning, an intricately carved jade disc from the Jincun site, a wall sculpture from the Longmen grottos and the "Guanyin of the Southern Seas" bodhisattva sculpture, possibly the most famous and well-preserved Chinese Buddhist sculpture outside China.
The Guanyin sculpture is housed inside the Nelson-Atkins' Chinese Temple Gallery, a structure which features the actual ceiling from the Zhihua Temple in Beijing and a 23-foot high by 48-foot wide mural painting, "Paradise of Tejraprabha Buddha," from the Yuan Dynasty.
Although the Chinese Temple Gallery was not one of the galleries launched Friday, both it and another permanent Chinese art gallery had also recently been renovated, as the Nelson-Atkins continues to promote the collection and encourage people's interest in China.
Mackenzie says the collection is a valuable asset not only for Chinese nationals but also for Americans, as the deepening relationship between the United States and China inspires more cultural learning opportunities.
"We feel that (the collection is) very much a useful thing for China to have overseas, and that it really promotes understanding of Chinese culture," he said.
"We see the Chinese collections here, their role, as presenting Chinese civilization not just as a relic of the past, but as something that explains the modern world," he said.