Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.–A.D. 220) at The Met Fifth Avenue, April 3 – July 16, 2017

Photographs by Corrado Serra.

“Spanning four centuries, the Qin and Han dynasties were pivotal to China’s long history. Taken together, they represent China’s “classical” era, coinciding in time and importance with Greco-Roman civilization in the West. The short-lived Qin (221–209 B.C.) and centuries-long Han (206 B.C.–A.D. 220) established the political and intellectual foundations followed by all subsequent Chinese dynasties, and the impact of the artistic and cultural efflorescence that occurred during this time continues to resonate into the present day. Perhaps most crucially, it was during this period that people of diverse backgrounds were brought together under a centralized government and began to see themselves as sharing a new, specifically Chinese identity.

This landmark exhibition traces an age of unparalleled transformation in China, from the rise of the Qin dynasty in the late third century B.C. to the triumph of a unified state in the first century A.D., when Han institutions became deep-rooted across this vast, regionally diverse empire. Featuring unprecedented loans from museums and institutions throughout China, including recent archaeological discoveries displayed here publicly for the first time, the exhibition also highlights the fascinating results of China’s frequent and close contact with other cultures over the transcontinental Silk Road and across maritime trade routes in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.” — Introductory Wall Text

Exhibition entrance

China, Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.). Front: Chariot Models (Modern Replica), China. Back, left to right: Standing Archer, Unarmored General, Horse, Armored Infantryman, Civil Official

Kneeling Archer, China, Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.)

Right: After Xu Xuan, Chinese, 916–991. After original (dated 219 B.C.) by Li Si, Chinese Inscriptions from the Stele of Mount Yi (Modern Rubbings). China, date of stele: Song dynasty (960–1279)

Front: Strongman, China, Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.)

Installation view of Age of Empires

Head of Warrior, China, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9)

Installation view of Age of Empires

Front: Brick with Ax-Chariot, China, Eastern Han dynasty (25–220). Back: Horse and Groom, China, Eastern Han dynasty (25–220)

Six Niuzhong Bells, China, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9)

Installation view of Age of Empires

Female Dancer (detail), China, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9)

Female Musician Playing a Zither, China, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9)

Installation view of Age of Empires

Installation view of Age of Empires

Installation view of Age of Empires

Wine Containers (Fang), China, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9)

Installation view of Age of Empires

Burial Ensemble of Dou Wan, China, Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 9). Suit: jade (nephrite) with gold wire; pillow: gilt bronze and jade (nephrite); orifice plugs: jade (nephrite)

Lion, China, Eastern Han dynasty (25–220)

Installation view of Age of Empires

Tomb Gate, China, Eastern Han dynasty (25–220)

Mirror, China, Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220)

Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.–A.D. 220) is organized by Dr. Zhixin Jason Sun, Brooke Russell Astor Curator of Chinese Art, assisted by Pengliang Lu, Henry A. Kissinger Curatorial Fellow, both in The Met’s Department of Asian Art.