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Portrait of He Bin. Paper, 16th century © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

AMSTERDAM - From 5 October 2013 to 2 February 2014, De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam will present Ming: Emperors, Artists and Merchants in Ancient China. This exhibition tells the story of China’s Ming dynasty (1368–1644). In collaboration with the Nanjing Museum, one of China’s leading museums, De Nieuwe Kerk will host an exclusive collection of original Ming artefacts, complemented by classic delftware from the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague and a series of exquisite erotic drawings from the private collection of Ferdinand Bertholet.

Emperors, artists, and merchants

Visitors can marvel at sumptuous luxury items made exclusively for the Imperial Court, such as rare and precious yellow and green porcelain. Portraits, paintings on silk and grave goods will offer glimpses of ordinary lives in the Ming period. Also on display will be numerous examples of calligraphy and characteristic blue-and-white porcelain, formerly owned by wealthy Dutch burghers. These became coveted export items around this time. Delftware was a European response to this development; the exhibition will explore its similarities to and differences from Ming porcelain. The entire exhibition will follow the trajectory of a dynasty known for its great cultural, economic and social achievements, which have left a lasting mark on China’s national identity. It will include life-size portraits and pictures, which were a customary mode of expression for the Chinese court and a traditional way of welcoming guests. One special gallery will be devoted erotic drawings from the Bertholet collection.

A dynasty and its successes

The Ming dynasty was founded by Zhu Yuanzhang in 1368, after he drove out the Mongol khans of the Yuan dynasty. The empire of the Ming – a word literally meaning ‘brilliant’ – became a stable, enduring success. This exhibition paints a picture of its achievements, especially in trade, culture and the arts. In a time of great social transformation and a flourishing consumer culture, the Ming dynasty placed strong emphasis on aesthetic values. The fifth Ming emperor, Xuande (reigned 1425–35) was a great royal patron of the arts and established the artistic reputation of the Ming dynasty. The objects owned by the emperors attest to their lives of awe-inspiring wealth and opulence. An aesthetic planning committee set up by the court ensured the ongoing production of high-quality fine and applied art. Ming artists and artisans produced an incredibly wide range of objects. The deliberate construction of a free-market economy generated demand for consumer goods at home and abroad.

The Nanjing Museum

The Nanjing Museum is one of the largest in China and holds an enormous number of national artistic treasures. The museum survived the Cultural Revolution and retains the atmosphere of the 1930s. With special permission from the Chinese authorities, some of its treasures will now be sent to De Nieuwe Kerk for this exhibition. These exceptional loans from Nanjing coincide with the museum’s special, large-scale renovation and building plan for late 2013.

This touring exhibition is being jointly organised with Nomad Exhibition and will travel to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in 2014.

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The Beijing Forbidden City. Silk, c. 1400-50 (?) © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Square censer with cover. Cloisonné enamel, copper, 1449-57 (?) © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Cicada on a leaf. Gold, jade © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Plate with flower design. Underglaze red porcelain © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Jar with two handles. Glazed yellow porcelain, 1488-1505 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Bowl with designs of dragons and clouds. Porcelain, 1567-72 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Tang Yin, Lady Playing the Flute. Ink on silk scoll, 1470-1524 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Shen Zhou, Autumn Landscape with a Man Fishing. Ink on paper, 1427-1509 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Portrait of Xu Wi. Paper, 16th century © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Figurine of a school attendant. Pottery, 1487-1505 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Buddha’s head. Pottery © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Headdress. Gold thread © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Desk with inscriptions. Rosewood, 1595 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Yang Tin, Old Trees and Bamboo. Ink on silk, 1470-1524 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Zhu Yunming (Zhu Zhishan), calligraphy. Ink on paper, 1460-1527 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Vase with peacocks and peonies. Blue and white porcelain, 1436-49 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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Figurine of an attendant. Pottery, 1487-1505 © Nanjing Museum/Nomad Exhibitions

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One of the ten paintings on silk from the album of Wang Sheng, Late Ming Dynasty © F. Bertholet Collection, Amsterdam