Kaikodo Journal XXXIII
River of Stars
Corresponding to the exhibition held between March 8 and April 28, 2017. 44 Chinese and Japanese paintings; 32 Chinese works of art. Preface by Mary Ann Rogers. Online edition.
Professor Richard Edwards:
Stephen J. Goldberg
Alice R.M. Hyland
Steven D. Owyoung
The exhibition, “River of Stars,” our thirty-third since 1996 introduces 30 Chinese paintings, 14 Japanese paintings and 32 Chinese works of art ranging in date from the 6th century B.C. to the 21st century.. Since ancient times the Chinese have come up with numerous ways to designate what much of the Western world terms “The Milky Way.” In the West this galaxy that we see as a band of milky or speckled light curving across the sky is perceived as a path, road, or way. However, in the Eastern world—in India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, China as well as Egypt, which sits across both Western and Eastern hemispheres—it is perceived as a waterway or river, sometimes with very specific local references to describe it: “The Nile in the Sky” or “The Ganges of Heaven.” The exhibition was inspired by this phenomenon and its title by the Chinese terms for the Milky Way: xinghan or xinghe, “River of Stars.”
The arts of Asia populate our world as stars do our home galaxy and we here offer a few shining examples from this prodigious output. The Chinese paintings, dating from the 13th to the 21st century, are dominated by “Silver Pheasants under Spring Blossoms,” a monumental work fit for a palace wall by the mid-Ming dynasty painter, Ye Shuangshi. Of similar date is Zhang Yuanfeng’s “Wang Xizhi Writing on a Fan.” Coincidently the exhibition also features a Japanese version of the same subject by Aoki Shukuya (1737-1807), allowing comparison of the differences between Chinese and Japanese approaches to art. Eight miniature albums by 19th-early 20th century Japanese painters add a sprinkling of stardust to the works on view. Highlights among the Chinese works of art, made in such diverse materials as jade, glass, silver, bronze, lacquer, ceramic and porcelain, include a Ming dynasty celadon dish inscribed in Arabic, a Tang-period gilt-bronze Nestorian cross, and a very rare late Ming dynasty underglaze-blue decorated kosometsuke inkstone, made expressly for the Japanese market.