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Virtue and Entertainment: Chinese Music in the Visual Arts

October 1, 2005 – March 26, 2006

Museum: Freer Gallery of Art

Location: Gallery 13

Music played an important role in ancient Chinese culture and was also richly presented in the visual arts. On view are 36 paintings and objects, including a chime-bell from the 5th B.C.E., a bronze drum and a lacquered zither (each over 1000 years old), a Buddhist stone carving with instruments brought to China over the Silk Road, as well as more recent musical instruments. Paintings devoted to musical topics explore the status of the zither as the indispensable accessory of a cultivated scholar. Also, paintings of women and music include images of all-female ensembles playing music in an earthly garden as a sign of feminine erudition and refinement. A section on the flute presents the poetry of its music and its use in bawdy entertainment. In addition, the display of 20th-century calligraphies on musical themes brings the powerful connection between Chinese music and the visual arts into modern times.