Three thousand years of Imperial splendour brought to Carlisle.


25 January – 26 April 2020

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle

A major new exhibition explores the fascinating history and stunning art of the Chinese Dynasties, from around 1000 BC to 1900 AD. Rarely seen treasures of embroidery, porcelain, jade, silk, calligraphy and other precious items will be brought together to highlight the splendour of Imperial China.

The exhibition is supported by items on loan from the Oriental Museum in Durham, whose impressive collections have been granted Designated Collection status in recognition of their national and international importance. Loans include stunning, intricately carved Qing Dynasty ivory wrist rests and dragon topped scholar seals. 

Items from the Tullie House collection will also help introduce visitors to the fascinating history, symbolism, lives and deaths of people of Imperial China, exploring how this long history continues to shape Chinese culture and the world today.

The exhibition is divided into four main sections:

  • An introductory section gives an overview of each Dynasty;
  • ‘Splendour and the Imperial Court’ explores the role of status, scholarship and symbolism using a magnificent array of extraordinary objects;
  • ‘Tourism and the Silk Road’ explores the back and forth influence of trade and tourism;
  • The final section introduces modern and contemporary art that highlights the importance in Chinese culture of honouring and acknowledging the past.

‘Treasures of China’ is Tullie House’s latest partnership initiative with organisations focussed on Chinese culture. Support from the Lancaster University Confucius Institute over the past two years has already enabled Tullie House to stage two successful Chinese New Year events in Carlisle city centre featuring performances from world-class Chinese performers and colourful parades through the city. A beginners’ Chinese language course and informal China Cafe are set to continue in the new year with two staff members seconded from the Confucius Institute. A special life drawing event inspired by both the human body and Chinese symbolism will also accompany the exhibition programme.

“It is a real pleasure to introduce our visitors to the Chinese dynastic history and give our audiences an understanding of life in Imperial China by showcasing artefacts and objects from both important National collections. We urge everyone to take this rare opportunity to visit the exhibition to see such rare prestigious objects” Charli Summers, Programme Manager.

Rachel Barclay, Curator of the Oriental Museum, said “Many of the artefacts featured in this exhibition are delicate and light sensitive and so cannot be displayed permanently in our China Gallery in Durham.  We are delighted that this partnership between the Oriental Museum and Tullie House will provide an opportunity for so many people to see these impressive pieces during their visit to the Treasures of China exhibition.”