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Museum Musings: Asian Civilisations Museum and Shanghai Museum jointly present The Baoli Era – Treasures from the Tang Shipwreck

Screenshot 2020-09-22 at 6.35.30 PM

SHANGHAI, CHINA – To commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Singapore, China’s Shanghai Museum and Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum have launched a new joint exhibition, The Baoli Era: Treasures from the Tang Shipwreck Collection, on 14th September 2020. Held at the Shanghai Museum, a total of 248 artefacts are on display, including 168 treasures from the Asian Civilisations Museum’s Tang Shipwreck exhibition, 34 pieces of ceramics and bronze mirrors from the Shanghai Museum collection, and 46 other special relics on loan.

The exhibition, which had been rescheduled four times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is Shanghai Museum’s first international collaborative exhibition to take place after the museum resumed operations post-lockdown. This is also the first time an exhibition on the Tang Shipwreck collection is being held on such a large scale in China. Visitors to the exhibition can look forward to appreciating the exquisite lifestyle of the prosperous Tang dynasty and immersing themselves in the cosmopolitan culture of that time, while revisiting the history of the Maritime Silk Road.

The Baoli Era marks the first dedicated exhibition of the Tang Shipwreck collection to open in Chinam primarily showcasing objects from the Tang Shipwreck, as well as artefacts from the Shanghai Museum and other cultural institutions, across two sections. The first section of the exhibition showcases the Chinese ceramics from the Tang Shipwreck. In particular, the polychrome stoneware vessels that were mainly produced in the Changsha kilns, esteemed green wares of the south and white wares of the north produced by the Yue and Xing kilns respectively; Tang blue and white ceramics from the Gongyi (Gongxian) kilns, and large storage jars from the Guangdong kilns.

The second section spotlights other precious materials from the shipwreck, such as gold and silver wares, bronze mirrors and glassware, which were found at the bottom of the ship. Although these relics account for a small proportion of the underwater relics, they are particularly precious because of their unique designs and exquisite beauty, as a result of cross-cultural interactions that influenced their design.

Besides showcasing 168 artefacts from the Tang Shipwreck collection, the Shanghai Museum also incorporated artefacts from its existing collection, and borrowed additional pieces from the Shaanxi History Museum, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Yangzhou Museum, Yangzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Yangzhou Tangcheng Site Museum, Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Guangdong Museum, Hunan Provincial Museum, and Sanmen County Museum.

In total, the showcase spotlights 248 exquisite cultural treasures, including gold and silver wares from the Hejiacun Hoard, Tang blue-and-white ceramics from the Gongyi kilns, porcelain for export from the Changsha kilns, and unearthed archaeological articles from Yangzhou and Qinglong Town. These objects will enrich visitors’ understanding of craft and maritime trade during the Tang dynasty in the 9th century.

With the exquisite selection of objects from the Tang Shipwreck Collection from Singapore, the collaboration between both museums signifies a strengthening of mutual understanding and cultural exchange in the humanities and the arts, in line with the 1st Meeting of Shanghai-Singapore Comprehensive Cooperation Council (SSCCC) in 2019. In appreciating the beauty and immersing in the history behind these underwater cultural relics, the Shanghai Museum hopes that visitors will also gain a deeper understanding of the importance of protecting these cultural treasures.

Photo Credit: The Shanghai Museum

The Baoli Era – Treasures from the Tang Shipwreck runs from 15th September 2020 to 10th January 2021, with free admission for all visitors at the Shanghai Museum, 201 Renmin Ave, Ren Min Guang Chang, Huangpu, China, 200003. For more information, visit their website

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