Ancient Chinese Art comes to Oxford

For the first time in Mississippi, photos from inside ancient mountain temples sit on display at the University of Mississippi Museum.  The exhibit, borrowed from Princeton’s Lo collection holds 35 photos of the Magao and Yulin caves, hand carved temples adorned with ancient works of art, spanning over 1,000 years.

Photographed by James and Lucy Lo, the art of the caves  hide in sandstone plateaus north and south of Dunhuang, China.  These desert-hugging structures bear wall-to-wall labyrinths of murals, watched over by legions of ceramic Buddhas.


The Lo collection, which  has been bouncing around the west Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles, made it’s way here after History professor Joshua Howard sought to bring part of the collection the UM museum.    “Howard Wrote to us, and said that he was having a conference of Asian scholars in Oxford, and suggested that we have this show,”  museum directorSaarnio said.

Howard went on to fund the project in 2016, and Saarnios staff picked up from there”The credit for the show really goes to him.”

Chinese  art exhibitions are a rarity at the UM museum, with the gallery displaying the  photos frequently hosting contemporary works.  The last exhibition on the subject occurred in 2012, featuring ceramics found across the Silk Road.

The reception held for the Exhibit on February 1st however, suggests growing demand for historical art.  “It was very well attended, and it was very interesting to hear all visitors talking about the images,” Saarnio said.

Yulin Cave: This Xia dynasty painting is modeled after tapestries.  Image credit: UM museum, Princeton University Lo collection

On April 29th, the Lo collection will return to their boxes for the trip home to Princeton University, but the future may hold more Asian art if the museum can find another collection.”I would love to show Japanese block prints,” Saarnio said.  “We don’t have them in our collection though, so we’ll have to borrow.”

Finding a show comes with it’s own challenges, requiring up to two years of planning in advance and the money to rent the exhibits.  Outside funding and ideas made This exhibition possible, something Saarnio would like to see more of.   “It was a great case study in how we want this museum to function, in serving the community,” he said.  “I would love for other faculty to know that they can pitch a show or suggest an artist.”




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