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Click-through: Women and Martial Arts at the Ashmolean Museum

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Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum just concluded a fascinating exhibit, A Century of Women in Chinese Art, which as the title suggests presents various representations of women in Chinese painting and decorative art from the last 100 years. To go along with the exhibition, the Ashmolean’s blog presented a trio of posts grouping some of the exhibited works into different themes, the last of which treated the subject of “women and martial arts.”

Dr. Paul Bevan, the museum’s Christensen Fellow in Chinese Painting, writes of the piece below:

By the second half of the twentieth century martial arts had become firmly established as a national sport in China, having been formalised in the decades immediately prior to this. In a 1974 Cultural Revolution propaganda poster in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, a young girl demonstrates her skill with the baojian in front of her classmates, with their master looking on in approval. The poster is a reproduction of a painting by the artist Ou Yang 鸥洋 (b. 1937) entitled Chuying zhanchi雏鹰展翅 (The Fledgling Eagle Spreads its Wings). The painting, showing members of the youth organisation, the Shaoxiandui 少先队 (Young Pioneers), promotes the future role these young people might go on to play in the defence of the Mother Country, as suggested by the martial theme and the large cannon seen in the background.

The Fledgling Eagle Spreads its Wings. Poster (1974), EA2006.208 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Dr. Bevan’s post also touches on examples from the 19th century, including a scroll by landscape painter Chen Chongguang, and from the present day, embedding this YouTube video of an extraordinary sword taiji performance by Hong Kong’s Chen Suijin.

Read the full post here, and keep clicking to see the other two posts in the series: Women in Peking Opera and Women in the Cultural Revolution.

Cover image: Porcelain painted in enamel colours, ca. 1700, Salting bequest, C.1196-1910 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London (source)

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