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Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats

Works in the Exhibition

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A Conversation with Tan Dun: A New "Peony Pavilion" in an Old Context

Program information

Composer Tan Dun and Maxwell K. Hearn, Douglas Dillon Curator in Charge of Asian Art, discuss Tan Dun's new version of Peony Pavilion which was staged in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Astor Court. Inspired by Chinese gardens and previous versions of the Chinese opera, Tan Dun's restaged the classic kunqu opera by condensing it into four acts and presenting it within the confines of the Astor Court, a replica of a Chinese Garden.

This program is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Chinese Garden: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats, on view August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013.

Chinese Gardens

Pavilions, Studios, Retreats

August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013

Accompanied by an Audio Guide

This exhibition explores the rich interactions between pictorial and garden arts in China across more than one thousand years. In the densely populated urban centers of China, enclosed gardens have long been an integral part of residential and palace architecture, serving as an extension of the living quarters. The preferred site for hosting literary gatherings, theatrical performances, and imaginary outings, gardens were often designed according to the same compositional principles used in painting; likewise, as idealized landscapes, they frequently drew inspiration from literary themes first envisioned by painters. Artists were called upon not only to design gardens but also, as gardens came to be identified with the tastes and personalities of their residents, to create idealized paintings of gardens that served as symbolic portraits reflective of the character of the owner.

This exhibition features more than sixty paintings as well as ceramics, carved bamboo, lacquerware, metalwork, textiles, and even several contemporary photographs, all drawn from the Metropolitan Museum's permanent collections, that illustrate how garden imagery has remained an abiding source of artistic inspiration and invention.

Qian Xuan (Chinese, ca. 1235–before 1307). Wang Xizhi Watching Geese (detail). China, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), ca. 1295. Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper; 9 1/8 x 36 1/2 in. (23.2 x 92.7 cm); Overall with mounting: 11 x 418 13/16 in. (27.9 x 1063.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973 (1973.120.6)