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11/19/2016 10:35 am  #1

Art in a Time of Chaos

What a shock to wake up one morning and find armed men, who spoke no language you knew and looked like no people you’d ever seen, roaming the streets of your city. And more shocking still to learn that your protectors — your leaders, your army — had fled in the night. This scene repeated itself many times in China beginning in the third century A.D., when the Han dynasty collapsed and non-Chinese nomads swept down from the north and breached the Great Wall.

They brought fear with them, but other things, too: knowledge, beliefs, and cultural curiosity, which turned into respect, or something like it. That respect worked two ways. Gradually, the invaders came to look, and sound, and be Chinese. And the Chinese began to have an expanded, sharper sense of themselves.

Exchange is the dynamic that animates “Art in a Time of Chaos: Masterworks From Six Dynasties China, 3rd-6th Centuries,” the inaugural exhibition at China Institute Gallery’s new home in Lower Manhattan, on Washington Street. The show is a jewel.


We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

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