Students’ exhibition reveals secrets of the ancient Chinese afterlife
Secrets of the ancient Chinese afterlife are revealed in a newly-opened exhibition curated by Durham masters students.
Based at The Old Fulling Mill Museum of Archaeology, the exhibition explores burial practices of the Han dynasty over two thousand years ago.
Artefacts on display include bronze vessels and mirrors, ceramic tomb animals and intricately-carved jade pieces.
Located on the riverside a few minutes walk from Durham town centre, the Durham student curators explained that “it’s the first time this type of collection has come to Old Fulling Mill”.
As a British archaeological museum, it “usually […] doesn’t have such objects”.
The curators hope that the exhibition, which is part of their MA in Museum and Artefact Studies, will be visited by both students and local residents.
“We’re really hoping to get young people and kids involved” said Natalie Proctor, Publicity Officer for the exhibition.
She continued: “This is a great museum. We’d like to make more students aware of the museum and engaged with it.”
Leila Hadi, Project Manager, added that the exhibition is “very student-friendly”.
There are also activities designed for younger visitors including a detective- style quest to find the owner of the tomb.
Craig Barclay, Curator of The Old Fulling Mill, said: “The students have tackled the issue of death in an interesting and engaging way. The activites in the exhibition are a fun way of challenging visitors to reflect on their own beliefs and, in doing so, we compare our own beliefs to those of the past”.
Ms Proctor said that the “highlight of the exhibition” is an array of jade body protectors.
Creatively displayed on top of the outline of a body, visitors can see how the pieces were arranged on the deceased. Ms Proctor explained that jade was considered a prestigious stone and used to help preserve the body.
Artefacts can also give clues about the social standing and occupation of the person with which they are buried.
Bronze, a long-lasting precious metal, indicated high status. People were often buried with bronze coins so that they had money in the afterlife. And a display of ceramic models, including one of a farm, suggest the occupations of the people they were made for.
Ms Hadi said that the exhibition aims to “look at the beliefs behind objects”.
“They’re not just displayed as objects but shown in terms of the beliefs behind them”.
The exhibition is open 11am to 4pm daily until 4th September 2011. Entry is free for students. For full details check the museum’s website at http://www.dur.ac.uk/fulling.mill/exhibitions/