Splendid Accessories of Nomadic Peoples: Mongolian, Muslim, and Tibetan Artifacts of the Qing Dynasty from the Museum Collection
The Mongolian, Tibetan, and western Muslim territories of China are located in the central part of the Eurasian continent and geographically consist mostly of plateaus and basins. With its northern latitude and high terrain, the cold climate of the area yields unpredictable rainfall. Except for settlements along river valleys and oases, a nomadic economy has traditionally governed the way of life there. The inhabitants of this region are ethnically diverse as well, being mostly comprised of Mongolian, Uyghur, and Tibetan peoples. In terms of geography, religion, and history, their lifestyle therefore differs greatly from that of the Han Chinese with their agriculture-based economy, highlighting the unique art and culture of these nomadic groups.
Starting from the seventeenth century, the Manchu people in China’s northeast expanded their territorial control west and south to establish the “Great Qing Empire.” As dynastic rulers, the Manchu never gave up their ambition of playing a dominating role among tribes on the northern steppes, at the same time actively maintaining control of Tibetan peoples in the Kham-Tibetan plateau of the southwest. In addition to military conquest and political rule, the Qing dynasty also used marital alliances, religious beliefs, and tributary relations to extend and maintain its governance, hold various peoples together, and consolidate its authority.
This special exhibition focuses on artifacts related to imperial authority of the Qing dynasty and its interaction with Mongolian, Muslim, and Tibetan peoples. From the perspectives of material culture and anthropology, it explains the features of these groups and, at the same time, the unique characteristics and cultural contents of their art forms.