Explore the mysteries of Ming

  • Category: Art & Culture
  • Dates: Saturday, 06 December 2014 to Saturday, 28 February 2015

See if you can piece together the reasons why China dominated during this fantastic period of history

The notion of China as a global superpower is certainly nothing new, with the nation dominating our everyday lives in myriad ways. However, during a golden age in the country's history, its empire extended to all four corners of the planet and was commanded by a single family - the Ming dynasty.

It is this fascinating era that will be explored in the new British Museum exhibition entitled 'Ming: 50 years that changed China'. From its not-so-humble beginnings to its spectacular demise, there are a thousand wonderful stories just waiting to be told by the artefacts contained here.

As you can expect from as fine an institution as the British Museum, there are countless artefacts on display that range from gifts sent as far afield to Kyoto and Mecca, to delicate burial amulets that were discovered in princely tombs in Sichuan, Shandong and Hebei. But what makes it even more fascinating is that many of these have only just been discovered, and the majority have certainly never been seen outside of China before.

Each artefact has been displayed in a way that reveals a tiny segment of this magnificent country, allowing you to discover the Ming dynasty's many secrets. By the end, you should also have a clear idea of how China became a global superpower during this turbulent time, for the British Museum is famed for exhibitions that allow its audiences to engage and answer questions for themselves.

Explore the many changes that were made in the 50 years between 1400 and 1450, such as the decision to move the nation's capital to Beijing and the extraordinary systems that were developed to centralise power over a single person and his family. But perhaps most fascinating of all is the way that Chinese workmen, artists, creatives and politicians absorbed thousands of ideas from the country's vast empire, adapting them into their own everyday tasks. It's evident throughout the exhibition - through the exquisite porcelain, gold, jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculptures and textiles on display.

When it comes to highlights, keep an eye out for the lacquered wooden dish that features a carved traditional Chinese scene, the intricately decorated statue of a Tomb Guardian found at the burial place of a Chinese emperor, and the 15th century Imperial Ming vase decorated in white and blue.