Brick reliefs are bricks with molded or carved portraits or patterns. Chinese brick reliefs originated in the Warring States Period, flourished in the Han Dynasty, extended to the Song and Yuan dynasties, and continued to bloom for 1,400 to 1,500 years. They are the concentrated expression of the ancient Chinese people’s views on life and death, understandings of the universe and religious concepts. In the process of shaping the brick reliefs, the craftsmen often used society as a blueprint and incorporated their extraordinary imagination and creativity, reflecting all aspects of the material and spiritual life of ancient Chinese society.
The Hexi Corridor region is rich in culture. On the vast land stretching nearly 100 kilometers from Yongchang and Gaotai in the east to Jiuquan, Jiayuguan and Dunhuang in the west, there are a large number of murals and brick tombs of the Wei and Jin dynasties intensively distributed. Archaeologists have excavated a great number of painted brick reliefs from this region. These brick reliefs come in diverse forms featuring rich content, covering everything from gods and animals, silkworm breeding and farming, traveling and hunting, feasts and daily life, performing arts and entertainment, costumes and vehicles, to buildings and housing. Moreover, for most brick reliefs the artistic style is lively and distinctive, the composition is ingenious and vivid, and the lines are unrestrained and dynamic. They paint a vivid picture of the times and the national features of integration and symbiosis.
“Picturing all Beings: Life of the Ancients on the Brick Reliefs from Hexi,” hosted by the National Museum of China and a number of cultural relics institutes from Gansu Province, is the first large-scale centralized display of the finest painted brick reliefs of the Wei and Jin dynasties and related cultural relics from the Hexi Corridor region. Through the display and interpretation of 258 painted brick reliefs and related cultural relics divided into three sections, this exhibition reflects the life and spiritual outlook of the people of all ethnic groups in the ancient Hexi Corridor region, and vividly depicts the ancient working people’s love of life and the artistic creativity born from this passion.
We sincerely hope that this exhibition will guide audiences to deeply appreciate the unique spiritual outlook, cultural connotations and values that the Chinese nation has cultivated and formed over its long history.