With the beginning of another year, everything takes on a completely new look. On the occasion of the arrival of the Year of the Ox, the National Museum of China (NMC) is holding “Lucky Ox: A Cultural Exhibition Welcoming the Year of the Ox” by tapping into its rich collections. It aims to warm people’s hearts, lift people’s spirits and create a joyful, festive and peaceful holiday atmosphere.
Among all the animals, the ox is one of the closest with humans, and it is one of the earliest domesticated animals. As the most spiritual of all livestock in ancient times, oxen were the most faithful and reliable source of labor in agricultural society. Even today, images of oxen are still widely found in all aspects of life, including clothing, food, housing and transportation. It can be said that oxen have accompanied the progress of human civilization and left their images in the material cultural remains of various historical periods. There are a large number of ox-related allusions and cultural interpretations in traditional Chinese culture. The idyllic poetry and charm that emerged from agricultural society gave birth to rich artistic creations related to oxen, which achieved a delicate balance between elegance and vulgarity.
This exhibition selects more than 160 ox-related cultural relics and artworks from the NMC’s collection, and is divided into three sections, namely, “Together with oxen,” “Creation through oxen,” and “Blessings from oxen.” It systematically displays the history, culture, festival customs and beliefs related to oxen through the lenses of production and life, history and culture, and carving and painting.
Beyond bronze ritual vessels with images of ox horns from the Shang and Zhou dynasties, also on display are distinctive bronze wares from the ancient Dian Kingdom, as well as sculptures and paintings related to oxen from different historical periods. Images based on historical allusions bring legends to life; paintings, calligraphy and porcelain depicting images of fishing, chopping, farming and reading carry the most simple aspirations and expectations of agricultural society. Some paintings link oxen closely with secular society; some paintings express ancient people’s yearning for the landscape and countryside by straddling the real and the fantastical. We sincerely hope that this exhibition can guide audiences to gain a deeper understanding of the rich images and profound connotations of oxen in China’s outstanding traditional culture.