Scholar-officials were a unique group of social elites in ancient China. As active participants in the political life of the country, as well as creators and inheritors of traditional Chinese culture, they acquired knowledge and spread culture. Throughout the long history of the Chinese nation, a large number of outstanding scholar-officials emerged, such as Confucius, Cai Yong, the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove”, Tao Yuanming, Su Shi, Huang Tingjian and Lin Zexu. These figures had both the managerial ability to govern their country and military talent to safeguard its security, and left behind a rich cultural heritage. This not only provided great nourishment for the Chinese nation and added gorgeous color to the Chinese civilization, but also contributed a brilliant chapter to global civilization.
The exhibition Set Your Heart on Truth and Seek Enjoyment in Arts: Ideals, Life and Aesthetics of Ancient Chinese Scholar-Officials, jointly held by the National Museum of China (NMC) and the Culture, Radio, TV, Tourism and Sports Bureau of Nanshan District in Shenzhen, represents a concrete implementation of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech on the building of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Relying on the abundant collections of the NMC and Shenzhen’s advantageous geographical position at the center of the Greater Bay Area, this exhibition will become an important cultural banquet benefiting residents and tourists alike in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.
A total of 150 cultural relics collected at the NMC are exhibited, covering ancient Chinese bronze wares, gold and silver wares, porcelains, jades, stone carvings, furniture, paintings and calligraphy and books. The exhibition is divided into three sections, namely “Cherish the world,” “Wandering at leisure,” and “Literary and artistic pursuit.” It reveals that under the influence of traditional Confucian culture, the scholar-officials had the highest ideals of “cultivating morality, managing the family, governing the country, and pacifying the world.” It also presents the spiritual pursuits and artistic aesthetics reflected in their emphasis on personal cultivation. These elegant features are not only interpretations of their lifestyles, aesthetic attitudes and philosophical thoughts, but also an integral part of China’s outstanding traditional culture.
We sincerely hope that this exhibition will provide visitors with an in-depth understanding of the noble personality and spiritual charm of the scholar-officials in ancient China and a better appreciation of China’s long-standing and profound civilization. Furthermore, we hope it can further strengthen visitors’ cultural confidence and enhance the cohesion of the people of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area with the motherland.