Two stone lions representing power and protection guard the Cyrus Tang Hall of China. Traditionally, these statues stood outside temples and homes of the wealthy, but they have taken on a new role in the Field Museum as the entrance way to the newest permanent exhibition.
The exhibition, which opens to the public Wednesday, houses ancient artifacts of one of the most interesting and influential civilizations of the world. Its ambiance looms with traditional Chinese music and dim lighting while viewers work their way through the hall. Through ceramics, textiles and rubbings visitors are taken on a journey through China’s history.
The first stop, “Diverse Landscapes, Diverse Ways of Life” features Neolithic dioramas, jade objects and a topographical map. A special feature is the touch screens that allow visitors to choose what stories to read about the artifacts that suit their interests.
“Ritual, Power, War and Unification” gives a deeper look into China’s states and dynasties during the Bronze Age and features a Qingming Scroll that is interactive. Visitors can scroll through the digital version to learn more about the people in the painting.
Project manager Tom Skwerski says one of the main themes for this exhibition is that there is no one China.
“There is great diversity,” he says. “Culturally and religiously.”
In the “Beliefs and Practices, Symbols and Stores” area of the exhibit a virtual puppet show plays on loop. This puppet theater media experience will be sure to entertain even the littlest of visitors as it allows viewers to watch on both sides of the screen. The backside gives a peek into how the performers put on the show.
Museum staff says the curatorial team assembled 350 objects for the five galleries from a collection of more than 33,000 objects. This exhibition will be the only major, permanent exhibition in the U.S. to examine the Chinese culture history from an anthropological viewpoint, the statement says.
Twelve-year-old Kyle Dailor got a preview of the exhibit Tuesday. He thinks kids will enjoy it.
“I learned a lot about ancient China and the everyday life,” he says.
Adrian Reilly, 12, says he enjoyed looking at the pictures of what ancient China looked like.
“It’s really cool,” he says. “They have a lot of interesting things.”
Skwerski says the exhibition is not the most interactive, but hopes to build on what kids are learning about ancient civilizations in schools. President and CEO of the museum, Richard Lariviere, shared similar thoughts at a media preview of the exhibit Tuesday.
“We want to educate and entertain the next generation of museum-goers,” Lariviere says.
Several upcoming events will encourage children and families to explore the exhibit in more ways.
On Sept. 19, Oct. 17 and Nov. 21 the museum will host “Art and Science Spotlight: China” for families. These events are free with basic admission and take place in the Crown Family Playlab. During the event, families will discover the uniqueness of Chinese art forms and learn about ancient music and dance traditions and China’s national treasure, the Giant Panda.
On July 6-17, the museum will offer “Game Design: Exploring the Rise and Fall of Ancient Civilizations” for ages 14-17. Participants will explore the new exhibit while also learning about game design and ancient civilizations in the Grainger Digital Media Studio and get to meet the scientists behind the Cyrus Tang Hall. Teens will play games about ancient civilizations and then design their own.
Tickets to the Cyrus Tang Hall of China are included in both Discovery and All-Access passes to them museum.