From 17 May 2016
‘To See a world in a Grain of Sand’ is an exhibition that uses a small number of objects to communicate about the extensive maritime and overland trade routes of the past. Sand is an interesting metaphor for the land and sea trade which characterised the ancient Silk Road. The objects chosen for this exhibition highlight key themes around the circulation of commodities, people and ideas across the Silk Road over time.
Inspired by the first line of the poem by British poet William Blake (1757-1827), this exhibition explores the idea that the miniature can capture the essence of the vast. For the Silk Road, this includes both the maritime and land routes and the fascinating cross-cultural exchanges on art and culture across China, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
This exhibition offers visitors a glimpse into the spread of decorative style, religious ideas and the development of technology that came about as a result of centuries of trade and cultural connections between China and the world. The artefacts on display include materials from different cultures related to China – far and near. They include export ceramics from China and Southeast Asia, gemstones from Southeast and Central Asia, Mongolia and the Mediterranean, Turkish saddles decorated with textile patternand ancient Roman glassware used in China. Some of the Chinese export ceramics on display demonstrate the influence of nomadic and Central Asian metalwork.