The Last Emperor

I spent Christmas Eve at the British Museum at a special showing of The Last Emperor Exhibition. Apparently this is the first time that the British Museum has ever opened on Christmas Eve, they also opened the doors for the Exhibition on Boxing Day and I see that there is a chance to do the same on New Years Eve as well. The rest of the museum was closed, so there wasn’t any chance to go and browse the other exhibits, but there was tea and cakes as a welcome and a special exhibition of Chinese dancing in the Great Court, which passed the time until it was time to enter the exhibition. It all felt very grown up and it was great to have the chance to see the Great Court without too many people around.

The Exhibition has taken over the Reading Room and they use the space superbly. As for the Exhibition itself, as someone who plays around with clay, I found it very moving to stare directly at these figures made over two thousand years ago and see the tool marks in the clay as someone personalised each piece. Its also very sobering to realise that the techniques for working clay haven’t really changed that much in the intervening years. I want to go to China and visit the site at Xi’an as this just feels like an appetizer and I just can’t imagine how it feels to see hundreds of these figures lined up


And my favourite piece, strangely not one made of terracotta, but this beautiful and elegant bronze crane, which was discovered alongside other bronze birds by a mercury river in one of the many pits around the site.

My only complaint, and its one I have at every exhibition I go to, is audio description, somehow plugging into headphones makes people very rude as they shove other viewers out of the way to view the piece that is being described, and then linger to read all the information labels, which are telling them everything that they’ve just heard and yell at their friends and family “to come see this”. I appreciate that audio description fulfils a need, I really do, I just wish that people would remember that they are not viewing and listening in isolation and that there are others around who have paid just as much as them for the privilege of viewing the exhibition.

If you haven’t booked tickets, the British Museum have just released some more late night tickets, so do go as its absolutely worth it, just watch out for those people with headphones!

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4 Responses to The Last Emperor

  1. belle says:

    Steady on, River, I make that three post in one day! And to think I was feeling smug because I’d managed a whole book in less that twenty-four hours *sigh* Oh, and btw, my parents went to see these warriors in Xi’an about fifteen years ago and they still rave about it. It’s just one more place on my list of must go to’s

  2. riverwillow says:

    Sorry I was taking a leaf out of Brunhilde’s book… Also its three books in three days, and I am not working, but you still have the family and the strangely blue laundry to cope with, so you are entitled to continue to feel smug. Somehow I suspect that reading about Mr Hardy’s life may take me longer than twenty four hours.

  3. brunhilde says:

    Oh I am so looking forward to this exhibition, and I want to see the crane…but I misunderstood and thought you were going to be dancing!! And honestly, no-one reads more slowly than me – I just keep starting new ones, and buying new bookmarks…

  4. Table Talk says:

    I’m so glad that you managed to see this exhibition and write about it because you’ve brought it to life for me and as I can’t travel I’m not going to get there. Thank you.

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