The Into China gallery allows visitors to experience some of the finest handcrafted masterpieces that mirror the country’s enormous scale and capture the essence of all that culturally embodies China, past and present.
The Great Dragon
Dragons are legendary and powerful creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore. They have control over the water forces, from rain to floods, storms and ocean waves. The reverence of the Chinese toward the dragon dates back several millennia to ancient Chinese history, and hence, the creature is deeply rooted in its culture still today.
The Great Dragon (Shen Long), the name of this sculpted piece, symbolizes the nobility, wealth, and joy of the propitious dragon. The raw wood material of the work took over a year and a half to assemble. Wood carving masters Dongfa Lu and Wei Zhang spent more than three months to complete this piece.
Dreamland, the name of the sculpted piece modeled after Tao Yuanming’s ancient fable ‘The Peach Blossom Spring’, depicts a fantasy land where people pursue a life full of peace and happiness. The beauty of Dreamland is transformed using traditional Chinese root carving techniques that respect the design and order of traditional shan shui painting methodology – where concentrated parts of the sculpture, namely the mountains rising upward toward heaven – are clustered as the heart of the piece, and the balance of open space widens in scale with the rivers, lake and sea.
Handcrafted entirely from Tuchen wood, a type of fossil wood buried in the earth for approximately one thousand years, it took the sculptors 11 years just to finish collecting the wood material because of its rarity and difficulty transporting the material. The carving was completed over a period of 10 years.
Buddhism started as a Hindu influenced religion in India. Founder Gautama Buddha (circa 563–483 BC) and his followers left no writings; his rules for monastic life and teachings were memorized and passed down by oral traditions, until the first Buddhist scriptures were recorded around the second century BC. These first scriptures were brought to China and merged with native Taoism and folk religion to evolve into Chinese Buddhism.
As Buddhism became popular in China, Buddhist temple sites displaying an array of statuary were built throughout the country. The earliest statues have typical Indian hand gestures and poses like those shown in this hand-carved shrine—Three Buddhas.