Chinese Tang Dynasty artifacts in rare Australian exhibit

Dragon - gilded bronze with an iron core, unearthed from Caochangpo in the southern suburb of Xian, 1975 Tang: treasures from the silk road capital Source: Art Gallery New South Wales

Imperial artifacts, sculptures and paintings that have never been exhibited outside of China are in Australia. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, based in Sydney, has opened the Tang: Treasures from the Silk Road Capital.

 A new exhibit titled, Tang: treasures from the Silk Road Capital, is in Sydney.

It focuses on life in the city of Chang'an during the Tang Empire dated 618 to 907.

While Europe was still in the Dark Ages, the Tang Empire became the richest and most powerful realm in the world. 

At the heart of the Tang Empire was its capital city - Chan'an, now present day Xi'an.

It was situated at the start of the Silk Road trade route.

The cosmopolitan city was renowned for its wealth, diversity and religion.

Each artifact carries a story from the city - from the elevation of tea drinking to an ritualistic art form, to the booming artisanship in gold, silver and ceramics.

The director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Michael Brand, says Chang'an was well ahead of the times.

"This city was at that time, the Tang Dynasty, probably the most sophisticated city in the world. Way ahead of European cities. In Tang Dynasty China, there are printed books from the eighth century - almost 8 centuries before the Gutenberg Bible was printed in Germany for example in the fifteenth century. Very, very advanced culture." said Mr Brand.

One hundred and thirty five pieces from 11 different institutions in China are part of the display.

The Deputy Director-General of Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, Guo Xianzeng, says its a rare exhibit.

"The importance of them, is first of all 90 per cent of the artefacts, it's their first time they've been exhibited outside of China." Mr Shaanxi said. 

Mr Guo helped bring together the pieces from China to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The curator of Chinese art at the Art Galley of New South Wales, Yin Cao, says the exhibit took four years to complete.

Ms Cao hopes people will travel to Sydney to see it and learn about the significance of the Tang Dynasty.

"We really hope not only the westerns who are probably not familar with Chinese history but also we have to invite more Chinese residents even if you're not from Shaanxi province, you won't be able to see these treasures." she said. 

The display includes Chinese national treasures.

So precious we cannot identify them because of security concerns.

Some of the sculptures include horses from Uzbekistan and camels from Persia.

Items showing Buddhism - originally from the Himalayan foothills in India - are also on display.

There is even a digital recreation of the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas.

The interactive 3D installation is one of the UNESCO World Heritage listed sites now closed to the public for conservation reasons. 

The caves were carved out by ancient Buddhist monks to be used as shrines and depict the afterlife.

The exhibit will be at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until July 10.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch