In the World of Khubilai Khan

Leo J. O'Donovan, SJ, president emeritus of Georgetown University, is always on the lookout for art exhibitions that readers might find of interest.  Recently he visited a new show at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has been receiving raves for its creative curation: "The World of Khubilai Khan."  (Khan has apparently changed his name since my eighth-grade social studies class, when he was plain old Kubla.)  Fr. O'Donovan's review begins:

If you have ever wondered what the great city of Xanadu in Northern China looked like when Marco Polo arrived there around 1275, you can get a good idea by visiting New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where “The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty” will be dazzling today’s travelers for the next several months.

Advertisement

Made possible by remarkable loans—half from China itself, most of the other half from museums in the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, England and Germany—this is one of the Met’s most ambitious shows ever. It is accompanied by “The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change,” drawn mostly from the Met’s own holdings and an event in itself.

From the moment you enter the Khubilai Khan show, passing between two enormous stone sentinel figures from Beijing, you are in a wholly other world, one of autocratic power but also highly refined artistic skill and sensibility. Khubilai Khan (1215–1294), grandson of Genghis Khan, was an accomplished administrator, if also an incorrigible imperialist. Early in life he became deeply interested in Chinese culture and in 1271, even before completing his conquest of the great land to the south in 1279, he inaugurated the Yuan (“beginning”) Dynasty, which lasted until 1368. Portraits of the Great Khan himself and of his favorite consort, Chabi—actually cartoons for what would be larger portraits woven in silk—welcome you to the daily life of their time, and especially their court.

Read the rest here.

UPDATE: A slideshow of select images from the Met exhibit is now available.

James Martin, SJ

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”
Young demonstrators hold a rally in front of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Patrick Blanchfield on the history and future gun control in the United States
Ashley McKinlessApril 20, 2018
Ten priests at the conclusion of their ordination Mass on May 27, 2017, at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)
New data shows the average age of a new priest at 33; the most common countries for foreign-born ordinands are Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines and Colombia.
J.D. Long-GarcíaApril 20, 2018