Dangerous Liaisons Revisited

Art and Music Inspired by the Chinese Tang Court

Ming Huang and Yang Gueifei Listening to Music, (detail) 1368–1400

January 20 - April 22, 2018

The prosperous Tang Dynasty (618-906) is known as the golden age of Chinese art and culture, especially during the reign of the great music patron Ming Huang in the 700s. Music distinctly shaped behavior and social roles at court, from ritual music intended to cultivate morals and virtues for harmonious rule to the vernacular music of entertainment that came to represent the sensuality and decadence of Tang court life.

This exhibition revolves around the Museum's exquisite handscroll from the 1300s, Ming Huang and Yang Guifei Listening to Music, which depicts Ming Huang and his famous consort, Yang Guifei, as they listen to an elaborate court orchestra. The forbidden love between the emperor and the legendary beauty, which eventually became implicated in the decline of the Tang dynasty, has inspired numerous poets, writers, and playwrights as well as artists in China (and later in Japan) from the 800s to the present day. Drawing on rarely seen paintings and prints from the Museum's Asian Art collection as well as key loans, including musical instruments, this exhibition will explore the conflict between duty and desire as well as its gendered nature in Chinese art as articulated through music at court and the archetypal story of Ming Huang and Yang Guifei.


Asian Art Newsletter
Dangerous Liaisons Revisited
By Martin Barnes Lorber, March, 2018

Metro West Daily News
Worcester Art Museum exhibit explores love and desire in premodern China
By Chris Bergeron, January 28, 2018

Related Programs

Thursday, March 15, 2018, 6pm

Master Series Third Thursday: A Reinterpretation of Ancient Music at the Chinese Tang Court.

Enjoy a cello concert with College of the Holy Cross visiting musician-in-residence, Jan Muller-Szeraws. This performance will be introduced by Shirish Korde, composer and professor, College of the Holy Cross. Hosted by the Worcester Art Museum's Members' Council and free with Museum admission.

Presented with support from the Bernard and Louise Palitz Fund.

Master Series is sponsored by:

Abbvie logo

Friday, March 16, 2018

Conference: Between the Sacred and the Profane: Love and Desire in Premodern China

Rehm Library at the College of the Holy Cross.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the College of the Holy Cross and the Worcester Art Museum will convene a one-day conference on Friday, March 16. The conference, Between the Sacred and the Profane: Love and Desire in Premodern China, aims to explore the intersection of religion, literature, and the arts through the examination of various circumstances by which the discourse of love and desire is represented, transmitted, transformed, and re-contextualized in premodern China.

The conference will be open to the public and held at the Rehm Library at the College of the Holy Cross. Exhibition viewing to follow at the Worcester Art Museum. For full conference schedule and presentation details visit: https://www.holycross.edu/faith-service/mcfarland-center-religion-ethics-and-culture/events-mcfarland-center/conferences/between-sacred-and-profane.

Sponsored by the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture and the Asian Studies program at Holy Cross.

Exhibition support is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and through the generosity of the late Robert Bradford Wheaton and Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, and an anonymous donor in memory of Mimi D. Bloch.

Additional support is provided by the Don and Mary Melville Contemporary Art Fund and the John M. Nelson Fund.

Sponsored by:

Reliant Medical Group

Selected Images

Totoya Hokkei, Surimono, Genso and Yokihi Playing Sugoroku, about 1820 Tang Dynasty, Horse Woman, 618-906
Wang Qingsong, Night Revels of Lao Li, (detail) 2000/2018 Chinese, Hourglass drum (zhanggu), 19th century

“Show Us Some Love” Instagram Contest

Congratulations to our 14 “Show us Some Love” Instagram photo contest winners who shared something they love to celebrate this exhibition. Our grand-prize winner, riffraffart, wins four admission passes to WAM and a private tour of the exhibition. Her submission, a photo of her with her mom at Fenway Park, is captioned, “I love and appreciate my mom. She's been a great supporter of me and my art and exploring art (at the Museum).” How love-ly!