Chrysanthemum and Dragon: The Art of Ornamentation in Japan and China in the 17th – 19th Century

Exhibition Details

18th March, 2019 – 31st August, 2019
Opening Hours : Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm. Closed on Sundays, Mondays and Public Holidays.

Admission Fee : HK$200 includes a guided tour, HK$350 includes a guided tour and exhibition catalogues. Appointments are required. Wednesdays are open free of charge to full-time students with prior arrangement.

About the Exhibition

Liang Yi Museum is delighted to announce its forthcoming exhibition Chrysanthemum and Dragon: The Art of Ornamentation in Japan and China in the 17th – 19th Century, opening on the 19th March 2019 and running until the 31st August 2019. The exhibition will offer an insight into the differing yet equally lavish arts and crafts movements in China and Japan during the 17th to 19th century. Featuring over 180 Japanese objects – including the portable stationery, yatate; and the kiseru tobacco pipe, in addition to over 50 objects from the museum's classical Ming and Qing dynasties furniture collection, Chrysanthemum and Dragon is one of the largest exhibitions to explore the shared decorative traditions of China and Japan, allowing visitors to compare the craftsmanship of both cultures side-by-side. The exhibition is supported by Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong.


Liang Yi Museum is the largest private museum in Hong Kong, renowned for its collections of antique Chinese furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties, European vanities and European silver. What makes this exhibition unique, however, is that it will be the debut of the museum's newly acquired Japanese collections of yatate and kiseru from the Edo (1603–1868) to Showa period (1926–89). The exhibition can be categorised into four inter-locking parts: the Japanese writing culture via yatate; kiseru; Chinese scholarly objects; and lastly, European smoking accoutrements. The cross-cultural exhibition aims to cover four core areas - an introduction to the continuous cultural exchanges between China and Japan by the presentation of Chinese and Japanese stationery; an exploration in the exchange of technical know-how of decorative techniques including carving, lacquering and inlaying between the two cultures; the socio-economic factors dominating the production of arts and crafts during the 17th century; and a comparison on the attitude and culture in smoking in the Eastern and Western societies.


The favourable atmosphere of political stability and economic prosperity during the mid-Qing dynasty, especially under the reign of emperor Qianlong (r. 1736–95), allowed for a focus on the patronage and creation of arts and crafts; as well as the renewal of traditional craftsmanship. This resulted in a golden period in traditional Chinese craftsmanship, as evident by the baibao (hundred treasures) inlay on many of the scholarly objects on display. On the other hand, the rise of a new social class, chonin (merchants and artisans who profited by lending money and selling artefacts to the other social classes), during the Edo period greatly influenced the artistic style of the Edo arts and crafts. Objects of everyday use including yatate and kiseru became heavily decorated with lacquer and inlay as demanded by chonin and the samurai ruling class.


The objects presented in this exhibition share a common attribute – they are all objects of practical use, and they also serve as vehicles to reflect the lifestyles of their past owners. Take for example a small zitan carrying case which demonstrates both the traditional craftsmanship of China; and the Sino-Nippon cultural exchange. The traditional construction of the carrying case and the use of the rare material of zitan make it a perfect fixture in a Chinese scholar's studio to store painting tools; while the calligraphy on the cover panel executed in blue lacquer include the poem Moon of Mount Emei by Tang poet Li Bai (701–62) and a passage written by a Japanese scholar in 1921. Meanwhile, in a traditional Japanese study room, one would find a suzuribako (writing box) on a bundai (writing table). Decorated with maki-e lacquer (a lacquering technique in which gold or silver powder are sprinkled on wet lacquer), it is the embodiment of the intricate craftsmanship and the aesthetic appreciation of lacquering technique during the Edo period.


When tobacco was introduced from Portugal to Japan in the 16th century, a unique Japanese smoking culture was formed, specifically with the use of kiseru (smoking pipe) to smoke fine-cut tobacco called hosokizami, and other smoking tools developed especially for smoking. A finely decorated Meiji-period tabako-bon will be exhibited to showcase not only Japanese smoking culture, but also accompanying rituals such as the tea ceremony.  


The exhibited artefacts in Chrysanthemum and Dragon are rendered as the best representation of arts and crafts during the 17th century in China and Japan. The exhibition not only juxtaposes classical Chinese furniture and scholarly objects alongside Japanese artefacts categorised by their respective craftsmanship to demonstrate the development of the crafts in the respective culture; it also provides viewers with a chance to explore the underlying Sino-Nippon cultural exchanges that can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618–907).

Chrysanthemum and Dragon: The Art of Ornamentation in Japan and China in the 17th – 19th Century