Red – Culture, History and Craftsmanship


Red is a colour that commands attention. Associated with fire, danger and passion in the West, it also has great significance in Eastern cultures. Such is the focus of this summer’s exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath: Red – Culture, History and Craftsmanship. page-000037 The use of red in Chinese craftsmanship is ancient; artisans were making red and black painted pottery as far back as 5000BC. Over the millennia, new dyes came into use, such as lead-based pigments that were popular during the Han dynasty (200BC – 200AD). Already an important dye in Egypt, madder was found to be a wonderful colourant for silk, while the discovery of cinnabar as a dye-source gave Chinese lacquerware its famous vermilion shade. The cultural significance of red in China is great: it is the colour of fortune, wisdom and joy, and in the time of the Empire denoted high rank. As white is the colour of mourning in China, brides traditionally wore red at their wedding. The influence of Western bridal trends means that white is no longer a taboo colour for weddings, but many Chinese brides still choose a red dress for at least part of the ceremony. Red continues to be an important colour in modern-day China. The old practice of giving gifts of money in red envelopes takes place at New Year, supposedly bringing the recipient good fortune for the next twelve months. In the art world, it is the colour of choice for contemporary sculptor Chen Wenling in his Red Memory series, which explores feelings of nostalgia and childhood. Red – Culture, History and Craftsmanship  Until 12 February 2017 Museum of East Asian Art

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