Posts Tagged ‘Museums’


Dragon Boat Festival Exhibition

In Dragon Boat Festival,Hong Kong,Museums on June 9, 2011 by triotriotrio Tagged: , ,

Dragon Boat Exhibition at the Maritime Museum

Monday is an official holiday in Hong Kong for the observance of the Tuen Ng Jit Festival. Two events associated with the holiday are preparing and eating zongzi, and racing dragon boats. Zongzi are a type of rice dumpling sometimes known as Chinese Tamales. And dragon boats are long slender paddle powered boats like a canoe.

The Hong Kong Maritime Museum is currently hosting a temporary exhibition in celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival.

Here are three highlights of the exhibition:

Ming Dynasty Dragon Head

On display is a dragonhead figure that dates to the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). One of the remarkable things of this piece, besides the age, is how detailed the carvings are. Many modern day heads have a generic shape and are composed of springs and cheap plastic bits. This piece is a work of art and would have been made at the hands of a master. Even though this piece was exposed to water conditions and unknown other elements for years it still contains its original hair pieces and remnants of its original lacquer paint.

Dragon Boat Dish

Also on display is a remarkable piece of porcelain which the includes images of dragon boats. But one of most interesting aspects of the plate is not what you can see but what you can’t see. On the back of this particular plate are a set of five Chinese characters that depict what is known as the five poisons. The five poisons refer to the snake, centipede, lizard, toad and scorpion. Placing these characters on pieces like pottery were thought to held ward off the poisons on the day of the Tuen Ng Jit Festival, the day where poisons had their most power.

Lastly the exhibition highlights the story of Qu Yuan (c. 340 BCE – 278 BCE). Many of the events connected to the festival are connected this famous poet and politician.  Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the same day as the annual observance of the Tuen Ng Festival. It is said that the local people, who admired him, threw lumps of rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.

Qu Yuan

Although it is clear that Qu Yuan’s did not create the festival – his life and death are today intertwined into the traditions of today.

The exhibition will be up to the end of August. The Hong Kong Maritime Museum is located in Stanley at the historic Murray House. The museum is open every day except for Monday.


A Muse For a Museum Worker

In Hong Kong,Museums,Updates on April 1, 2011 by triotriotrio Tagged: , , , ,

Wedding Couple Being Groomed

Anonymous Wedding Couple Having Their Portrait Made

A Muse for a Museum Worker

More than one museum worker that I have spoken to has told me about walking through their own galleries in order to find some solace or meaning to their work. It is so easy when one hasn’t looked up from the monitor in several hours to stretch one’s legs, look at a new perspective or think about something other than the work at hand. A curator at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, my favorite museum in the world, once told me that it was policy that museum staff get out of their chairs once in awhile, walk through the museum and remember what it is that the museum is all about.

I have taken this to heart. But as I spend my current stint at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, it is not the galleries that I head for when I need to recharge. I only need to walk out on to the museum’s walkway to once again feel refreshed. It is not art, history or science that I seek out but it is the hope that I can catch a glimpse of a new bride and groom.

I have been told that this phenomenon is not unique to Hong Kong; one may travel throughout Asia and experience this spectacle. When a couple gets married they sometimes have elaborate photos taken. These photos are often taken in prominent places so they convey a sense of time and space. Sometimes it is only the bride. Sometimes it is the couple. And sometimes these photos are an orchestra of family, bridesmaids, best men, and attendants.

And then there is the host of support people. The grip, light man, and photographer are all in tow as this moment is captured. At times there are scores of cars lined up on the road. In the backseat there are people doing make-up, painting nails and combing out big hairstyles. I once saw a couple with no less than 20 people to support the photographer.

The Hong Kong Maritime Museum is located at Murray House, a historic structure in Stanley Beach that is a haven for these types of photos.  Every day at lunch I spot these groups. And I am really sad when it is rainy and no one is out. It really has become a big part of my day. I guess everyone loves a bride and I am no exception. You can always tell that gleam of excitement in her eyes. Maybe it is the thought of the possibilities to come?

Weddings and museums have a long history with one another. Some museums depend on them for a significant portion of their earned revenue. But this is a new connection for me.