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Tag: China

William Woodville Rockhill’s Chinese Language Books

Illustration from Hui tu zeng xiang xi you ji, an 1891 illustrated version of the Journey to the West, from the Rockhill donation.

The article A Scholar Diplomat’s Legacy: William Woodville Rockhill and His Chinese Language Books at the Freer Gallery of Art Library, by Lily Kecskes, former Head Librarian of the Freer-Sackler Library, and published in the Journal of East Asian Libraries, number 146 (October 2008), describes an important donation in the history of the Freer-Sackler Library. The article details a 1927 gift of precious and rare Chinese language books to the Smithsonian Institution made by Mrs. Rockhill, widow of the scholar-diplomat William Woodville Rockhill. It notes that the donated books “ranged, in date of publication from 1659 to 1913 and covered a wide range of subjects, including religion, history, geography, literature, and culture of Central Asia, Tibet, and Mongolia.”

Ai Weiwei at the Hirshhorn

patron reading book
A Hirshhorn patron perusing our Zodiac Head’s catalog

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads has been a popular attraction at the Hirshhorn since its arrival in April. Surrounding the fountain in the center of the Hirshhorn, the zodiac heads have an interactive appeal as viewers pose for pictures in front of their zodiac animal. Much like Western astrological signs, the Chinese zodiac signs also have specific characteristics and traits assigned to them – both good and bad.  A person’s zodiac symbol was (and is) culturally significant in many parts of Asia, where a person’s zodiac sign is sometimes seriously considered when entering a relationship.

This cultural significance is something that Ai Weiwei likes to utilize in many of his works to communicate his messages, often indicated by referencing objects that are almost synonymous with Chinese traditions and values.