Gandhara Heritage along the Silk Road: A Pakistan-China Joint Exhibition
The opening ceremony of the “Gandhara Heritage along the Silk Road: A Pakistan-China Joint Exhibition” was held at the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian) in the Palace Museum on March 15, 2023. Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping announced the opening of the exhibition. Moin ul Haque, Pakistani ambassador to China, Fareena Mazhar, federal secretary of the National Heritage and Culture Division of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Wang Xudong, director of the Palace Museum, and Yang Xun, vice chairman and general manager of Glorious Sun Group and chairman of Jeanswest International (Hong Kong) Limited, addressed the opening ceremony. Du Haijiang, Party secretary and deputy director of the Palace Museum, presided over the event. In addition, about 200 guests were invited to the opening ceremony of the exhibition, including Nong Rong, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, Du Zhanyuan, president of China International Communications Group, Xie Bing, deputy director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, Sha Zukang, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Jia Deyong, secretary-general of the International Confucian Association, Zheng Xinmiao, former vice minister of culture and tourism and former director of the Palace Museum, as well as foreign diplomats to China, officials from ministries and commissions of the State Council, scholars and experts in the fields of culture, diplomacy and museum, exhibition staff, and representatives from over 30 domestic and foreign media outlets.
The Gandhara art exhibition was jointly organized by the Palace Museum and the Department of Archaeology and Museums of the National Heritage and Culture Division of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which is so far the largest of its kind held within China. The exhibition, which began preparations in 2019, underwent the test of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to postpone its opening several times. The project was included twice in the Joint Statement between the People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on February 6 and November 2, 2022, respectively, and was endorsed by the leaders of both countries. The Palace Museum worked in coordination with the Department of Archaeology and Museums of the National Heritage and Culture Division of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and all supporting museums to ensure the successful opening of the exhibition. The aim of the exhibition is to promote mutual understanding between China and Pakistan, with a emphasis on allowing the Chinese people to grasp the profound significance of the Gandhara culture.
The exhibition features a total of 203 artifacts, including 173 items from Pakistan and 30 from the Palace Museum. The Pakistani artifacts are from seven museums, namely the National Museum of Pakistan, Taxila Museum, Peshawar Museum, Islamabad Museum, Dir Museum, Swat Museum, and Hund Museum. These artifacts, dating back to the period between the 2nd century BCE and the 10th century CE, were mostly unearthed through archaeological excavations. The exhibition displays an array of well-known Gandhara stone carvings, such as early Buddhist bodhisattva sculptures, Buddha stories, Jataka tales, and stupa architectural components, alongside gold and silver ware and jewelry, fully demonstrating the diverse styles and unique charm of Gandhara art and the historical context of multicultural integration. The 30 artifacts from the Palace Museum were primarily introduced from ancient Gandhara region into the west of China's Tibet Autonomous Region via art centers along the Silk Road on the plateau, such as Swat and Kashmir. These artifacts exerted a significant influence on the gold and copper sculpture styles and art of the ancient Guge Kingdom, providing a testament to the history of extensive cultural and art exchanges between China and Pakistan.
The ancient Gandhara archaeological sites are predominantly situated at the southern end of the Hindu Kush and Karakoram Mountains, which served as a vital hub connecting the South Asian subcontinent with the Silk Road. This region was a melting pot of Mediterranean, Iranian, Central Asian steppe, and Indian civilizations, where diverse cultures intersected and formed rich and colorful civilizations. The exhibition is divided into three sections: “Land of Fragrance: The Birth of Gandhara Civilization under Multiculturalism”, “The Splendor of Gandhara Art” and “The Echoes of Gandhara Art”. From the perspective of the development of ancient Gandhara civilization, the exhibition showcases the artistic charm and influence of Gandhara culture.
“Gandhara Heritage along the Silk Road: A Pakistan-China Joint Exhibition” is now on at the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian) in the Palace Museum. It will run until June 15, 2023. The exhibition is free of charge for visitors with the Palace Museum tickets. Visitors should make a real-name reservation through the WeChat mini-program of the Palace Museum.
This exhibition is supported by Jeanswest International (Hong Kong) Limited.