A Bronze Menagerie: Mat Weights of Early China

The catalog of a special exhibition held at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (October 2006 to January 2007) examining the artistic variety and associations of ancient Chinese mat weights, principally from the Han dynasty. 

In 1884, Isabella and Jack Gardner visited China on their journey around the world. For over two months, they toured Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Macau in high colonial style. Isabella kept a diary and compiled an elaborate scrapbook, but collected very little art on her journey. It was not until thirty years later, after she had acquired a vast collection of Western paintings and opened her personal museum in Boston, that she brought her first Chinese antiquities—the two bronze bears from the Han dynasty that inspired this exhibition. A Bronze Menagerie was the first exhibition devoted to ancient Chinese mat weights, a genre of the Warring States Period and Han dynasty. This catalog explores the archaeological and literary evidence for the use of sculptures, discusses the structure of tombs, and investigates the cultural associations of the various animals depicted in the objects.

By Michelle C. Wang, with Guolong Lai, Roel Sterckx, and Eugene Yuejin Wang
136 pages
Published by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Distributed by University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006
10.9 x 8.4 inches