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Press Release: 2011-12-09

NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE OF CHINESE CULTURE ANNOUNCED

Kitchener, ON – After months of negotiation, THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener is honoured to be announcing the North American premiere of a spectacular collection of rock carvings from Chongqing, China.

Having only left China once before, these almost fifty stunning sculptures, which are part of a World Heritage Site, will be on display at THEMUSEUM beginning this September.

The carvings, originally located in the steep hillsides throughout Dazu County, in Chongqing, China, represent a small percent of what still remains on site. The entire collection is made of a series of Chinese religious sculptures and carvings, dating back as far as the 7th century. The carvings are influenced by and depict images of Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist beliefs. The collection is made up of seventy-five protected sites containing some 50,000 statues, with over 100,000 Chinese characters forming inscriptions and epigraphs. While the majority of them are carved into hillsides, a small number have been excavated for travel.

It was in the spring of 2011 that David Marskell, CEO of THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener visited Dazu and the World Heritage Site as part of a tour of Chinese museums. Marskell‟s visit, which is consistent with the young organization‟s (previously a children‟s museum) new mandate of „scanning the globe for fresh cultural content,‟ resulted in successfully forging a relationship with the Art Museum of Dazu Rock Carvings, which lead to the carvings travelling to Southwestern Ontario.

Marskell, who spearheaded the Rogers Chinese Lantern Festival at Ontario Place in 2006, is proud to be working on this project. He explains, “the Dazu sculpture exhibition will not only offer Canadians a chance to experience the diversity and depth of Chinese culture, but it will also allow Chinese-Canadians the chance to engage with a part of their heritage.”

Dr. Sheng L. Deng, a Professor of Marketing at Brock University and spokesperson for the Art Museum of Dazu Rock Carvings, adds that “after a period of cool relationship between China and Canada, the bilateral relationship is warming up. This is reflected in the frequent dialogues between the two governments in business development and cultural exchange. The recent signing of the agreement between Chongqing Municipal Government and THEMUSEUM in Kitchener to stage the Dazu rock carvings exhibition is another great example of significant cultural exchange event between China and Canada. This is only the second time these sculptures will be staged overseas. The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Archaeology have both paid special attention to this premiere exhibition in North America and the Dazu museum is working very diligently on the exhibition preparation. The exhibition will be another great opportunity for China to showcase its rich culture to the Canadian people and for Canadians to deepen our understanding of the world‟s most populated nation. ”

The connection to this area in China is one of many for Waterloo Region and Canada. The City of Waterloo has a formal friendship agreement with Chongqing and Wilfrid Laurier University has an international office there. Chongqing is also one of several stops on Prime Minister Harper‟s tour this week.

In anticipation of the carvings arriving, Marskell and his team have already been seeking additional exhibition and program components to satisfy their festival strategy. In the spirit of further engaging visitors, THEMUSEUM plans to introduce other aspects of Chinese culture and heritage to Canadians, which may include Chinese folk woodcut prints, peasant paintings and contemporary art. Organizations with ties to Chinese culture who are interested in sponsoring or partnering are encouraged to contact THEMUSEUM.

“After exhibits as major as Andy Warhol’s Factory 2009, Titanic | The Artifact Exhibition and RAM | Rethinking Art & Machine, the exhibition on China is one more giant step for a young organization in becoming a much bigger part of the cultural map,” said Marskell.

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