Lecture – The Zodiac Animals in the Garden of Perfect Brightness: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and Cultural Patrimony
LILLIAN M. LI
SARA LAWRENCE LIGHTFOOT PROFESSOR EMERITA OF HISTORY, SWARTHMORE COLLEGE
The twelve bronze zodiac animals that formed a grand fountain in the European section of the Yuanming Yuan in Beijing (later erroneously called the “Old Summer Palace”) were among the thousands of objects that the British and French military troops looted in 1860. The story behind the original zodiac animal heads, including their European design and the fraught conditions of their removal, underpins Ai Weiwei’s vision of his own zodiac animals on view at the Museum. This talk will explore the cultural and political symbolism of the original Yuanming Yuan complex of 18th-century gardens, palaces, and works of art, including its eventual destruction at the hands of European troops, and now its recent reconstruction as a national icon.Purchase tickets
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