Visiting scholar presents jade perspectives and various areas of expertise from China

Anthropology professor Shouyong Pan explained the motifs of jade sculptures and presented on other areas of his expertise as visiting scholar Photo courtesy of Willmott

Professor of anthropology and museum studies Shouyong Pan of Minzu University in Beijing shared his insights of jade sculptures with anthropology students at the Ethnology Museum Laboratory last week as visiting scholar.

Pan also discussed textiles to an art and design class, Buddhism to a foreign languages and literature class on Chinese culture and “Bringing Cultural Heritage to Life in China’s Museums and Historical Villages/Towns” for a public lecture in Art and Design West Auditorium.

According to anthropology professor Cory Willmott, there are few experts in the world on jade, and Pan is “one of the half dozen top leading museum scholars in China.”

“He spear-headed the initiatives that now form Chinese government policies on museums and the preservation of cultural heritage,” Willmott said.

In 1987, Pan said he dug up several 4,000-year-old jade ornaments from a tomb in Shandong Province in Eastern China when he was an archaeology student.

Willmott said it is a spectacular story because he is like the “real life Indiana Jones.”

Pan said he was excited to share his knowledge of the “beautiful stone.”

“Jade is the spiritual stone of China-the treasure made by Heaven and Earth,” Pan said.

During his presentation, he explained the meaning and metaphors behind the jade sculptures which were selected from the University Museum collection by anthropology student, Ryan Anderson, for his senior project museum exhibit.

Pan said there were seven criteria to measure the quality of jade – The material’s density, its color (milk, yellow, blue, green bean green and pink), how the carved stone tells a story through its motifs, how skillfully it was carved, how the surface or “skin” color is used strategically, the hardness of the jade and how transparent it is under light.

According to Pan, jades are often used as gifts and he showed one with a long tail of a bird, which means “good news.”

Pan showed the class how a wedding gift of carved jade had two birds depicting husband and wife. The male bird was smaller in size than the female bird because “the bride is the center of the ceremony,” according to Pan.

Jade, according to Pan, is a metaphor for the human being. It is a sign of protection and good fortune to the Chinese.

“The more jade you wear the higher rank you have…,” Pan said. “All gentlemen must have jade on their body.”

He said a carved jade depicting fish jumping out of water into a dragon gate was a metaphor for a scholar being appointed to public service, and that was “everyone’s wish-the highest achievement a man could have.”

Senior anthropology major Ryan Anderson said he appreciated Pan’s presentation.

“As a student who is studying jade, Dr. Pan’s insights are very valuable to my work. He spent a large amount of time explaining the qualities of jades-artistic and spiritual,” Anderson said.

According to Willmott it is “extremely valuable” to learn about the [Chinese] culture from members of that culture.

“He shows us their way of thinking about those subjects,” Willmott said.  “That personal Chinese perspective, but also the perspective as a Chinese scholar we in the U.S. cannot approach-I think for our students it’s an opportunity to have that face-to-face conversation with a visiting scholar from China.”

Pan is currently a Fulbright Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Pan’s visit was sponsored by the museum studies and Asian studies programs with contributions from International Student Services, Continuing Education program and the anthropology, history, foreign language and literature and art and design departments.






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