Zhu Yuanzhang was born into poverty and hardship, living as a beggar for at least part of his adolescence. When he overthrew the Mongol Yuan Dynasty and established the Ming Dynasty in 1368, Yuanzhang was determined to improve the plight of the rural farmer through tax decreases and land reform. The results of his stimulus plan were a food surplus, population growth and expanded trade within China and with the Portuguese and Dutch. And with increasing wealth and social stability came a flourishing of the arts, as the artisan class expanded rapidly to fulfill the needs of a consumer culture desirous of aesthetically pleasing objets d'arts. This legacy of artistic achievement is displayed in Power and Glory: Court Arts of China's Ming Dynasty, the new exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or www.slam.org). More than 125 works representing opulent achievement in pottery, painting, metal work, textiles and musical instruments document the marvels of Chinese culture during the penultimate dynasty of the imperial age. Admission to Power and Glory is $6 to $10, but free on Friday; the show remains up through Sunday, May 17, and the museum is open every day except Monday.
Image Credit: Segment of an arched gate (Lion), c.14121431; Yongle (14031424) and Xuande
(14261435) period; from the site of Baoensi, outside the Central Chinese Gate, Nanjing;
earthenware with low-fired polychrome glazes; 17 x 19 x 16 1/2 inches; Nanjing
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 22. Continues through May 17, 2009