LONDON, June 26 -- The first of two major exhibitions this year in Britain focusing on the achievements and history of China's Ming dynasty is set to open Friday, and will showcase many treasures on loan from China.
The exhibition entitled "Ming: The Golden Empire" opens at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) in Edinburgh.
A collaboration between Nanjing Museum and the NMS sees rare and beautiful artefacts from China complemented by items from the NMS's own collection of Ming dynasty artefacts.
Exhibition curator Dr Kevin McLoughlin, who is also principal curator Central and East Asia at the NMS, told Xinhua Thursday, "There is a fantastic range of objects. Some of the porcelain is very fine, and some of the painting is very fine as well. It generally tends to be representative of Wu School painting."
Wu School painting is a distinctive cultural achievement of the Ming dynasty, and the paintings are characterised by their intellectual and artistic qualities. Among paintings on display will be work by the Wu School master painter Shen Zhou.
McLoughlin said the exhibition was aimed at the general public, who might not have a knowledge of either Chinese culture or history.
As such, it reflects a growing interest in Britain in the cultural achievements of China, and its historical context.
Another major exhibition later this year is set to capture national and international headlines when the British Museum (BM) opens a show which also focuses on the Ming dynasty, but in the BM's case just a small sliver of the 276-year history of the dynasty (1368-1644).
McLoughlin said, "Most people are aware that China features more in their lives and the media than it did even a decade ago. There is much greater awareness and interest in Chinese culture. So this is an opportunity to look at a key period in comparatively recent domestic imperial history."
The exhibition will give the public something to contextualize what they see of modern China, said McLoughlin.
He added, "They are going to encounter aspects of Chinese culture which they would not have an opportunity to do outside an exhibition. They will be able to see artefacts that do not often travel outside China and can only rarely be seen."
McLoughlin said the NMS show aimed to provide an overview of the Ming period and introduce people to the nature of rule during the dynasty through artefacts connected with the imperial court, and the emperors.
"We also look at religion and quite extensively at the cultural elite -- scholars and officials both the official side of their lives in the examination system and also in the less official side of their lives, the cultural side," said McLoughlin.
The historical context of the Ming dynasty is not well known among the general public in Britain.
McLoughlin said it was an interesting period of great social change, as the society changed from a mainly agrarian one into a booming commercial economy.
"In many ways the Ming represents the starting point of modern China; it was a period of incredible cultural achievement," said McLoughlin.
Among artefacts from China are fine porcelain, paintings, and calligraphy. The porcelain features the finest examples of the iconic Ming blue and white porcelain.
Also featured in the show are China's first encounters with the maritime European powers -- the Dutch, the Spanish, and the Portuguese.
The most famous of these was the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci, who lived in China for 20 years and then became attached to the imperial court and the first European to visit the Forbidden City, itself a creation of the Ming dynasty.
The exhibition includes a map of the world created by Ricci, which McLoughlin believes will be a great draw for the public.
The exhibition runs from Friday until Oct. 19.