Happy (Chinese) new year!

Smaller statues from the Han Dynasty

Saturday morning found me at the Asian art museum here in Stockholm, visiting the exhibit of China’s terracotta warriors from Xi’an.

I met up with an acquaintance who grew up here, and we spent a few hours prowling through the tunnels of Skeppsholmen island (which also has the Moderna Museet onboard, so to speak). Once used for military storage and as a possible temporary military refuge in the 1940s, the tunnels were filled with artefacts for the museum’s first show in the space.

This show may have been the one at the National Geographic’s museum in downtown D.C. a few years ago.  I’m not sure how many people rushed to see it.  I didn’t (maybe because it was free?).

Here, we paid 150 kronor to get in.  We joined a line out the door that had probably formed as soon as the museum opened that morning, a week after the show was supposed to have closed. My companion said her friends waited for hours in the cold to see it a few months earlier, just after the exhibition opened.  I was impressed.

And the show was quite satisfying in many ways:  A little history, a little war, some beautiful objects, and a handful of the giant Xi’an warriors up close and personal.  The granite caverns were appropriately subterranean for the excavated Chinese tomb objects. And the descriptions were in both English and Swedish, so I could practice reading Swedish or be lazy with the English.

I love the way the lead dancer can operate the eyelids and brows.

But the best part may have been the Chinese New Year celebrations. The museum hosted some performances outside the main building (which seemed to be former barracks atop the highest point of the island), which included lion and dragon dancers, and a speech by the Chinese Ambassador to Sweden.

The ambassador spoke in English (I thought that an interesting choice), and praised Sweden and China as trade partners: China has shown the world how a developing country can grow, he said, and Sweden, how a developed country can function sustainably.  I could not tell if his comments held offense.

He was perhaps unintentionally funny in invoking the year of the rabbit.  The Chinese, he said, see rabbits as peaceful, but quick to seize opportunity.  He closed his comments with a call to action:  “Let’s do as the rabbits do!”

He meant economic cooperation and development.  And, yes, my mind did go the other way.

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