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08 September 2012 @ 12:53 pm
British Museum Members Open Evening (3/9/12)  
Monday evening was the September British Museum Members Open Evening & this was really why we'd come into London that day. We'd booked on the gallery talk about Chinese horses, given by Carol Michaelson, a (partially?) retired curator at the museum. She gave us a 45 minute overview of a vast swathe of Chinese history from prehistoric times through to the Tang dynasty (~9th Century AD), focusing on horses. Apparently because the Chinese have very little pasture land they never actually managed to successfully maintain a breeding population of fast horses (the Arabian type of horse that the Horse exhibition had been about) despite needing them for cavalry soldiers to defend against the northern & western nomadic tribes that frequently attacked the Chinese Empire. So one of the reasons for the Silk Route being an important part of Chinese trade was that the Chinese were frequently needing to buy more horses from the area in the Middle East that was breeding them.

The museum doesn't actually have many models of horses from China, so instead she mostly showed us pieces of chariots & horse tack, and pictures of things from other collections. And recommended the Han exhibition that we'd just been to on Friday.

Tang dynasty model horses

This was an interesting talk - these gallery talks are always pretty fascinating, because it's not formal at all it's just an expert in some field talking about something they're enthusiastic about (and generally only sticking fairly loosely to the advertised theme). And she was a good speaker too.

After the talk we decided to take a look at the new Members Room that was opening for the first time that evening, and to relax with a nice glass of wine (we'd got the train so J could have one too). And a small spot of retail therapy - J got a fluffy Ankh that he's threatening to hang from the car rearview mirror, and we picked up books for the exhibitions we'd been to.
magidmagid on September 9th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
The most recent Guy Gavriel Kay book, Under Heaven is set in ancient China, and involves intrigue around some of those 'heavenly horses'.
Margaretpling on September 9th, 2012 11:54 am (UTC)
I think I read that a year or two ago, perhaps - there was a moment during the talk when she was telling us about a rebellion when I suddenly realised that was the real event that the book was a re-telling of.
magidmagid on September 9th, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
How cool.