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Spring Festival in Kyiv

Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Art presents an exhibit of Chinese art “Flowers and Birds”
05 February, 09:52

Chinese New Year – Chun Jie, which means Spring Festival, is the most important holiday for the Chinese people. According to the lunisolar calendar, this year it will come to the residents of the Celestial Empire on February 11. However, in Ukraine in the exhibition halls of the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Art it has already come. Recently, an exhibition of Chinese art, dedicated to this holiday, opened here.

While thousands of human feet are moving in a hurry along frosty streets of Kyiv, here, in the museum halls on the elegant scrolls trees, daffodils, peonies, lotus flowers, and orchids are slowly blossoming out with traditional spring bloom. Fantastic phoenixes are proudly watching around, and somewhere swallows, scared by someone, are flying away and blue magpie is looking from the plum tree blossom as if it knows some life wisdom hidden from us…

“The word ‘plum’ in Chinese sounds similar to the word that means ‘eyebrows,’” explained Marta LOHVYN, curator of the exhibition. “And the word ‘magpie’ sounds similar to the word ‘joy.’ Thus, joy and happiness on eyebrows means the happiness that has already come. It is that close – you need to only thrust out your hand…”

Chinese classic painting has a unique distinction between genres: it’s “people and things,” “mountains and water,” and “flowers and birds.” Each scroll of a genre is filled with kind symbols designed to bring its owner various blessings. Sometimes images can be metaphors – they compare phenomena in the animal world with what happens in human society. By the way, this ancient symbolism was carried through the centuries by Chinese masters of painting.

KhanenkosMuseum, staying true to the traditions, has once again demonstrated to its visitors exhibits from its collection in the genre “flowers and birds.” By the way, art critics consider this genre to be most colorful and decorative because it most precisely conveys man’s admiration of nature, its diversity, and perfection.

The exhibition, along with everyday life items, including fans, gowns, and traditional porcelain, also features some rare Chinese scrolls from the 16th and 17th-19th centuries. There are over 350 such exhibits in the museum’s collection and it is considered to be the largest and most valuable collection of art works in “flowers and birds” genre.

“Chinese painting, presented in the collection of our museum is not only our pride, but also the heritage of our country. I still well remember the time when these Chinese scrolls were the subject of jealousy on the part of many countries,” told Halyna BILENKO, head of the Oriental Division of the Khanenkos Museum. “It happened so that this collection of Oriental art was settled here in Kyiv and we can thank destiny for that.”

Museum staff say that the first scroll for the current collection of the world importance was purchased in the early 20th century by the founder of the museum – Bohdan Khanenko. Art collection was also replenished by the state. However, the collection got its largest part in the early 1960s, when it received a gift from the spouses Andre Stefan and Taisia Zhaspar. After Stefan’s death, Zhaspar, Russian by origin, moved to Kyiv and gave the personal collection, which has been assembled during the visit of her family to Shanghai in 1928-48, to the museum. In her private correspondence with prominent people, including the royal family in France, Zhaspar repeatedly mentioned the collection and explained that her husband really wanted to give it to a museum in Kyiv, so that the residents of this city would learn more about the best of oriental art…

Exhibition “Flowers and Birds” will be open until March 17.

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