With slim, long legs and—in the case of males—magnificent antlers, the deer is a graceful artiodactyl mammal that is broadly represented in Chinese visual and literary culture. In Book of Poetry, we come to adore the gentleness of the deer depicted in lines like "with pleased sounds the deer call to one another, eating the celery of the fields". Meanwhile, we are all familiar with phrases that associate the creature with political power.
In this exhibition, Nanjing Museum and the Art Museum of The Chinese University of Hong Kong jointly explore multiple meanings of the deer in Chinese art. In ancient China, the deer was regarded as a mediator to the supernatural world and also a symbol of auspiciousness and longevity. This is proved by the traces of deer-related elements discerned in agricultural rituals and divination practices. Thanks to the support of Nanjing Museum, this exhibition features a variety of deer-related artifacts, such as a bronze deer that is listed as a'First-grade-National-Treasure' and a lacquer tomb-guarding beast with deer antlers. The two objects are both from early tombs, which best exemplify the historical significance of the deer.
Curated by Chen Gang, Research Associate of Nanjing Museum, the show is the fruit of Mr. Chen's participation in the third Museum Professionals Training Workshop sponsored by the Bei Shan Tang Foundation in 2016. The Friends of the Art Museum, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, generously provided the funds for the exhibition.