Take away a sense of China's cultural diversity

24th September 2004 at 01:00
One Million Days in China

Burrell Collection

Pollok Country Park, Glasgow

until February 13

To book a visit and workshop, tel 0141 565 41123


Touch and smell boxes, Chinese fortune sticks, teach yourself Chinese listening posts and other interactive features at the One Million Days in China exhibition are designed to appeal to family groups visiting the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.

One newspaper arts reviewer criticised the show for including them, but the teachers attending a special preview evening earlier this month were delighted that it was so accessible. "These are just the sorts of things our pupils would like," they said.

The exhibition has been designed to create a context for 150 objects in Sir William Burrell's Chinese collection (which is more than 10 times that size), including earthenware, ceramics, bronzes, jade, Chinese painting and textiles. Its curator, Emma Leighton, 25, has been fascinated by Chinese art and culture all her life. Her great grandfather learned Mandarin when he worked in Shanghai and she remembers hearing him speak it.

"China is such an important country," she said, "but most of us will never experience it at first hand because it's so far away. An exhibition like this can introduce people to China's language, art and history, using ancient objects as the focus."

Visitors will discover why roof tiles in the Imperial City were decorated with figures of ferocious animals, how oracle bones helped Chinese emperors communicate with their ancestors and what a massive 400-year-old earthenware pot was used for.

Pre-5s who come to the show are in for an especially good time. If booked in advance, they can have exclusive use of a pagoda-shaped activities tent where they can try on Chinese costumes, take part in a Chinese tea party and try eating noodles with chop sticks.

The education programme that accompanies the show includes sessions for pre-5s and art and design workshops for P1-P7.

An attractive website, illustrated with dozens of objects, covers each of the main topics in the exhibition, including philosophies and religion, ancient China and Communist China, with poster art that can be downloaded.

Almost 100 teachers turned up for the special preview, attracted by the prospect of a private tour of the show, a talk with the curator and a teachers' pack for art and design lessons.

The 14 lessons are aimed at levels B, C and D in the 5-14 curriculum but can be adapted for pre-5s, who are one of the target groups for One Million Days in China.

The creator of the pack, Diane Mitchell, who has previously produced an art and design pack for Scottish Borders, assured teachers that although the lessons are tied to individual items in the exhibition, they are "geared to materials you should have in the classroom store cupboard" and would each take about an hour to complete.

If primary teachers don't queue up to bring their pupils to the exhibition, with artefacts dating back more than a million days, then it won't be for lack of trying on the museum's part.

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