Handout for the Museum of Fine Arts Trip

Looking Assignment
(for the field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Beyond the Screen Exhibit

Pick 1 object from each of the following categories. Describe the object (date, place, materials, how it was made, size). Then write a brief description fitting the object into your knowledge of the Chinese scholar's taste and lifestyle. One paragraph each:

Find an object that reflects the male identity.
Find an object used by a woman. How does it reflect feminine taste?
Find an object that tells you a lot about the scholar's "way of life." Pretend you are a detective or archeologist, tell us what you can reconstruct about the culture from the object.

Find an object which appeals to your taste. Why?

Find two objects from the wider Chinese collection at the MFA that appeal to you. Describe the objects and their significance, and why you chose them.

Things to think about when you view furniture at the "Beyond the Screen" exhibit:

Are these items necessities or luxuries?
To what extent are they decorative? To what extent functional?
How are function and form balanced?
Who used these pieces (men, women, children, adults, commoners, gentry, the imperial household?)
How were they used?
How was the furniture arranged within each "room"?
How were the pieces made?
How did Ming construction techniques affect the form?
How is "craft" important? Did the craftsman leave a mark?
What are the materials?
How are materials important?
How were the pieces acquired?
Think about cost?
How was furniture moved from place to place?
What can you tell about the lifestyle of the literati from the furniture? (activities, frequency of moves, etc.)