Relics on display at China’s first Turkish antiques exhibit
By Wang Jie
Anatolian Civilizations: From the Neolithic Age to the Ottoman Empire,” the first Turkish antiques exhibition ever held in China, is displaying over 120 items from Turkey’s past at Shanghai Museum through February 20.
The exhibition is divided into three sections: the cultural heritage of the ancient Anatolia, the Seljuks Period and the Ottoman Period.
Most Chinese visitors would be familiar with the Ottoman Period, when the nation built its empire across three continents. The antiques displayed include jewelry, swords, blankets and belts, which all reflect its past glory.
One highlight is an 18th-century jeweled aigrette on loan from Topkapi Palace Museum. An aigrette is a headdress adornment — some of the most stunning aigrettes, studded with diamonds and rubies, decorated the turbans of Ottoman sultans.
The aigrette is made of gilded silver, rubies and emeralds. The adornment is a flower with tulip-shaped blossoms extending upward from the center. Emeralds hang down from the bottom. Aigrettes were used both by men and women in the past.
Another interesting item on loan from Topkapi Palace is a long, rosy robe made of silk satin, open in the front, with no collar, short sleeves and slits on sides. The front side has buttons of silk thread. Inside, there is a thin layer of cotton filling and a light brown cotton lining.
Ottoman sultans used to donate personal clothing items to the imperial treasury. After the sultan died, the clothes would be wrapped in labeled packages and kept in the inner treasury. Apart from this tradition of preserving clothes as special relics, personal kaftans, turbans and clothes were placed on coffins in tomb buildings of sultans and dynasty members.
The Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years of their 624-year reign. It’s now in Istanbul, the final capital city of the empire following the cities of Bursa and Edirne. Ankara has been the capital of Turkey since the empire’s fall in 1923.
The antiques are on loan not only from Topkapi Palace, but also from the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum and Istanbul Archeological Museums.
The exhibition also presents an overall picture of cultural developments in Anatolia from the Neolithic Age to the Eastern Roman Empire with a selection of antiquities. Information boards provide explanations on the Paleolithic and Mesolithic Ages, periods in which the first humans left their traces in Anatolia.
The exhibition is one of a series of events of “The Year of Turkey” in China which is organized by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey.