Is the Chinese civilization Egyptian?

China and Egypt Exhibition on the "cradles of the world" in Berlin

everyday life

The life worlds of the ancient Chinese and ancient Egyptian societies are told using statues, jewelry, ceramics and cosmetic containers.

Stalk end in the shape of a human face, bronze, Western Zhou dynasty, 1050–771 B.C. u. Z., © Shanghai Museum
Wine vessel in the shape of an owl, clay, painted, Western Han dynasty, 206 BC C.E. - 8 C.E., © Shanghai Museum

Gui bowl with "snail creatures", bronze, Western Zhou dynasty, 1100–770 BC u. Z., © Shanghai Museum

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Both Egypt and China are among the oldest written cultures in the world. The earliest written documents from China include strips of bamboo and the so-called oracle bones. They are juxtaposed with hieroglyphic evidence from ancient Egypt.

Book of the Dead of Ta-remetsch-en-Bastet, papyrus inscribed and painted, Early Ptolemaic Period, 332–246 BC u. Z., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Andreas Paasch

Cult of the dead

Precious grave goods tell of the cult of the dead in both societies, of rites and burial customs. The Chinese saw jade as the stone of immortality. Chinese jade amulets were not only intended to protect the living, but also to serve as talismans for the deceased on their journey to the afterlife. As a spectacular highlight of the exhibition, for the first time in Germany a jade robe is related to a richly painted mummy cover from ancient Egypt.

Shabti of Psammetich, green faience, late period, 26. – 27. Dynasty, 664–405 BC u. Z., © Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sandra Steiß
Servant figure, clay, painted, Western Han dynasty, 206 BC C.E. - 8 C.E., © Shanghai Museum

Jade robe with silver threads, jade, Western Han dynasty, 206 BC CE - 8 CE, © Xuzhou Museum

Ta-Scherit-en-Hor mummy mask, cardboard, primed, painted and partially gilded, Ptolemaic period, 323–30 BC u. Z., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Margarete Büsing
Mummy cover of the Nes-Chons-pa-cheret, cardboard, primed and painted, Third Intermediate Period, 23rd Dynasty, 756–722 BC u. Z .., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Sandra Steiß

Beliefs

In addition to a multitude of natural forces, the ancient Chinese especially revered their deceased ancestors. The boundaries between the earthly and the divine world became blurred. Together with Egyptian statues and steles, the exhibition shows the various worlds of gods, cults and forms of religious worship.

Rule & Administration

In Egypt, the pharaoh ruled as godlike sole ruler at an early stage. The Chinese empire, on the other hand, was ruled by an extensive network of aristocratic families for a long time before the first emperors. These demonstrated their power and prosperity through abstract symbols and not, as in Egypt, through representations of the ruler. By juxtaposing the forms of representation, the different structures of rule can be experienced.

Standing figure of a queen, Grauwacke, New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, Ramses II., 1279–1213 BC u. Z., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Jürgen Liepe
Double statue of Nefer-hor and his wife, limestone, New Kingdom, 19th – 20th centuries. Dynasty, 1292-1070 BC u. Z., © Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sandra Steiß

China and Egypt in Berlin

For the first time, ancient Egyptian and ancient Chinese exhibits will be presented together in the Neues Museum on Museum Island Berlin. With significant loans from the Shanghai Museum and supplemented by objects from the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, numerous exhibits from the “Middle Kingdom” will be on view in Berlin for the first time. The exhibition shows around 250 unique art treasures from both high cultures and covers a period from 4500 BC. C.E. up to the Greco-Roman period 332 B.C. C.E. to 312 C.E. Using five subject areas - lifeworlds, writing, rule and administration, cult of the dead and worlds of belief - similarities and differences between the two societies are made clear.

China and Egypt: images

  • Servant figure, clay, painted, Western Han dynasty, 206 BC C.E. - 8 C.E., © Shanghai Museum
  • Shabti of Psammetich, green faience, late period, 26. – 27. Dynasty, 664–405 BC u. Z., © Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sandra Steiß
  • Stalk end in the shape of a human face, bronze, Western Zhou dynasty, 1050–771 B.C. u. Z., © Shanghai Museum
  • Standing figure of a queen, Grauwacke, New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, Ramses II., 1279–1213 BC u. Z., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Jürgen Liepe
  • Jade robe with silver threads, jade, Western Han dynasty, 206 BC CE - 8 CE, © Xuzhou Museum
  • Mummy cover of the Nes-Chons-pa-cheret, cardboard, primed and painted, Third Intermediate Period, 23rd Dynasty, 756–722 BC u. Z .., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Sandra Steiß
  • Wine vessel in the shape of an owl, clay, painted, Western Han dynasty, 206 BC C.E. - 8 C.E., © Shanghai Museum
  • Wine vessel in the shape of an ox, bronze, Late Shang period, 13th – 11th centuries. Century BC u. Z., © Shanghai Museum
  • Ta-Scherit-en-Hor mummy mask, cardboard, primed, painted and partially gilded, Ptolemaic period, 323–30 BC u. Z., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Margarete Büsing
  • Book of the Dead of Ta-remetsch-en-Bastet, papyrus inscribed and painted, Early Ptolemaic Period, 332–246 BC u. Z., © Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, State Museums in Berlin, Andreas Paasch
  • Double statue of Nefer-hor and his wife, limestone, New Kingdom, 19th – 20th centuries. Dynasty, 1292-1070 BC u. Z., © Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sandra Steiß
  • Gui bowl with "snail creatures", bronze, Western Zhou dynasty, 1100–770 BC u. Z., © Shanghai Museum

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