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Royal Taste OCTOBER 2015

'A stunning collection of priceless antiques'

The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was fittingly known as the ‘Empire of Great Brightness’; its contribution to visual culture shone throughout China, and shines still. Hubei, above all other provinces, had a unique significance to the dynasty: over one-fifth of Ming princes had fiefs in the region, and the shining relics they left behind speak to their influence. 

Blue-and-white men, gods and monsters dance, fight and adventure across the sleek flanks of ceramic; gold demons snarl and leap, every bit as impressive now as they were when they were first crafted; a phoenix, bedecked with gems, perches atop a crown, her wings flared open in a mantle of protection and authority. The power and prestige of the princes of Hubei resonate through the ages; a glimpse of a gold-flecked statue of a warrior, or the examination of a delicate sketch of a scholar immersed in a scroll, transports the viewer to another world. The Empire of Great Brightness glows from the pages of Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth Century China, just as it shone in its three hundred years in power. 

Published to accompany the exhibition at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, this book provides the latest scholarship on Ming visual culture. More than 140 works of pictorial, sculptural and decorative art on loan from China reveal the inner life of princes outside the capitals; their palatial practices, how they prayed, and what they believed about the afterlife. 

This book draws on the latest scholarship in Ming visual culture, weaving together the pinnacle in academic thought with striking artwork. Important archeological finds from the Hubei region are placed in a wider historical and cultural context and the role of Wudangshan in Ming China is reassessed. Royal Taste couples exquisite images with fascinating text to draw the reader into the princely courts – reading it evokes the weight of a crown, the shuffle of silk robes, the chatter of courtiers. 

As SRQ Magazine describes it, this is a ‘stunning collection of priceless art’ that should not be missed.