Inside the suite, guests can admire various objects belonging to Chinese culture and discover their history. Guests will find a series of teapots, which refer to the ancient culture of tea, common to China and many East Asian countries. The use of this drink derives from the ancient belief that cold water was insecure from a hygienic point of view. The tea ceremony, known also as “Cha Dao – 茶道” or “Cha Yi – 茶艺”, was born in China.
The fans on the walls recall another important aspect of the daily culture of China. Simple and unadorned or extremely precious, fans were used by both men and women, with some variations in the decorative elements.
The wall of the Suite is decorated by a reproduction of a famous painting of the Song era by the great master Zhang Zeduan (张择端), early 12th century, who painted the market of the flourishing Kaifeng, capital of the Northern Song, teeming with life and people. An extraordinary animation of this painting, the oldest in Chinese tradition, represented China at the Shanghai Expo in 2010.
The “angel” with a female appearance, floating in the center of the black lacquer disk in the bedroom, is an ancient figure called apsara. The image faithfully reproduces one of the most common motifs in the extremely rich cycle of frescoes in the cave complex of Mogao, in the Dunhuang oasis, in the province of Gansu. The extraordinary Buddhist complex, built from the IV to the XIV century, is today a UNESCO site and proves that those areas between China and central Asia a millennium ago constituted a very important junction in the dialogue between traditions, along that Silk Road that was already a crossroads of men and civilization.
A “shadow” is here exposed in its lacquered frame, reminding us of a form of art that makes use of expert artists very similar to our “puppet masters”. Today really beautiful puppets are no longer so frequent: they are now realized by laser with a very precise cut, but they cannot compete with the charm of old jointed images, made with an awl on the hard donkey skin and then colored by hand.
But let’s not forget about popular art: the colored panels that represent so many, fanciful variants of the character “fu” (福), happiness refer to it. This iconography refers to the “prints of the New Year”, a popular and peasant art form: similar artworks are hung on the doors and walls of the houses, to bring fortune for the New Year. Sometimes the character “fu” is hung “upside down”. But this is not a sign of carelessness! Chinese language often plays with words, since with the same sound we can say very different things. So, if we say that “Happiness is [hanging] upside down!”, we would pronounce a sentence that has the same sounds as the wish: “Let happiness come!”. This delightful popular ingenuity also characterizes the stories of the shadow theater.
The Suite celebrates painting together with calligraphy scroll (an autonomous art in Chinese culture) that in the local tradition, would not have hung constantly on the wall, but would rather have been drawn from time to time from its case for being admired together with cultured and refined friends, to then be put away again. The text, the “book”, realized on strips of bamboo, then on silk or paper, and printed starting from the 11th century, was the faithful friend of the Chinese official, a refined scholar who dealt with all the aspects of the administration of the empire. This function is well exemplified by the precious volume whose reproduction decorates the Suite. It is a work that dates back to the emperor Kangxi (1654-1722); made by the court painter Jiao Bingzhen (焦秉贞), it is dedicated to agriculture and weaving (耕织图, “Illustrated agriculture and weaving”) and is inspired by a similar “illustrated manual” of the XIII century, where a series of illustrations on the same theme of the artist Lou Shu (楼璹) accompanied a collection of poetic texts with a similar theme.
Some “snuff boxes”, revised in a modern form and larger than the original objects, are placed in the bathroom. They were destined for nose tobacco, and they were very precious objects, painted from the inside with great mastery by skillful artists.