Anyang: China’s Ancient City of Kings is the first major exhibition in the United States dedicated to Anyang, the capital of China’s Shang dynasty (occupied ca. 1250 BCE–ca. 1050 BCE). The source of China’s earliest surviving written records and the birthplace of Chinese archaeology, Anyang holds a special connection with the National Museum of Asian Art. In 1929, one year after Academia Sinica began archaeological work at the Bronze Age site, Li Chi assumed leadership of the excavations. At the time, he was also a staff member of the Freer Gallery of Art (1925–30). To promote archaeological practice in China, the Freer supported Li Chi and his first two seasons of work at Anyang. This collaboration, predicated on the advancement of scientific knowledge and the protection of cultural patrimony, marks an important chapter in the history of Sino-American relations.
Anyang: China’s Ancient City of Kings will feature over two hundred remarkable artifacts—including jade ornaments, ceremonial weapons, ritual bronze vessels, bells, and chariot fittings—drawn exclusively from the museum’s permanent collection. Explore the early development of Chinese writing, enduring ritual practices, innovations in weaponry and warfare, advances in design and manufacturing, and the highly personal spaces of tombs, including objects chosen for the afterlife. The exhibition will include a series of digital activations developed in partnership with award-winning production studio UNIT9 that will allow visitors to dive deeper into the life of the city.