New exhibition to showcase traditional arts of East Asia

Visitors to the University of Aberdeen's Sir Duncan Rice Library Gallery will have an opportunity to view some of the finest artworks from the University's collections at a new exhibition.

Substance to Style explores the creative use of different materials used across East Asia to create unique and exceptional pieces of art.  It will showcase items such as Japanese netsukes, three-thousand-year-old Chinese bronze vessels, a volume of a rare Chinese encyclopaedia and a Samurai suit of armour.

The free exhibition explores how these materials were important in China, Japan and Korea and were worked to create impressive carvings, paintings, clothing and sculptures that are now in the care of the University.

The exhibition is the result of a review of the collections undertaken by the Museums and Special Collections team with curators from National Museums Scotland (NMS) and will be enhanced by objects on loan from NMS including Korean pottery and Japanese wood block prints.

Over the past year staff have rehoused much of the University’s vast collections from China and Japan and updated the information available on the online catalogues.

The collections review saw hundreds of objects repacked to improve storage conditions and the long-term care of these irreplaceable collections. The project is a partnership with National Museums Scotland, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. It has also benefitted from work by scholars from Shanghai Museum.

On Friday (March 28)  Dr Qin Cao, National Museums Scotland Chinese Collections Curator will visit the Library to give a one-off talk about Chinese collections held in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. She will explain her involvement with the installations of Chinese collections both in permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions in Scotland

The talk will be held in the Sir Duncan Rice Library from 6pm to 7pm and is free to attend.

Curatorial Assistant Hannah Clarke has been heavily involved in the project. She said: “Working with the curators from National Museums has been a real eye-opener for me personally. Until now, I was very unaware of the rich and diverse collection of artefacts from East Asia hidden in our stores. Not only have we been able to improve the accessibility of these collections through our project work, it’s also a real joy that we can showcase the stories behind them in this exhibition.”

Christina Mackenzie, curatorial assistant working on the development of the exhibition, added: “We’re creating a contemplative space with the exhibition, somewhere that visitors can not only learn about the extraordinary history of creative arts in East Asia but also have the chance to see some of the most beautiful and rare objects from the University’s collections.”

The exhibition has been developed with National Museums Scotland as part of the Ancient Egypt and East Asia National Programme in support of the new galleries which opened at the National Museum of Scotland in February 2019.

It will run until August 22 in The Gallery in The Sir Duncan Rice Library, Bedford Road, Aberdeen. The exhibition is open for all to visit and is free with no booking required. For further details visit