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Interviews

Master of Arts: Wang Xizhi in Japan and China

For centuries, Wang Xizhi (c. 303-361 CE) has been revered as the “Sage of Calligraphy” across East Asia. Born in the town of Linyi, in Shangdong, China, during the tumultuous years of the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE), Wang revolutionized and reinvigorated this traditional art through his mastery of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, including the notoriously difficult semi-cursive or “walking script.” A legend in his lifetime, Wang’s works were avidly copied by aspiring calligraphers across ancient China. Over the centuries, original pieces by Wang were lost and only exquisitely traced copies remain. Today, many of these copies are kept in Japan and revered as “national treasures.”

This winter, the Tokyo National Museum, in Tokyo, Japan, celebrates the life and legacy of China’s most admired calligrapher in Wang Xizhi: Master of Calligraphy. Reflecting on Wang’s style and artistic prowess, this exhibition seeks an authentic image of an elusive artist, reevaluating his artistic role and legacy through his influence on successive artists in China and Japan. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Tomita Jun–an expert on Chinese calligraphy and the show’s curator–with regard to Wang Xizhi’s enduring place in art history.

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Interviews

Ethereal Peru: An Interview with Director Nathalie Bondil of the MMFA

Peru is one of six “cradles of civilization,” from which a series of advanced societies emerged. Characterized by remarkable artistic expression and technological innovation, successive Andean cultures thrived among the peaks and valleys of the Andes until the armies of Francisco Pizarro vanquished the Inca in 1532 CE. Nevertheless, primordial, symbolic imagery–mythical, ritualistic, and spiritual–continued to shape the artistic spectrum, precipitating a wave of nationalist affirmation in modern times.

Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon provides a retrospective presentation of Peru’s history through an exploration of identity, spirituality, and indigenous collective memory as reflected in art. In this world exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Ms. Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal), with regard to this exhibition’s unique focus and meticulous organization.

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Interviews

Pharaoh Up-Close: An Interview with Dr. Garry J. Shaw

The civilization of ancient Egypt is at once timeless and ethereal with remarkable cultural continuity and towering monuments. From the time of the semi-mythological Menes to the Roman Diocletian, it was also a civilization was guided by the rule of the legendary pharaohs. A king, priest, judge, and warrior, all in one, the pharaohs played a defining role in shaping Egyptian life and culture for thousands of years.

In this special feature interview, James Blake Wiener speaks with Dr. Garry J. Shaw, a British Egyptologist, who teaches at the Egypt Exploration Society in London, UK. Shaw’s latest work is The Pharaoh: Life at Court and on Campaign, which highlights the multifarious roles the Egyptian Pharaoh fulfilled within ancient Egyptian civilization.

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Interviews

An Enduring Fascination with Lebanon: A Conversation with Dr. Marielle Martiniani-Reber

Unique among the countries of the Middle East, Lebanon is a mélange of diverse peoples, cultures, and religious creeds. For centuries, it lay at the crossroads of civilizations with a history marked by the ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, European Crusaders, Mamluks, and the Ottomans. With over 60 centuries of human history, Lebanon’s countless archaeological treasures and stunning works of art beguile and mesmerize the world.

Fascinating Lebanon (Fascination du Liban), now on show at the Musée Rath (Musées d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève) in Geneva, Switzerland, surveys the role of religion and the arts in Lebanon’s history. Featuring a selection of 350 archaeological objects and works of art–never before seen in Europe–Fascinating Lebanon reveals the social and artistic elasticity of Lebanon’s religious and cultural past through the presentation of votive statues, ancient sarcophagi, Byzantine mosaics, Crusader coins, Mamluk garments, in addition to Melkite icons and manuscripts. In this brief interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Marielle Martiniani-Reber, Curator-in-Chief of Applied Arts, Byzantine and post-Byzantine collections at the Musées d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève, about this extraordinary display of Lebanese patrimony.