There, the BBC did it again.
Their new series, A History of the World in 100 Objects, here, presents 100 art objects in the British Museum collection in short, 15 minute programs. Not all are interesting: the Olmec stone mask and the Paracas carpets are fantastic objects about which not enough is known to make up a fifteen minute program. Others are smashing hits, like this Chinese Han Dynasty lacquered cup story — which has a great story to tell.
This is my favorite, so far: it is a Jomon jar — the Jomon of Japan were the first people on earth to make pottery — some fifteen thousand years ago; and they made this pot. They were an interesting people — a settled hunter-gatherer nation; their invention changed us phenomenally as a species; but this is not all: in the sixteenth century someone adopted this object, by then perhaps six or seven thousand years old, as a water pot for tea ceremony and had its inside lacquered in gold to reflect its new, precious status. The resulting object embodies many aesthetic theories associated with tea ceremony: a combination of rough and polished, the contrast of ancient and new, the idea that one honors one’s tradition by modifying it. It’s a perfect object for meditation.
See this page on the British Museum website for more photos.