August 2016

I’ve been doing voluntary work at the MEAA since the beginning of this year. The volunteer experience was an important part of my short one-year experience living in Bath, because I have made so many friends including visitors from different countries as well as staff at the Museum.

More importantly, I have gained a deeper understanding about ancient Chinese culture than before, and I’ve been deeply impressed by the passion of so many Western people for East Asian history and culture.

East Asian life, 2nd floor, MEAA

I’ve worked as a MEAA Gallery Volunteer on the second floor of the Museum, since the re-organisation of the exhibits in June. The theme of this gallery is Chinese Symbolism and objects of East Asian life. I’ve learned a lot through getting familiar with the exhibits and reading related introductory books about symbols in Chinese culture. From colours to animals, different objects represent a unique cultural meaning, which is the ‘glamour’ of ancient history and human civilisation.

View our permanent collection online HERE.

Before I volunteered at the MEAA, what I knew about symbols in Chinese culture was very little and superficial such as ‘red for happiness’ or ‘dragons for royalty’. During my process of getting familiar with the objects so closely and communicating with different visitors, I’ve gained a deeper understanding about symbolic culture, such as the meanings of different birds, flowers and food, which has made me marvel at the rich imagination of ancient people as well as their passion for a better life.

One of my favourite objects is the beautiful blue mountain-shaped brush rest.

Turquoise glazed five-peaked brushrest, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)
Turquoise glazed five-peaked brushrest, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

The reason I like it is that is boasts both function and beauty. I love the bright blue colour and the natural shape of five peaks. Through researching at the MEAA, I knew that mountains are symbols of the immortals and pastoral life, reflecting people’s good wishes. In addition such a vivid miniature is used to place writing brushes, which is quite unique in Chinese culture. I think maybe many people nowadays do not have such as taste of enjoying life as the ancient people did.

– Xiaochen successfully completed her MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the University of Bath, UK.