Shanghai Daily 上海日报 | Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum reveals marvel of China’s impact on Islamic art

In many ways it’s a temple [Aga Khan Museum] to the graciousness of Islamic thought that is a foundation of the Aga Khan’s ethos. His Highness Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan IV commented that the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto reflects his families’ ongoing commitment to pluralism and to the promotion of understanding between civilizations, religions and races.

Oct 16,2014
by Cristoph De Caermichael, Yan Zhonghua

TORONTO, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) — The newly-inaugurated Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is a multifaceted building of fabulous architectural detail that transforms the building into being, not only a home to over 1,000 precious artifacts from the Iberian Peninsula to China but to a functioning lyrical space that uses light play to fascinate the public.

On Aga Khan Museum

The Aga Khan Museum opened in Toronto on Sept. 18, 2014. For ten years, three world-class architects worked to create the museum, the Ismaili Center and the landscaped park that connects them  … The museum and its complex are believed to give Toronto another level of sophistication to add to its jewel box collection of superb architecture.

The Aga Khan Museum will hold a collection of 1,000 Muslim texts, architectural elements, fountains, crystal, paintings and shahnameh, or epic poems, amassed by the holy leader of the Ismailis and his ancestors. (Image: Wallpaper/Aga Khan Museum)
The Aga Khan Museum will hold a collection of 1,000 Muslim texts, architectural elements, fountains, crystal, paintings and shahnameh, or epic poems, amassed by the holy leader of the Ismailis and his ancestors. (Image: Aga Khan Museum)

“Maki was asked by His Highness, to design this building based on the principles of light. Maki did that by effectively creating a lantern,” Museum Director and CEO Henry Kim told Xinhua. “This building is an outstanding and well thought through building, a very modern building and yet also use pattern and texture from the Islamic world. This is where you find the wonderful blending of cultures together.”

According to on-site architect C. Po Ma, the Aga Khan himself was very hands-on in the physical designing of the museum, conducting many on-site inspections to ensure that his vision was accurately implemented. The precise height of the exterior reflecting pools of the landscaped garden through to the veiled lighting of the Mashrabiya are just two examples of his vision for the museum. Honorable mention also goes to the Fibonacci inspired nautilus stairwell in lapis blue and the teak auditorium.

On China, Chinese Muslims and the Muslim World

Ablution Basin Jingdezhen, China, 1506–21 Porcelain Diameter 41.8 cm, height 7.5 cm AKM722  (Image: Aga Khan Museum)
Ablution Basin Jingdezhen, China, 1506–21 Porcelain Diameter 41.8 cm, height 7.5 cm AKM722 (Image: Aga Khan Museum)

An Ablution Basin was ordered by Chinese Emperor Zhengde (reigned 1505-21) for a member of his court that was Muslim. The mark on the back of the plate is from the emperor. “The overall message conveyed by the Arabic symbol Taharat (Purity) is one of harmony, between the Islamic world and China,” Kana’an concluded.

“The history of China and its influences on trade via art and textiles is long established in that region. If you are a student of Islamic art, Muslim culture and civilization you must know China’s interactions with the Muslim world through the silk routes, ” she said, adding that the museum has a narrative from the 9th century regarding ambassadorial gifts from China to the Khalif in Baghdad.

The Chinese influenced Islamic collection was donated to the Museum from the Aga Khan’s personal collection. “Many of the Chinese families in Canada may be interested to see this exhibition. Chinese music programs are part of our upcoming calendar of events. There will be artists from China and a number of lectures. There will be a one-day symposium on the relationships between China and the Muslim world in the early periods. The Aga Khan Museum has lots of stories,” Kana’an said.

On the Mission, Interconnections and Future Exhibit

A Ewer jug tells a tale about the awe that rulers of ancient civilizations held for China.<strong> “It was made in China in the 15th century and collected by Shah Jahan (reigned 1627-58), the builder of Taj Mahal, when he was the ruler in India. He was known to have been a collector of antiques, and he was fascinated by Chinese ceramics and Chinese jades.”

– Dr. Ruba Kana’an, Head of the Education and Scholarly Programs, explaining the significance of the early trade influences of Chinese art in the Islamic world.

Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds: The Cargo of the Belitung Shipwreck  (Image: Amazon.com)
Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds: The Cargo of the Belitung Shipwreck (Image: Amazon.com)

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture established the museum as part of the development network. The Aga Khan is a philanthropist and contributes considerable amounts of money in support of international social development, education and charity projects. The events of 9/11 in 2001 changed the world’s viewpoint of Islam from a peace filled religion to one of terrorism. The Aga Khan’s goal is to stimulate global change that allows the world to see a less intimidating face of Islam to the world, in as much as China struggles with a global perception of dysphoric internal affairs.

Beijing has a mosque built in the 10th century, establishing a centuries old connection to Islam. The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto celebrates the extraordinary longevity of interconnection, which may seem superficially disparate but upon closer examination displays an enigmatic interlaced knot.

The Aga Khan Museum and its legacy of Chinese influenced Islamic art, continues its legendary display through The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route, an exhibition that begins Dec. 13, 2014, and runs to March 15, 2015. In 1998, an Arab ship carrying goods from China was discovered at the bottom of the Indian Ocean off Belitung Island, Indonesia. Dating back to the 9th-century (China’s Tang Dynasty), it reveals the interconnections between two great powers, the Tang and Abbasid Empires, whose influence collectively stretched from the East China Sea to North Africa.


Post adapted from Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum reveals marvel of China’s impact on Islamic art – click any of the newspaper logos below to read at the source.
 
Story originally appearing at:
Shanghai Daily,上海日报
 
 
 
 
 
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All stories from Ismailimail reporting from Toronto:

Aga Khan Museum: Welcomes the World – Doors Open to the Public

Ismailimail | Jubilation: Memories of Toronto


Aga Khan Museum Inauguration – Media & Press Coverage

The Prime Minister’s Office | 24 SEVEN Exclusive: PM marks opening of Ismaili Centre, Aga Khan Museum and Park

The Wall Street Journal | The Aga Khan’s New Islamic Treasure Trove

Forbes | A Museum Gifted By Aga Khan

The Washington Post | Pulitzer Prize-winning Art and Architecture Critic writes about Aga Khan Museum & Ismaili Centre in Toronto

The Globe & Mail | Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, opening this week, is a world-class showcase for Islamic art

Newsweek | Aga Khan Museum: Enlightened Islam Fights Back Against Jihadist Brutality

Al Jazeera | Aga Khan Museum: Inside N America’s first Islamic art museum

Al Arabiya – العربية | Video: Aga Khan: Canada’s first Islamic Art Museum

Fast Company | Ainsley O’Connell: A Look Inside Fumihiko Maki’s Gorgeous New Museum For Islamic Art

The Guardian | Aga Khan Museum: North America finally gets a home for Islamic art


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