“The Cyrus Tang Hall of China at The Field Museum” by S.M. O’Connor

The Cyrus Tang Hall of China is a semi-permanent exhibit at The Field Museum of Natural History that opened on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 and is scheduled to close Saturday, December 31, 2050.  This exhibit includes textiles, sculptures, bronzes, rubbings, and ceramics that were produced over thousands of years of Chinese history, including artifacts recovered from the 13th Century Java Shipwreck.

Guests can scroll through a twenty-seven-foot-long handscroll painting that depicted the Qingming Festival, also known as the Ching Ming Festival (and, in English, Tomb-Sweeping Day and Ancestors’ Day) in a riverside city.  They can also go backstage for a glimpse of how puppeteers staged shows in Chinese shadow puppet-theater.

The exhibit is comprised of five galleries filled with 350 artifacts that curators chose from The Field Museum’s collections of 33,000 archeological, historical, and ethnographic artifacts.  These include Neolithic pottery and jades, bronzes from the era of the Shang Kingdom (1766-1122 B.C.) and Zhou Kingdom (1046-771 B.C.), burial objects from the Han Empire (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) and Tang Empire (618-907 A.D.), ceramics from the Song Empire (960-1279 A.D.) and the Ming Empire (1368-1644), Buddhist and Daoist sculptures from multiple eras, as well as the aforementioned rubbings, textiles, and paintings.  The Field Museum’s own curators consulted dozens of experts around the world to provide insights about these objects.

The Field Museum stated in a press release on March 16, 2015, “In a first for the Museum, China enables visitors to create their own experience throughout the exhibition.  Touchscreen interactive labels allow visitors to choose from an array of stories about each object, based on visitors’ interests.  Visual media also enhances the visitor experience – one highlight is a video presentation of a Chinese shadow puppet performance.  Filmed from both the viewer and the backstage perspectives, visitors can appreciate the artistry from either side of the screen.”

The organization of the exhibition combines a thematic and chronological approach.  Curators structured China’s five galleries around particular themes, ranging from the country’s diverse landscapes to political systems to traditional beliefs and practices.

Highlights in China include a 27-foot-long hand scroll painting detailing a panorama of life along a riverside city during spring, objects used by students and scholars, statues of temple guardians, a divination text in the rare Naxi language, and masks from the Museum’s rich Chinese theater collection.

Gary Feinman, Ph.D., The Field Museum’s Curator of East Asian Anthropology, stated, “While art museums typically highlight the aesthetic and contextual qualities of specific objects, the Cyrus Tang Hall of China will tell the stories of the people who used them the traditions they forged, and the legacies of that history that underlays and helps us understand the present.”

Dr. Berthold Laufer (1874-1934), who served as The Field Museum’s first Curator of Asian Anthropology from 1908 to 1934, led two major expeditions to China in the early 20th Century, in 1908-1910 and 1923, and his acquisitions form the core of The Field Museum’s Chinese collections.  A sinologist, Dr. Laufer held a deep appreciation of Chinese history and culture.  He amassed close 19,000 archeological, historical, and folk objects that span from the Neolithic period to the early 20th Century.  The artifacts and artworks he collected reflected diverse aspects of Chinese culture across time and geographical regions, including religion, the arts, daily life, and classes.

In addition to a selection of objects Laufer brought back from China, the exhibit also showcases The Field Museum’s collection of materials from the Java Sea Shipwreck, highlighting the exchange of ideas and goods that took place through trade.  These artifacts were excavated from the wreck of a 12th or 13th Century trading vessel.  The objects, an amalgamation of cargo and personal effects of the ship’s crew, point to complex socioeconomic relationships between the Chinese Empire, South Asian states, and beyond.  Note that as part of the creation of new Chinese exhibit, The Field Museum rebranded the existent display of 800 Tibetan artifacts the “Cyrus Tang Hall of China Tibetan Gallery.”

The Field Museum stated, “China wraps up in the ‘East Garden,’ a contemplative space where visitors can relax after viewing the exhibition.  Inspired by Chinese rock gardens, the space has a contemporary feel with strong connections to nature and classic Chinese aesthetics.  Eight spirit stones – donated to the Museum by the Municipal Government of Suzhou, China –serve as the centerpiece for the East Garden.  In traditional Chinese gardens, spirit stones often resemble mountains and inspire visions of idealized landscapes.”  This was later renamed the Sue Ling Gin Garden.

“The Cyrus Tang Hall of China is another example of the breadth of world-class exhibits available to Chicago residents and visitors at The Field Museum,” stated Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a Field Museum press release on August 26, 2014.  “The rich history and expansive scope of these artifacts will provide Chicago with more educationally enriching opportunities and one of a kind cultural and historic experience on our renowned Museum Campus.  I look forward to experiencing the exhibition when it opens next year.”

The eighth episode of Museum Access marked the show’s return to The Field Museum and producer-hostess Leslie Mueller again interviewed Jaclyn Johnston, The Field Museum’s Director of Public Relations.[1]  Ms. Johnston said, “We all know China as a powerful and complex country today, but this really takes us back through 5,000 years of their history.”

Cyrus Tang (1930-2018) immigrated to the U.S.A. with his family as a young man in 1950.  Ms. Mueller related, “Through hard work and perseverance, he became a successful businessman, and founded or acquired over one hundred companies.”  Tang owned companies in three industries in four countries: steel, pharmaceuticals, and furniture.[2]  He was President and Chief Executive Officer of Tang Industries, Inc., a diversified holding company.  At the time of his death, he was Co-President and Co-Chairman with Tang Zhongying.  Founded in 1971 and based in Las Vegas, Tang Industries, Inc. included subsidiaries in metal distribution, processing, stamping, assembly, trading, and recycling in North America.  It also engaged industrial products and services, pharmaceutical, furniture, and real estate businesses.  Tang Industries, Inc. has or had subsidiaries in the U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, and China.  He gave $150,000,000 to three foundations dedicated to “education, healthcare and community involvement.”[3]  In China, he gave out more than 10,000 scholarships with the provision the recipients render community service and built hundreds of schools and hospitals.[4] He supported research centers on traditional Chinese medicine in China and at The University of Chicago; a Sino-American institute at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California; and “nonpartisan voter education, analysis and demographic research at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles.”[5]

The three foundations are under the umbrella of the Tang Foundations.  Operating in China, the Cyrus Tang Foundation channels funds toward programs in education, public health, and “fostering community spirit.”  Operating in the U.S.A., the mission of the Cyrus Chung Ying Tang Foundation is to foster greater respect and understanding between the U.S.A. and China through community service and cultural exchange, as well as promoting education and healthcare amongst Americans and civic activities that enable Asian immigrants to integrate into American society.  The purpose of the Tang Foundation for the Research of Traditional Chinese Medicines is to “gain a greater understanding into the theory and usage of traditional Chinese medicines by applying both eastern and western research and development methodologies; and by fostering a spirit of co-operation among those engaged in the work.”  The Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research at the University of Chicago was founded in January of 2000.  The Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research at the Institute of Chinese Materia Medica, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences was founded in Beijing in May of 2000.

The Cyrus Chung Ying Tang Foundation stated it was “proud to be the presenting sponsor of the Cyrus Tang Hall of China.  This extraordinary exhibition will help millions understand the great sweep of history influencing modern China.  The exhibition explores China’s origins, its traditions, and its people’s resilience over many centuries.  Through hundreds of rare and historic objects, the exhibition illustrates how Chinese culture has changed over the centuries while also maintaining a unique connections to its past.  The Cyrus Tang Hall of China also features groundbreaking technologies that give visitors the opportunity to explore China in new ways, setting a standard for how exhibitions promote cultural understanding.”

Additional support came from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund in Memory of Sue Ling Gin-McGowan.  William G. McGowan (1927-1992) headed M.C.I. for twenty-four years, during which time it transformed from a small radio service into a $9,500,000,000 telecommunications company.  His antitrust litigation helped bust up Ma Bell (the original configuration of AT&T with so-called Baby Bells in each state) which held a near-monopoly on telecommunications.  Sue Gin-McGowan (1941-2014) was Bill McGowan’s widow.  She founded the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund and served as president of its board of directors until her death in 2014.  Mrs. McGowan was the daughter of Chinese immigrants.  When she was ten years old, her father died, and she began to assume the mantle of leadership.  After attending DePaul University for one year, she went from being a Playboy Bunny to being an insurance agent to a real estate entrepreneur to founder of Flying Food Group, an airline catering company.  In March of 2015, the William G. McGowan Fund awarded The Field Museum the sum of $1,000,000.

The exhibit is also thanks to the support of Bank of America, the Rhoades and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the Efroymson Family Fund – A CICF Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Field V, Sue Ling Gin, the Henry Luce Foundation, Holly and John Madigan, Carol H. Schneider, the Suzhou Municipal Government, Captain Dave Truitt, and United Airlines. Bank of America is an Education and Community Partner.  The Field Museum Learning Center produced the China Educator Toolkit, which has resources in English and Spanish that teachers (and homeschool parents) can download and print out, as well as videos they can watch, thanks to support from Bank of America and the Efroymson Family Fund.  It was designed and developed by CHIPS-NY.

The Cyrus Tang Hall of China Exhibition Online is a preview of the exhibit for people who can make it to The Field Museum by 2050.  For those who cannot make that journey, the Cyrus Tang Hall of China Exhibition Online is a substitute for a visit to the real thing. It was made possible by the support of the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation.

The Field Museum Store sells a variety of books and gifts in the Cyrus Tang Hall of China Collection.  Currently, products in the collection range in price from $6.99 to $527.

This exhibit requires a special ticket.  It is covered by both Discovery and All-Access passes.  Special rates are available for tour operators and groups of ten or more people.  One may call the Group Sales Office toll-free at 1-888-343-5385.

25. Lanting Xu Chinese Rubbings

Figure 1 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This album is the famous Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion (Lanting Xu) by the poet calligrapher Wang Xizhi.  The Field Museum has over 7,500 Chinese rubbings: ink impressions on paper of texts and objects primarily taken from stone inscriptions.  Often, rubbings ate the only record left of bygone monuments.

22. Jade Bi Disk

Figure 2 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a jade bi disk.  Stone disks like this one, called bi (bee) were used as grave goods and were buried with high-ranking people during the Neolithic period (circa 8000-1900 B.C.).  Highly-polished, smooth bi disks were placed on the decedent’s chest or stomach.  Unpolished, uneven, or damaged disks were piled at the decedent’s feet.

19. Dragon Lid Box

Figure 3 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is ceramic box lid from the 12th or 13th Century Java Sea Shipwreck, is decorated with a dragon.  The dragon is a mythological beast that in Chinese culture could bring blessings, whereas in Christian culture dragons are associated with the Devil and in Norse mythology they were also seen as dangerous gold-hording monsters.[6]  In Chinese culture, the dragon was an auspicious creature that appeared on every type of medium from ancient pottery to imperial robes.  The dragon could represent many things, including rank, power, and control of natural forces.

20. Qingbai Ceramic Ewer

Figure 4 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a qingbai ceramic ewer from the Java Sea Shipwreck.  This ewer is covered in a translucent light-blue glaze called qingbai (pronounced ching-bai).  Shaped like a gourd, this ewer may have offered healing or protection against disease or symbolized fertility.  Its handle is shaped like a dragon.

18. Model of the Java Sea Shipwreck Vessel

Figure 5 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a model ship representing the Java Sea Shipwreck vessel.  In the 12th and 13th Centuries, many merchant ships already sailed the waters of Far East Asia and Southeast Asia.  Vessels like the Southeast Asian boat represented by this model, carried ceramics and iron from the Chinese Empire to Southeast Asian states and returned with spices and other raw materials like aromatic resin and ivory.  The Field Museum’s collections includes over 7,500 items from the Java Sea Shipwreck that reveal people, ideas, and goods were being transported over great distances over 800 years ago.

16. Shadow Puppets

Figure 6 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: These are shadow puppets from the popular Chinese tale Journey to the West (Monk,[7] Monkey King, and Pigsy).  One of the highlights of the exhibit is a video presentation of a shadow puppet performance from both the point of view of the audience and the puppeteers backstage.

15. Eight Daoist Immortals

Figure 7 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: These are sculptures of the Eight Daoist Immortals.  Taoism (also spelt Daoism) is a philosophy and religion focused on the Tao or Dao (the Way).  These eight men were legendary xian (immortals).  All had semi-historical stories that described how they achieved immortality.  Most of them are supposed to have been born under either the Tang or Song Empires.  Under later regimes, the Eight Immortals emerged as a pantheon of Daoist deities.  Each one had an attribute that made him or her easy to identify in artworks.

13. Bodhisattva

Figure 8 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a bodhisattva sculpture.  In Buddhist cosmology, the Buddha came to China accompanied by a host of attendants and bodhisattvas (enlightened beings who have not yet obtained Nirvana and remain on Earth to help humanity.  This rare piece, depicting a seated bodhisattva, is made of porcelain and dates to the era when the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 A.D.) ruled the Mongolian Empire, which included China.

12. Wine Vessel

Figure 9 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is wine vessel is a cup called a jue (jey), which likely held a single serving of wine, which was heated in a bronze vessels and served warm.  This vessel may once have held rice or millet wine that was flavored with herbs, flowers, and tree resins.  Scientists discovered these ingredients by sampling residues from similar vessels dating to the era of the Western Zhou Kingdom (1046-770 B.C.).

11. Jade Animals

Figure 10 © The Field Museum Caption: These animal figures, carved in jade and dating to the Shang Kingdom (1600-1046 B.C.) occur throughout Chinese history.  We do not have written records describing them, so we cannot be certain what they meant to the artists who made them.  The animals depicted are, from left to right, a bird, a rabbit, a bird-like creature, and an ox head.

24. Bronze Pilgrim Vessel

Figure 11 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This bronze vessel – referred to in China as a bianhu (pronounced Bee-an-hoo) or “flat vessel” – dates back to the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.) before Qin Shihuangdi (260-210 B.C.) became the first emperor of a unified China.[8]  It is a ritual vessel that once held wine, and it was eventually buried with its owner.  The flat-sided design of this vessel has been in continuous use for 2,000 years.  Similar pieces can be found through the centuries in the Middle East, China, and England, made of pottery, bronze, and porcelain.

7. Rhinoceros Horn Cup

Figure 12 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a rhinoceros horn cup, meaning it is a cup that was carved from rhinoceros horn, a material valued in China for more than its beauty.  Traditionally, rhinoceros horn was thought to detect poisons in food or drink.  [In European folklore, unicorn horn was prized for the same reason.]  Cups made from rhinoceros horn became highly prized amongst the wealthy.

14. Tomb Guardian

Figure 13 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a 3rd or 4th Century figure of a rhinoceros-like beast with three horns that was a tomb guardian.  It would have been placed near the front of a tomb to protect the decedent.  Over the centuries, tomb guardians took the form of fantastical beasts, some of which had human heads, and warriors dressed in body armor.

6. Statue of Wei Tuo

Figure 14 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a statue of Wei Tuo.  Although the form of a tomb and temple guardians changed over time, their function remained the same: to guard against evil spirits.  This four-foot-tall temple guardian is known as Wei Tuo, one of eight divine protectors in Chinese Buddhism.  Statues like this usually appeared at the entrances of temples or lamaseries.  Wei Tuo protects written wisdom and laws (the spiritual aspects of Buddhism) rather than being concerned with day-to-day affairs.

4. Imperial Robe

Figure 15 Credits: © The Field Museum Caption: The emperor of China was known as the “Son of Heaven.”  This Qing Dynasty silk robe prominently features the two-horned, five-clawed dragon, traditionally used exclusively by emperors to assert their special status.  Founded by Nurhaci (1559-1626), a Jurchen tribal chief who united the Jurchen tribes into the Manchu people, the Qing Dynasty ruled the Kingdom of Manchuria (1616-1912) and the Empire of China (1644-1912).

2. Guardian Lions

Figure 16 Credits: © The Field Museum Caption: In the empires of China, guardian lion statues stood in front of public buildings and temples, as well as the homes of government officials and wealthy individuals.  The male lion leans his right paw upon an embroidered ball (which in imperial contexts represents the aspiration to rule or at least dominate the whole planet)[9]  and the lioness nurtures a lion cub under her left paw.

9. Bronze Blades

Figure 17 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: Bronze weapons like these are often found in graves of prominent people dated to the Shang Kingdom (c. 1600-1046 B.C.), along with sacrificial victims.  These bronze blades were designed to be attached to wooden handles and wielded like a halberd or axe.

10. Qingming Scroll Painting

Figure 18 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is the aforementioned twenty-seven-foot-long painted scroll called the Qingming (Ching-ming) Scroll, commonly known as “Along the River during the Qingming Festival.”  Its is a later copy of an original Song Empire painting.  The entire silk scroll is made up of detailed images depicting daily life in a bustling town and its outskirts.  Only a small portion of the scroll is visible at a time, for conservation reasons, but visitors can explore the entire scroll through a large touch-screen.

17. Leaf Shaped Ceramic Pillow

Figure 19 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a ceramic, leaf-shaped pillow.  Ceramic pillows may look uncomfortable, but the soft curve and height are said to comfortably support the head and neck.  Headrests made of ceramic or wood have been used by different cultures in Africa, India, and the Pacific Islands.  Although ceramic pillows are no longer used today, they were used in China for approximately 1,400 years, well into the 20th Century.

5. Official's Rank Badge

Figure 20 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a rank badge of a civil official.  Under the Qing Dynasty, government officials were organized into ranks (a system the Russian Empire later adopted), each rank with its own badge.  Civilian officials wore badges with birds that represented virtues like loyalty and dignity, while military badges featured lions, tigers, and other symbols of ferocity and bravery.  A civilian official of the first and highest rank wore this badge with a red-capped crane, which represented his diligence and that he had audiences with the emperor.

3. Kingfisher Feather HeadressFigure 21 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a kingfisher feather headdress. Made from kingfisher feathers, the center of this headdress is decorated with a bat.  In Chinese, the word for bat, fú, is a homophone (a word that sounds exactly like another word with a different meaning) with words that in English mean “blessings” and “happiness.”  The bat is a common symbol for good fortune.  Symbols known as the “Three Plenties” decorate the sides; a peach (longevity), a pomegranate (fertility), and a Buddha’s Hand citron (blessings).

26. Spirit StoneFigure 22 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a Spirit Stone.  Known as “Spirit Stones” or “Scholars’ Rocks,” extravagantly-shaped limestone rocks primarily from the bottom of Taihu Lake in Suzhou, China have been used as garden ornaments and aids to contemplation for centuries.  The Municipal Government of Suzhou donated eight Spirit Stones to The Field Museum, where they are the centerpiece of the Cyrus Tang Hall of China’s Sue Ling Gin Garden (formerly the East Garden).

21. Snuff BottlesFigure 23 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: These bottles once held snuff, which is a mixture of powdered tobacco, herbs, and spices that users inhale as a stimulant.  In the 17th Century, European missionaries and diplomats introduced the Chinese imperial court to snuff.  It gained popularity among the imperial family, courtiers, scholar-officials, and others.

23. Jade Cong TubeFigure 24 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: This is a Jade Cong Tube.  Hallowed jade tubes like these are called cong (tsong), and they were used as grave goods during the Neolithic era (8000-1900 B.C.).  They come in many sizes, but each is a square tube around a circular hole.  Although it is not known what they originally symbolized, scholars since ancient times have theorized that the inner circle represents heaven and the outer square represents Earth.

The Field Museum is an institution that undertakes research and not “just” a museum.  The aforementioned Gary Feinman, Ph.D., the MacArthur Curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum, conducts survey archeology in China with colleagues at Shandong University.

This December, The Field Museum will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its foundation.  It is the anchor of the Museum Campus in Burnham Park.  Originally, it was housed within the Palace of Fine Arts in Jackson Park, which had been an art museum during the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) and now houses the Museum of Science and Industry.  F.W. Putnam, chief ethnologist of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition, encouraged The Commercial Club of Chicago to use materials from the W.C.E. to form a permanent museum. Edward E. Ayer (1841-1927) was a railroad-tie magnate who persuaded Marshall Field I (1834-1906) to donate money for what became The Field Museum of Natural History.  Rep. Robert McMurdy of Hyde Park proposed a bill that the Illinois General Assembly passed as An Act Concerning Museums in Public Parks on June 17, 1893.  The Colombian Museum of Chicago incorporated on September 16, 1893.  Retail and wholesale merchant king Marshal Field I (1835-1906), the founder of Marshall Field & Company, announced he would donate $1,000,000 to the institution on October 26, 1893. The Columbian Museum of Chicago was renamed the Field Columbian Museum on May 21, 1894.  The Field Columbian Museum opened on June 2, 1894.

The Columbian Field Museum occupied the Palace of Fine Arts from 1894 until 1920.  [Upon the exposition board naming him Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, on October 30, 1890, Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) named his partner John Wellborn Root, Sr. (1850-1891) the supervising architect and the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) the supervising landscape architect. Root died after a visit to Jackson Park on a stormy night. Burnham replaced him with Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895) as Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition and personally designed the Illinois Central Railroad Station, the Peristyle of the Court of Honor, and the Palace of Fine Arts.] Atwood designed the Palace of Fine Arts to act as a temporary fine arts museum during the World’s Fair.  Whereas most of the other buildings from the White City had been railroad sheds with plaster facades, the Palace of Fine Arts was a brick structure with a plaster façade so it would be considered fireproof by the standards of the day and owners would not fret that their artworks might burn in a city infamous for having burned down in 1871.  The Field Museum of Natural History moved in 1920 to its new home in Burnham Park, paid for with a bequest from Field, on land the Illinois Central Railroad donated to the South Park District to fulfill a provision of Field’s will that the land for the new museum building be provided free.

Ayer served as its first President of the Field Columbian Museum from 1894 to 1898.  He remained on the Board of Trustees until 1927.  Ayer was also a patron of the Chicago Historical Society, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Newberry Library.[10]  Harlow Higinbotham (1838-1919), a business partner of Marshall Field I, was President of the World’s Columbian Exposition Company and headed the World’s Columbian Exposition’s Council of Administration was a Field Museum board member from 1894 to 1919, served as the second President of the Field Columbian Museum from 1898 to 1908.  He purchased the World’s Columbian Exposition’s Tiffany gems and the George Frederick Kunz gemology and mineralogy library for the Field Columbian Museum.

In 1900, the Executive. Committee of the Board of Trustees abandon “industrial and historical collections.”  During this time, the trustees voted to focus on natural history.  Industrial and art exhibits from the World’s Columbian Museum that did not fit that vision were given back to their donors or transferred to other museums.  Marshall Field I left the Museum an $8,000,000 bequest.  This included $4,000,000 to provide an endowment and $4,000,000 for erecting a new building to house the institution, if land were provided for it within six years.  The bequest included the land under Carson Pirie Scott.  The General Assembly passed a law on May 14, 1903 that empowered Chicago’s South Park Commission to levy a tax for the maintenance of the Field Columbian Museum.  In 1905, the Field Columbian Museum changed its name to the Field Museum of Natural History.

Mail-order retail tycoon Aaron Montgomery Ward (1843-1913), who had earlier sued the City of Chicago to clean up Grant Park, said he would not oppose the new building in Grant Park if the City Council agreed not to build anything else there.  They refused, and after Ward counted twenty proposals for museums, libraries, and monuments, he sued, and in 1909 the Illinois Supreme Court again upheld him.  In 1911, the Illinois Central Railroad donated land at 12th Street adjacent to Grant Park to the Field Museum project, an act that would eventually allow for the creation of the Museum Campus around the Field Museum.  This land was not considered an addition to Grant Park, but the northeast corner of Burnham Park contiguous with Grant Park.

Stanley Field – Marshall Field I’s nephew gave the Field Museum $2,000,000, and served as Second Vice President of The Field Museum of Natural History from 1906  to 1908.  He served as third President of The Field Museum of Natural History for fifty-six years.  He was also President of the Shedd Aquarium Society, Chairman of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Building and Operating Committee, and sat on Mayor Dever’s 1926 A Century of Progress committee.  [Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition was held in Burnham Park in 1933 and ’34.]  The Field family has remained active in the operation of The Field Museum for generations.  Marshall Field V has served as Chairman of the Board of both The Art Institute of Chicago and The Field Museum.  Currently, he sits on the Board of Trustees.  His daughter, Jamee C. Field Kane, is also a Field Museum trustee.

The new Field Museum was designed by Ernest B. Graham and Peirce Anderson. Ernest Graham (1866-1936) went from being Atwood’s assistant during the World’s Columbian Exposition to become Burnham’s partner in Burnham & Company, the name Burnham had adopted in 1896, and carried on business under the name Graham Burnham & Co.  In 1917, after Burnham’s sons left the firm, Graham changed the name to Graham, Anderson Probst & White, which is the name under which the firm still operates.  His partner William Peirce Anderson (1870-1924) was point on the project.  The organization vacated the Palace of Fine Arts in 1920 and The Field Museum of Natural History opened in 1921.

The eldest of The Field Museum’s dioramas are a group of four white-tailed deer diorama, Four Seasons.  It was prepared privately by taxidermist and sculptor Carl Akeley (1864-1926) and his wife, Delia J. Akeley (1875-1970), and, in 1902, The Field Museum purchased the diorama group.   In 1908, The Field Museum of Natural History installed in the Central Rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts Carl Akeley’s African Elephant Group (two stuffed African elephants, one charging the other’s midsection).  Carl & Delia Akeley killed these elephants before he stuffed and mounted them.

Mrs. Charles (Laura) Schweppe, a daughter and co-heiress of John Graves Shedd (1850-1926), the late former partner of Marshall Field I who succeeded him as president of Marshall Field & Company, and who, under the guidance of Stanley Field, founded the John G. Shedd Aquarium, donated an exhibit of more than 100 bronze sculptures by Malvina Hoffman that represented all of the human races, nations, and tribes.  On January 9, 1933, the first bronze group, Unity of Man, went on display in Stanley Field Hall.[11]

SUE is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton yet recovered.  Her mounted bones went on display at the Field Museum on May 17, 2000.[12]  More than 10,000 people visited The Field Museum that day.

In one of the largest private gifts ever to a Chicago museum, SUE, is being remounted in a more scientifically accurate way and moved upstairs from Stanley Field Hall to the exhibit The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, as I wrote about last year.  Meanwhile, a touchable cast of the biggest dinosaur yet discovered, Patagotitan mayorum, was installed in Stanley Field Hall, as part of The Field Museum’s 125th anniversary celebrations, thanks to a $16,500,000 gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Trust.  This titanosaur cast, which strecthes across 122 feet of Stanley Field Hall, has been dubbed Máximo.

yKVqNeywFigure 25 Credit: John Weinstein, The Field Museum Caption: This is Máximo the Titanosaur and Carl Akeley’s African Elephant Group in Stanley Field Hall at The Field Museum of Natural History.


The Field Museum has over 30,000,000 artifacts and specimens.  Over 150 scientists, conservators, and collections staff members work there.

Open 364 days a year (every day but Christmas Day) from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the last admission time to The Field Museum is 4:00 p.m.  The address is 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605.  The phone number is (312) 922-9410.  The Website U.R.L. is https://www.fieldmuseum.org/.


[1] Note that as of this writing, Ms. Johnston’s title is Public Relations and Community Awareness Director.

[2] Teresa Watanabe, “He gives to stir charity in others,” Los Angeles Times, 15 June, 2008 (http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/15/local/me-tang15) Accessed 09/18/18

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] For the association of dragons with the Devil in Christian cosmology, literature, and art, see the Serpent in the Book of Genesis, the description of the Devil in the Book of Revelation, the hagiography of St. George the Dragon-slayer, and the hagiography of St. Columba.  For the depiction of dragons as dangerous predators that horded gold in Norse mythology, see Beowulf.  For a fusion of the Christian view of dragons and the European mythological view of dragons, see two works by Professor J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), his children’s book The Hobbit and faux compendium of mythology The Silmarillion.

[7] Buddhist bhikkus are often called “monks” and bhikkuni are often called “nuns” in English.

[8] Qin Shihuangdi (pronounced “chin she-wong-dee”) is a throne name.  His birth name was Ying Zheng.  At the age of thirteen, he inherited his father’s throne, which made him King Zheng of Qin.  An assassination attempt on his life in 227 B.C. inspired the film Hero (2002), which starred Jet Li.  The name for the empire he created, “China,” is derived from Qin, which is also the name of his dynasty.  The word is also spelt Kin Ch’in in English.  When he conquered the other kingdoms in what we would now call China, he invented the title huang di.  The first word was a preexistent title that meant god-king and the second was a preexistent title that meant sage-king.  This title is invariably translated into English as the Roman title emperor.  Variations on this title would be used by Chinese, Mongolian, and Manchurian rulers for over 2,000 years until the Chinese Revolution ended the reign of the last Manchurian emperor in 1911.

[9] Compare this image to the globus cruciger (known in English as an imperial orb), an orb surmounted by a cross, in the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire and various other European empires.

[10] “Famed Ayer Art Treasures Go On Block This Week,” Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1932, p. 6

[11] “Shows Bronze Group,” The New York Times, 10 January, 1933, p. 25

[12] William Mullen and Alex Bordens, “Learning from Sue,” Chicago Tribune, 16 May, 2010, Section 1, p. 4

See also William Mullen, “T. Rex Proving to be $8.3 Million Bargain for Field Museum,” Chicago Tribune, 16 May, 2010, Section 1, p. 4

1 thought on ““The Cyrus Tang Hall of China at The Field Museum” by S.M. O’Connor

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