On April 22, 2019, a six-and-a-half-ton Taihu rock was loaded onto a truck near Wuxi, China, then shipped from Shanghai on the container ship Cosco Santos for a month-long ocean voyage to Houston. It then traveled by truck to the San Antonio Museum of Art and arrived May 30. This gift to the City of San Antonio from its Sister City Wuxi will be installed at the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Made of limestone that has been dramatically shaped over eons by the natural action of water, Taihu rocks have been appreciated aesthetically by the Chinese since at least the Tang dynasty (619–907). Small ones might be placed in a scholar’s studio to provide inspiration, while large ones, which can weigh several tons, have been used as sculptural elements in garden design for over a millennium. This type of rock is considered an embodiment of the yin-yang dichotomy and represents harmony between man and nature, and some of the best of them are quarried near Wuxi on the shores of Lake Taihu.
The international journey of the Taihu rock was long in the making. The plan was conceived in May, 2018, when the vice mayor of Wuxi, Ms. Liu Xia, visited SAMA while attending the Tricentennial celebration. Kelso Director Katie Luber proposed to Ms. Liu that obtaining a Taihu rock would promote Chinese art and culture in the San Antonio community.
Impressed by SAMA’s permanent collection—and, in particular, the Museum’s collection of Chinese art—Ms. Liu agreed that this would be a meaningful way to honor the sister-city relationship, and the project collaboration between China and SAMA began. In December Emily Sano, Senior Advisor for Asian Art, Shawn Yuan, Assistant Curator of Asian Art, and Luber met with Ms. Liu in Wuxi to choose a Taihu rock from among several candidates pre-selected by Wuxi specialists.
Upon its arrival at SAMA, the rock was installed outdoors so that it is visible from both the Museum and the River Walk. An unveiling and dedication ceremony will be held on November 6, 2019, attended by a delegation from the Wuxi government, San Antonio officials, and the Chinese Consulate in Houston. A public dedication ceremony will follow on November 12, 2019.
To celebrate the Taihu rock, the Museum will present an exhibition called Elegant Pursuits: The Arts of China's Educated Elite, 1400–1900 on China’s long tradition of collecting and appreciating rocks from the Wuxi Museum, November 6, 2019–February 23, 2020.