Two menacing stone lions guard the entrance to the Cyrus Tang Hall of China at the Field Museum, guarding the wonders contained inside. But venture past their stony gaze and you'll be rewarded by views of countless treasures.
At William & Mary Weekend in Chicago this June, 64 alumni, students, parents and friends got to see these treasures with an amazing tour guide: Weekend Chair Michael Tang ’76, P ’13, the son of Cyrus Tang, for whom the exhibit is named.
Michael Tang is a trustee at the Field, a collections-based museum with over 40 million individually identified objects. Part of the collection is tens of thousands of Chinese artifacts, but until this exhibit opened in 2015, they did not have a permanent home.
"I said, 'Dad, here's an opportunity to leave your legacy in Chicago, for the people of Chicago, and it's something you care about,'" said Tang. "All the pieces fit together with the Cyrus Tang Hall of China."
Since the exhibit opened three years ago, it has been toured by a million and a half visitors. About 350 artifacts are on display, including the 27-foot-long scroll painting "Along the River during the Qingming Festival," which depicts an idealized vision of Chinese society in the late Ming Dynasty; shadow puppets and theater masks; objects from the 12th or 13th century Java Sea Shipwreck; and river-carved spirit stones arranged in a peaceful indoor garden.
The rooms of the exhibit are arranged thematically, covering topics like "Diverse Landscapes, Diverse Ways of Life" and "Beliefs and Practices, Symbols and Stories." Interactive screens throughout the exhibit allow visitors to explore the details of each artifact and learn about the context of each piece.
"There's so much Chinese history," said Tang. "It's really hard to fit into an 11,000 square foot room. But the curators, designers and everyone involved have done a great job. It took many years of planning and the work of scholars all over the world."
In each gallery, Tang, exhibit curators Deborah Bekken and Dr. Lisa Niziolek, and the Field's Campaign Director Steven Strohmeier were on hand to answer any questions — an example of the exclusive access to experts that attendees enjoyed all weekend long.
"I'm a proud graduate of William & Mary, and my daughter attended also," said Tang. "We have a William & Mary legacy in my family, and while I do travel out to Williamsburg, I'm so glad you were able to come here to Chicago."
See a digital version of the exhibit.Learn more about Michael Tang's journey from William & Mary to Chicago.