Liuli China Museum

Loretta H. Yang. Healing Hand. 1993

Loretta H. Yang. Healing Hand. 1993

Liuli refers to many things in the eyes of Chang Yi and Loretta H. Yang, co-founders of the Liuligongfan and the Liuli China Museum. It refers to the artifacts found in Western Han Tomb of Emperor Liu Sheng, to ancient Tang poems, Buddhist scriptures and most importantly to the artistic style of Liuli. Liuli is an ancient lead barium glass art form that first appeared during the western Zhou Dynasty. The process referred to by the French name of pate-de-verre can be traced back to 206 B.C.-220 A.D. in China, after which point it was lost.

Visiting the Liuli China Museum located in Shanghai, was my first exposure to Liuli. The museum is currently showing an exhibit called “Why Glass?” which traces the history of glass art from the pioneering works of Emile Galle, to the creation of the American Studio Glass movement, culminating in the museums collection of works by Chang Yi and Loretta H. Yang. While the art pieces themselves where extremely enamoring, what was even more interesting was the history and creation of the museum.

Prior to 1987 Chang Yi and Loretta H. Yang were prominent figures in the film industry, Yi as a movie director and Yang as an actress. In the last project of their collaborative film career the two brought in a collection of glass as set props, soon realizing the collection held pieces from all over the world, except for China. Thus they were inspired to revive the ancient art form of Liuli and established the Liuligongfan in Tamshui, Taiwan in 1987. The creation of this glass studio reintroduced the process of pate-de-verre to China, and glass as an art form in general.

Prior to the creation of the Liuligongfan in 1987, and then the Liuli China Museum in 2006, glass was not seen as a material with which to create art in China. Meanwhile in America the Studio Glass movement began in the 1950s, quickly becoming very popular and spreading to Europe, the UK and Australia, only becoming introduced to China, and Asia as a whole with the creation of Liuligongfan ( The delay in the introduction of the Studio Glass movement in China is due in part to China closing its doors to western societies in 1949, right at the beginning of the Studio Glass movement, and only opening them in 1973. The Chinese Studio Glass movement has been greatly delayed but is currently gaining recognition as Yi and Yang pioneer this field and gain acclaim throughout the world.