in the collective memory of literati from ming (1368-1644) and qing dynasty (1644-1911), suzhou occupies as irreplaceable rank of history and culture because suzhou is a fertile land on the south bank of yangtze river with vast and gorgeous landscape as well as fine natural conditions and social customs, a humanism gathering place for vobal civilizations and regulations as well as numerous talents, and a prosperous metropolis full of converging merchants and divers merchandise. over and above these, more concretely and sensibly, it is because of nostalgic feeling about retrogression of suzhou (proved by david’s deer running on the city wall which means the national defense is ignored by the king), romance between talents and beauties, grace and devotion of hermits and even exceedingly prodigal clothing and house, exquite dietary utensils, extravagant life frequently accompanied by kabuki women, banquets and games almost every day and so on, city impression associated with local material culture and life consumption. with all these little but valuable collective memory, suzhou in ming and qing dynasty was comparable to abbot of wordly culture and host of literary pu7rsuits from the point of view of the literati.
in the memory of literati at that time, wang shixing (1547-1598), regarded as twin scholar star of human geography together with xu xiake (1587--1641), after travelling all around china, made a true and fair comment like below: suzhou natives are intelligent, nostalgic and skilled in cloning curios. it is really difficult to differentiate the fake from the real if painting and calligraphy are copied or bronze tripods smelted and quenched by suzhou natives. they are experts in domestic power games and as a result, whatever regarded as elegant or vulgar in suzhou becomes the same anywhere else. their appreciating ability is so high that things cannot go against their judgments. for items such as study ornaments, tables, desks, beds, couches, in recent days, rosewood and pad auk lead the fashion; for styles, what leads the fashion is not handicraft but primitive simplicity. even if handicraft is indispensible, styles of shang 1600-1046ad), zhou (1046-771 bc), qin (221-206 bc) and han (202 bc – 220 ad) dynasty are adopted. people in other places of china knowingly follow suzhou examples, especially during governing time (1521-1620) of emperor jiajing, longqing and wanli. gems processed in suzhou from bamboos or stones cost over and over again a king’s ransom, such as jade horse by lu yukuang, fans by xiao guan, forged alloy by zhao liangbi. many people auctioning for these items regardless of prices are really poor in taste and crazy about curios.
during the coming exhibitions, handicraft relics will be on display, which were admired as “unique skill from wu region” by zhang dai from hangzhou at the end of ming dynasty and referred as “fashionable curio” by shen defu from jiaxing because they were indispensible to the literati at that time to enjoy graceful and leisurely life. perhaps it is more authentic and visual to let them face the visitors and narrate the history and release the memory.