"Three Kingdoms Unveiling the Story" Exhibition Soon Opens at Tokyo National Museum, Featuring a Life-Size Statue of Guan Yu

This April, a 1.9-meter-tall Guan Yu figure from the Ming dynasty made headlines when it sold at auction for over HK$55m (US$7m) in Hong Kong. Another equally exceptional statue of Guan Yu will make appearance in the Tokyo National Museum at its Three Kingdoms Unveiling the Story exhibition. 

A game on the exhibition website allows you to transform yourself into characters from the story of the Three Kingdoms

The card shows you as a Three Kingdom character, as well as details of the exhibits

The museum has designed an interactive game where you can transform yourself into characters from the Three Kingdoms series. By uploading your headshot to the official website, the system automatically dresses you up as one of the characters from Dynasty Warriors, an online game based on the Three Kingdoms series.

Not only can you try this game multiple times until you get the character you like, but you can also find out details about the exhibition and exhibits on the other side of the card. The characters are divided into three levels according to how powerful they are– SSR cards represent the most powerful characters while N cards represent less important characters. 

The exhibition features a 1.72-meter-tall Guan Yu figure from Xinxiang Old City Folk Custom Museum

Guan Yu statue that sold at auction in Hong Kong last April

The exhibition celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Japan-China Cultural Exchange Agreement. It features exhibits from various museums in China, including the star of the show, a 1.72-meter-tall Guan Yu figure from Xinxiang Old City Folk Custom Museum. The figure is different from modern Guan Yu figures which usually hold a crescent blade or the Spring and Autumn Annals in one hand. The present figure is wearing an armor, his left hand presses his thigh and his right hand is making a fist. Guan Yu statues sitting in this position are rarely seen.

There is a discrepancy between the information given by the Chinese museum and the Japanese museum. The former says that the figure dates to the Qing dynasty while the later says it dates to the Ming dynasty. 

Zhao Yun. Qing dynasty, 17th - 18th century| Bozhou Museum

The exhibition is divided into seven sessions. "Prologue: Legends of the Three Kingdoms Period" tells the story of the Three Kingdoms period. A highlight is a statue of Zhao Yun from the Qing dynasty, 17th - 18th century, which depicts the military general in battle. Another featured exhibit, Guandi Temple Murals (detail) from Qing dynasty, 18th century, comes from the Inner Mongolia Museum.

Guandi Temple Murals (detail). Qing dynasty, 18th century|Inner Mongolia Museum

Jade Pig (excavated from the Cao tombs). Eastern Han dynasty|Gujing Wine Cultural Museum

Following the prologue is "Chapter 1: Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan–Tracing the Roots of the Three Great Leaders". Cao Cao, by using a power base inherited from his ancestors, wielded influence at the heart of the Han dynasty court. This enabled him to achieve supremacy during turbulent times. A highlight that you cannot miss from this session is a jade pig (excavated from the Cao tombs). In the past, the deceased would hold a jade pig in their hands to signify wealth. 

Leopard. Western Han dynasty, 2nd century BC (excavated at the tomb of Prince Liu Sheng of Zhongshan and his wife, Baoding City, Hebei, 1968) |Chinese First Grade Cultural Relic, Hebei Museum

Liu Bei founded the state of Shu. He claimed to be related to the Han imperial family and he fought to revive the Han dynasty’s fortunes. The Leopard shown above, a symbol of power, was excavated at the tomb of Prine Liu Sheng of Zhongshan and his wife. 

Cargo and Passenger Boat. Eastern Han dynasty–Three Kingdoms period (Wu), 3rd century (excavated at Tomb No. 14, Liangjuntong, Guigang City, Guangxi Autonomous, Region, 2010)|Guangxi Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Sun Quan founded the state of Wu. He forged his own unique path to power by developing a strong naval network. This exhibit, Cargo and Passenger Boat from the Eastern Han dynasty, embodies Sun's formidable power at sea. 

Brick with Chinese Characters “Cang Tian” (Blue sky). Eastern Han dynasty, 2nd century (excavated at Tomb No. 1, Yuanbaokeng, Bozhou City, Anhui, 1976–1977)|National Museum of China

Chapter 2: "The Han Dynasty–Shadow and Light" showcases the chaos in society when the imperial court was rocked by internal political strife with the reach of the Emperor Waning as well as the influence of the Yellow Turban Rebellion. A highlight of this chapter is a brick with Chinese characters “Cang Tian” (Blue sky).

Chapter 3: "Wei, Shu and Wu–A Tripartite Battle for Supremacy" features mostly military weapons, including a She Mao (snake spear) from Shizhaishan culture, 2nd century BC and a seal with Chinese Characters “Cao Xiu” from Three Kingdoms period (Wei), 3rd century. 

Lacquer "Cudgel-Playing Boys" Dish. Excavated from The Three Kingdoms (Wu)|Maanshan City, the Three Kingdoms Zhuran Family Cemetery Museum

She Mao (snake spear). Shizhaishan culture, 2nd century BC (excavated at Tomb No. 3, Mount Shizhai, Kunming City, Yunnan, 1956)|Yunnan Provincial Museum

Seal with Chinese Characters “Cao Xiu”. Three Kingdoms period (Wei), 3rd century (excavated at the Tomb of Cao Xiu, Luoyang City, Henan, 2009|Luoyang City Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute

Funerary Jar. Three Kingdoms period (Wu), dated 272 (excavated at Tomb Shangfang, Jiangning District, Nanjing City, Jiangsu, 1993)|Chinese First Grade Cultural Relic, Nanjing Museum

Gold Metal Belt Fitting with Animal Design. Eastern Han dynasty, 2nd century (excavated at Shouchun Ancient Tomb, Shou County, Huainan City, Anhui, 2009)|Chinese First Grade Cultural Relic, Shou County Museum

Crown Decoration with Cicada Design. Western Jin dynasty, 3rd century (excavated at Tomb No. 1, Inkstone Pool at Former Residence of Wang Xizhi, Linyi City, Shandong, 2003|Linyi Museum

The remaining sessions are titled: "Chapter 4: A Journey Through the Three Kingdoms", "Chapter 5: The Cao Cao Mausoleum and Other Grand Tombs from the Three Kingdoms Period" and "Epilogue: The End of the Three Kingdoms Period and the Rise of a New Power". Highlight exhibits include a funerary Jar from the Three Kingdoms period (Wu), a gold metal belt fitting with animal design from the Eastern Han dynasty and a crown decoration with Cicada design from the Western Jin dynasty.

The special exhibition will run from 9 July to 16 September 2019 at the Tokyo National Museum. It will continue at the Kyushu National Museum from 1 October 2019 to 5 January 2020. 

First period- Tokyo National Museum

Address: 13-9 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo, Japan
Period: 9 July - 16 September 2019
Hours: 9:30am - 5pm (closes at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays)
Closed: Mondays and 16 July (except for 15 July, 12 August and 16 September)
Adults|JPY 1,600
University students|JPY 1,200
High school students|JPY 900
Junior high school students and under, persons with disabilities with one accompanying person|free

Second period- Kyushu National Museum

Address: 4 Chome-7-2 Ishizaka, Dazaifu, Fukuoka, Japam
Period: 1 October 2019 - 5 January 2020
Hours: 9:30am - 5pm (closes at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays)
Closed: Mondays, 15 October, 5 November, 23-31 December (except for 14 October, 4 November)
Admission: to be announced