Flexibility Was Key to Curator's Success

Article excerpt

Chinese bells rang joyfully at Tuesday's press preview of "The Golden Age of Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries From the People's Republic of China."

Guest curator Xiaoneng Yang was quietly elated. The day marked the climax of six years' work to bring many of China's most astonishing treasures to the United States. Despite the pressure, Mr. Yang courteously accommodated the many media demands.

The tall, bespectacled scholar says organizing the exhibit never was easy. Many of the objects are rare and fragile. He had to deal with organizations in both China and the United States. He also traveled all over China to choose objects and meet with local authorities. The Chinese halted negotiations when NATO jets in May mistakenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

"We had to be flexible because there were changes even at the last minute," he says.

It helps that he is China-born and -raised. He trained in archaeology at Beijing University from 1978 to 1982, then worked for the Chinese Archaeological Overseas Exhibition Corp. of the Ministry of Culture. Mr. Yang traveled everywhere in China reviewing antiquities from recent excavations during that time.

Why archaeology as a profession? He was deciding on a career just after the years of ill treatment of scholars and intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution. His father believed that archaeology would be safer than other professions. …