Cats in the East: Digital exhibition explores history of felines

Cats have been the much-loved companions of humans for centuries. An exhibition named “Cats in the East” is now underway at the 798 Art Factory in Beijing. The show takes visitors on an immersive journey through history and tells the story of cats in China via paintings, installations and digital artworks.

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This is the first large-scale exhibition in China that has focused on cats. Using various art forms, the exhibition explores the symbolic imagery and cultural relevance of cats throughout history. 

“Cats have held different meanings throughout history, whether mysterious or magical or sweet. This exhibition explores the history and emotional connection with cats, and reflects on all aspects of human nature and social life,” said Chen Pengzi, curator of the exhibition.

“Cats in the East” exhibition /798 Art Factory

“Cats in the East” exhibition /798 Art Factory

Cats have a history of more than 2,000 years in China. There are references to them in the poems from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 771 BC). 

From functional use to emotional company, the exhibition explains cats in the context of history. 

“There are many exhibitions introducing traditional culture, but we chose a very special topic. We look at the changes of ancient culture through the change of the status of cats in Chinese culture,” said Wang Lei, another curator of the exhibition. 

“We decided to use digital art in this exhibition from the very beginning of our planning. The aim was to combine the history of cats with the history of art in ancient China,” Wang added. 

Elements from Han Dynasty portrait bricks, Tang Dynasty murals, Song Dynasty ink paintings and modern illustrations have all been used in the exhibition. The organizers hope that the use of the latest digital technology will help to express the Chinese aesthetic.

“Cats in the East” exhibition /798 Art Factory

“Cats in the East” exhibition /798 Art Factory

The exhibition also displays ukiyo-e artworks from Japan that feature cats. 

And in the last section of the show, contemporary artists created artworks to explore how they view cats in modern times. 

Various forms and gestures of our feline friends are presented to visitors at this exhibition, which not only shows the history of the friendship between humans and cats, but also reflects the changing history of Oriental humanities and art.

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