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Ming dynasty arrow vase arrives to inspire summer dance performance

Wed 18 April 2018

An elaborately decorated Ming dynasty vase on loan from the Horniman Museum and Gardens will inspire a new dance performance by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance students and community groups this summer.

The 16th century bronze vase was used in the ancient Chinese game of touhu. It arrived this week in the Laban Building in Deptford thanks to the Horniman’s Object in Focus loan programme, funded by Arts Council England, and will remain with Trinity Laban until July 2018.

On Friday 11 May at 6pm Trinity Laban will host a talk by Miss Sau Fong Chan, Curator (Collections Management) of the Asian Department at the V&A and former Assistant Curator (China Project) at the Horniman.

The vase will inspire a range of new dance performances from participants and artists engaged through the conservatoire’s Learning and Participation team. New works will be shared on Sunday 8 July as part of the Horniman’s 2018 Summer Season  launch event, co-produced with Trinity Laban’s Learning and Participation team.


The vase would have been used in the game of touhu, which dates back at least to the Chinese Warring States period (5th-3rd century BC) and may have begun as a drinking game. The aim, as described in the Li Ji (Book of Rites), was for players to throw arrows into a wine vessel. The contest was accompanied by a group of musicians playing a tune called ‘The Fox’s Head’ on stringed instruments.

Touhu continued to be played throughout the centuries and appears to have been particularly popular in the early part of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). It remained popular in China until the late 19th century.

Trinity Laban has taken part in the Horniman’s Object in Focus programme since 2012, hosting a different object each year. Object in Focus offers museum objects on short term loan to other institutions. The objects chosen for the project have generally either been in storage for a number of years or on display at the museum but with limited information.

Entry to the curator’s talk at the Laban Building on May 11 is free. Email Louisa on to reserve your seat.

Full details on the Horniman’s 2018 Summer Season launch event will be available closer to the time.

(Images courtesy of the Horniman Museum and Gardens)