Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography Xaverian Missionaries - V.le S. Martino, 8 - Parma, Italy 0521-257.337

The new displays of the Museum

Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography, place of Mondiality
P. Emilio Iurman


The entrance at the Museo d'Arte Cinese ed Etnografico
The entrance at the Museum

The Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography of the Xaverian Missionaries in Parma has undergone a radical renovation.

The exhibits are presented in an elegant and original fashion, with beautiful furnishing of white lacquered color and bright crystal. Once inside the museum, it all seems like a continuum walkway, better yet, almost a placid river that accompanies the visitor through the open space of the reception, the colorful collection of the Kayapò people, flowing gently down the ramp that leads to the African exhibit and the magnificent displays with Chinese ceramics and other art.

These architectural features and uniform color of gray and white give the Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography a sense of unity and harmony, in which all the materials retain a sense of dignity and value. It is good to emphasize the LED lighting fixtures throughout the whole museum experience.

The architecture of the new museum is arranged on three levels: on the third level there are the lecture hall, offices, library, and archive room; at the intermediate level, the reception, the space for temporary exhibits and the Kayapò area; at the basement level, the area of China. At the bottom of the stairs, as visitors enter, there are four large Chinese paintings of religious inspiration: Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism, which recall the original purpose of the museum, the meeting of different civilizations and cultures.

We highlight five areas: entrance area, area for temporary exhibits, Kayapò area, Africa area, and China area.


The earth is for all peoples, 26 illustrated double-sided tiles with photos
The Earth is for all peoples

Entrance Area

The calling card of the whole museum is a long glass structure which presents, first, a short video on the work of the Xaverian Missionaries in various cultures, inspired by the “daring project” of their founder Saint Guido M. Conforti. It follows with a series of 26 illustrated double-sided tiles with photos of the great religions, cultural expressions of the various peoples of the earth, their rights and duties as citizens of the earth. This area is entitled “The Earth is for everyone.” Finally, around the corner, a display of large photos with the theme of “circle-harmony”, presenting objects from various cultures represented in the museum. The circle, in fact, shows harmony and beauty across all cultures.


Area Temporary Exhibits

Our first temporary exhibition could only be inspired by the origins and history of the museum, with a series of life-size silhouettes of some Xaverians, symbols of missionaries past and present, old and young , who in the last 120 years of mission and life have believed and lived the “daring project” of the founder. We wanted to give the visitor the impression of moving in a small crowd, the Xaverian Missionaries, who are alive and colorful as the life-size silhouettes show.


Didactic panel on the people Kayapò
Panel Kayapò

Area Kayapò

The Kayapò is a small group of Indios of the Brazilian Amazon region, who represent other minorities custodians of traditional values and living.

We believe it is the most complete collection of their cultural objects in Italy and Europe. With this colorful exhibit, the museum wants to convey the values that sustain their universe, transmitted by symbols that affirm their identity: body painting, the myths of origins, a sense of presence that harks back to the great laws of the universe, the consciousness of community and dignity, their idea of being people strong and beautiful, their living in a natural habitat, with their utensils and rituals of war.


Area Africa

We give just a small taste of African objects found in the museum. They come from all areas (D.R.Congo, Sierra Leone, Cameroon) where the Xaverians have been working for decades. There will be other opportunities and future exhibits that will highlight these objects of traditional African art.


Chinese ceramics and porcellains
Chinese ceramics and porcellains

Area Cina

Our imaginary river flows through a wide ramp that leads to the lowest part of the Museum, and gives us a glance of the area dedicated to China, that holds the “firstborn” extensive material of the museum. Standing by the large amphitheater, the visitor can admire the collection of pottery and porcelain from China, accompanied by an harmonious huge circular taiji – the symbols of yin and yang. The grandiose and spectacular 12-panel Chinese folding-screen watches over the “Historical Cabinets” which preserve the memory of the museum past, the table with the “Chinese rubbings,” the scholar study, the exhibit of Chinese religious statuary, the big Buddha and the drawers of paintings.

The descent of the ramp is accompanied by images that shows ancient and current China, its arts, landscapes and people of past and present. Throughout the museum, there are bi-lingual didactic panels as well as touch-screen monitors with lots of information, typical of every museum. For the fans of numismatic, a detailed workstation describes one of the richest collections of Chinese coins present in Europe.

Our museum is not monothematic, and not even a sterile relic of the past. Wherever there is the presence of something alive, as well as the arts of the past, especially through the new technologies of videos. We hope our visitors are drawn to the vitality, reality and life of the cultures represented in our museum. And the work of the Xaverian missionaries is still alive and more universal than ever: China is strong and gentle, the Kayapó are still "strong and beautiful" and Africa is still appealing and fascinating.