Space Age objects from the East Asian collection
The V&A's East Asian Collection has received a newspaper printed on silk and a First Day Cover commemorating a landmark event in China's recent history: the launch of the space shuttle Shenzhou 6. Shenzhou 6 was China's second manned spaceflight and was launched on 12 October 2005, on the second anniversary of the launch of its predecessor, Shenzhou 5. The commemorative objects were given by the Shanghai Press Group, Jiefang Daily, which reported on the mission.
The mission was carried out by astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, and the spacecraft orbited the earth over five days. Among the objects that travelled with the spacecraft were a commemorative silk newspaper and limited copies of a commemorative First Day Cover, produced by Jiefang Daily. The Jiefang Daily Press Group's gift to the V&A comprises a facsimile of the silk newspaper and a First Day Cover (edition no. 0031), one of 100 that travelled into orbit with the Shenzhou 6 shuttle.
For many centuries in China the educated classes used silk for writing on. This newspaper printed on silk revives the use of silk in communicating ideas with modern printing technology. Indeed, the headline page of this commemorative edition features a reprint of the article 'On Earth', an essay published in 1872 by Shenbao, an important pioneering newpaper based in Shanghai. In commemorating the most recent launch of Shenzhou 6, this object symbolically links one of the oldest forms of technology (silk production) with one of the most modern (space travel).
Another feature on the silk newspaper looks forward to the first International Exhibition to be held in China in 2010. As a museum borne out of the first ever International Exhibition in 1851, the addition of this object in our collection symbolically links the two groundbreaking Expositions together.
The second object, the commemorative envelope or First-Day-Cover, which travelled into orbit with the Shenzhou 6 shuttle, has been autographed by the astronauts.