Chinese Paintings and Craft Artefacts on display at University Museum

Wim Tijmens is a man with an abundance of stories and experiences to share. Well-known and respected in botanical circles, he has travelled the world hunting for plants. Several of these excursions has been to China, a place he and fellow botanists refer to as the "Mother of Gardens". In the last five decades Netherlands-born Tijmens has undertaken no less than 17 expeditions to China, acquiring a number of paintings and artefacts during his journeys. 

A private collection of artworks from his botanical and cultural journeys to China will be on display at the Stellenbosch University Museum from Wednesday 20 May 2015. Tijmens Chinese Paintings and Craft Artefacts exhibition will run for three months. It is run under the auspices of the Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University, part of the Postgraduate and International Office.

Stellenbosch-based Tijmens says the exhibition will give an introduction to Chinese history with the main items emphasising the country's rich diversity of flora. His collection consists of mainly scroll paintings of bamboo and flowers. Among the items on display are paintings of peony (the Chinese national flower) and clay figures of the Terracotta Army that guards the tomb of the first emperor or China.

Tijmens, who spent more than 35 years as curator of the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden (1962 – 1999), speaks passionately about plants and recalls trips to Europe, New York and Japan sharing knowledge and collecting plants.

 After a trip to Japan, Dr Masahiko Hayashi, an expert on genus Haworthia, personally delivered a plant of the Camellia chrysantha, an extremely rare plant discovered in China, to Tijmens and Stellenbosch University. Another story he shares is being part of an organising scientific expedition from Stellenbosch to Cairo with renowned scholar Norio Kondo, former director of the Evolutionary Biology Research Institute in Tokyo – also the man who created the wingless chicken.

Tijmens majored in horticulture and landscape architecture in the Netherlands and came to South Africa to study fynbos in the early 1960s. Job offers from Prof Brian Rycroft, third director of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Stellenbosch University, kept him in the country ever since.

Given the name Wei Mu by Chinese associates, meaning somebody of standing who is knowledgeable about plants, Tijmens says most plants around the world have their origins in China.

"I would say that if you look around Stellenbosch and ask a plant ‘what is your name, where do you come from and how did you get here’, you will find out that about 70% of all the plants in an average garden originated in China.

The exhibition will be a fascinating short, insightful tour of the wonders of China – a learning experience for students and scholars.” 

​Contact details for the University Museum:

52 Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch

​021 808 3691/3/5