'Light as smoke' ancient Chinese gown on display alongside Italian masterpieces

This undated file photo shows a plain unlined gauze gown with curved hem unearthed from Lady Xin Zhui's

tomb, now displayed at the Hunan Museum in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province. (Hunan Museum/Handout via Xinhua)

An incredibly thin garment worn by a Chinese noblewoman 2,200 years ago is being exhibited for the first time in Changsha, the capital of central China's Hunan Province.

The plain unlined gauze gown with curved hem, weighing just 48 grams, is on display as part of an exhibition titled "She Walks in Beauty: Women of the Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire," which opened on Saturday at the Hunan Museum.

The exhibition showcases more than 200 pieces/sets of items from 19 museums across Italy and China. Among that number are the gown and a T-shaped painting on silk from the tomb of Lady Xin Zhui, both of which are national treasure-level cultural relics in China.

The gown, described as "thin as a cicada wing" and "light as smoke," has never before been on public display. It is longer and wider -- yet 1 gram lighter -- than a plain unlined gauze gown with straight hem that is on display as part of the Hunan Museum's Mawangdui tombs exhibition. They showcase the pinnacle of textile techniques during the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-25 AD).

Both gowns were unearthed from Lady Xin Zhui's tomb at the Mawangdui relics site. Xin Zhui, who died at about the age of 50, was the wife of Li Cang, the chancellor of the Changsha Kingdom.

Among the Italian artifacts on show is a fresco depicting Perseus and Andromeda, which is being exhibited outside the Capitoline Museums for the first time since it became part of the museums' collections.

Capitoline Superintendent of Cultural Heritage Claudio Parisi Presicce said that the 138 pieces/sets of items from Rome are being exhibited for the first time in China. "In particular, there are some female statues that have never been lent before," he said.

The exhibition focuses on the family, social and emotional lives of women in both the East and the West 2,000 years ago. It will continue until Oct. 7.