Must See Exhibition: Forbidden City at Vancouver Art Gallery

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ForbiddenCity-06 Empress’s ceremonial coat (chaogua) Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period silk with gold thread © The Palace Museum

ForbiddenCity-06 Empress’s ceremonial coat (chaogua) Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period silk with gold thread © The Palace Museum

After much anticipation, The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors will be unveiled to the public October 18 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Nearly 200 treasured objects from the collection of Beijing’s Palace Museum will be under the spotlight, revealing the centre of the Chinese empire, The Forbidden City — a palace once closed from public sight for five centuries of imperial rule.

This unprecedented exhibition will offer Gallery visitors a glimpse of an iconic and long hidden era of Chinese cultural history. From the finest Ming porcelain to the emperor’s own garments, these examples of exquisite works of art range from as early as 500CE and onwards to the early 20th century.

Many objects in the exhibition, including textiles, calligraphy, paintings and armour, have never before travelled outside the Forbidden City.Due to the exhibition’s significant number of light

For the last five centuries of the empire, which fell in 1911, Chinese emperors called the Forbidden City, located in the heart of Beijing, their home. With only the emperor, his household and special visitors allowed inside its walls,this immense palace captured the world’s attention for its power, wealth and mystery.

The exhibition’s narrative for the Vancouver Art Gallery is conceived by Timothy Brook, who is a scholar of Chinese history at the Department of History, University of British Columbia.

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The exhibition leads visitors through the realms of the Imperial Palace in the following nine sections:

Upon entering the exhibition, you meet the greatest triple generation of emperors in Chinese history, from the Aisin-Gioro family, as it is largely their Forbidden City that we know today as the Palace Museum.

Reigning portrays the seat of imperial power within the Forbidden City, the emperor’s throne and extraordinary icons that demonstrate his power to the outside world. In order to rule an expansive empire, the emperor required a powerful army, made evident in the Warring section, which features ceremonial armour and weaponry.

In Symbols, you see the colours,dress and iconography reserved for only the emperor. As emperors needed sons, Lineage explores the world of the empresses and concubines who lived in the Inner Courts and served the emperor, featuring textile, scene paintings and personal adornments associated with the task of producing an heir to the throne.

In Texting, you see the emperor at his most constant task, which was to put pen to paper by signing political documents, composing poems and penning calligraphy. The ornate objects of daily living in the Forbidden City are displayed in Consuming—from a jade teacup to a dog’s coat or the emperor’s gilded footbath.

These objects were wildly expensive and finely crafted for the use and amusement of the imperial household alone.

The Collecting section features the finest examples from the emperor’s immense collections of precious ceramics, bronzes and cloisonné that were crafted in China and sequestered in his private chamber, as well as objects from beyond China’s borders such as brass clocks, scientific instruments and European exotica gifted to the emperor by
foreign dignitaries.

Finally, with Farewell My Emperor, you get a parting glimpse of the end of Imperial China and the afterlife of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last emperor of the Forbidden City.

The exhibition runs through January 11, 2015. Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity!

Last modified: October 16, 2014

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