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|August 20th, 2010, 06:10 AM||#21|
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Exhibit brings luxuries from the heart of Beijing's Forbidden City courtyards to the US
30 July 2010
BEIJING (AP) - Deep in a long-forgotten corner of the Forbidden City and up a twisting stairway are four sets of twin doors, shut for more than eight decades. They reveal rare sweeping views to the north, south, east and west above the golden-tiled rooftops of the imperial palace.
The surrounding walls silence the passing tour groups. On the horizon, modern high-rises are softened by the Beijing smog. The view from this private corner has hardly changed since the Chinese emperor Qianlong designed this courtyard for his retirement more than 200 years ago.
"In my 80s, exhausted from diligent service, I will cultivate myself, rejecting worldly noise," Qianlong wrote of the pavilion, where the floors have been stripped to packed earth and straw as part of a major restoration.
Few people have entered Qianlong's courtyards since China's last emperor was forced out of the Forbidden City in 1924, and it will take more years of work until the public can come inside. The restoration of the pavilion where Qianlong enjoyed the view over the Forbidden City rooftops is set to be finished by sometime in 2012. Bringing the entire complex back to life will take until at least 2019.
But now a collection of thrones, large-scale paintings and decor of one of China's most powerful leaders is leaving the country for the first time. In September, the $1.5 million exhibition arrives in the U.S. for a tour that will show a more intimate side of a country often defined by vastness and control.
"This garden is completely different from the rest of the Forbidden City. The rest is formal, rigid, symbolic. This flows like walking up a mountain flows," said Nancy Berliner, curator of Chinese art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., where the exhibit of items from the pavilion and courtyards will begin. "You're always finding surprises."
The exhibit will also travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
The man who expanded China's borders and brought its wealth to new heights was just as ambitious with the art and design of his surroundings. Qianlong, one of the longest-serving Chinese emperors, stepped aside only after six decades.
He is famous for his encounter with the visiting Lord George Macartney, the British emissary who came seeking better trade relations but was refused. "We have never valued ingenious articles, nor do we have the slightest need of your country's manufactures," Qianlong wrote in a smackdown well-known to foreign executives even today.
Yet, "The exhibit reflects Qianlong's fascination with things in the West," said Henry Ng, executive vice president of the World Monuments Fund, a partner in the restoration with China's Palace Museum.
Ng's favorite example is the glass throne, its panes sandwiched between carvings of blossoms and branches. The emperor had the new and fashionable plate glass imported for decoration, but it was mistaken for other materials, such as gray slate, under layers of dust for years during the restoration.
"Then one day I took a tissue and finally wiped it," Berliner said. "It was a wonderful feeling."
Qianlong never moved into the two-acre (0.8-hectare) courtyard complex tucked into the northeastern corner of the Forbidden City. But he used its tiny, winding spaces and gardens for relaxation, and settled on a throne in the high pavilion to practice calligraphy. He'd write bits of poetry and paste them to the walls.
The courtyards' location protected the space from war and upheaval as China struggled to find its political and economic place in recent decades.
When the doors opened again, the Qianlong courtyards were being used as storerooms, with everything covered in 2-inch (5-centimeter) drifts of dust. As work began, the dust was sifted for bits of treasure.
"They'd pick up every single piece and try to fit it back into the original," said Berliner. "One man said they put each piece into little plastic bags. In the end, they had about 35,000 plastic bags."
Officials have searched the country for craftsmen who remember the old arts and techniques to restore the courtyard complex and the exhibit pieces.
In another part of the Forbidden City, woodworker Zhang Shicun smiled over his glasses as he sat low on a bench over a Qianlong panel with a large gold-plated inlay.
"Before him, the emperors' style of the time was rather plain," Zhang said. "This decor, even this groove along the edge of the panel, there was nothing like it. Qianlong loved the details."
Peabody Essex Museum: http://www.pem.org/
|September 15th, 2010, 08:03 PM||#22|
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Feature: Meeting Chinese emperor of Qing Dynasty in an intimate way
NEW YORK, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese saying "Heaven is high, and the emperor is far away" describes the carefree life enjoyed by ancient Chinese in remote areas. Yet, to modern American public from next week, the Chinese emperor is no longer far away.
The exhibition "The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City" will make world debut to display treasures of China's famous Qianlong emperor of Qing Dynasty from Sept. 14, 2010 to Jan. 9, 2011 at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts.
The treasures of the exhibition will also travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Feb. 3, 2011 in New York City and the Milwaukee Art Museum on June 11, 2011 in Wisconsin. Once the tour concludes, the objects will be reinstalled permanently in their original home in the Qianlong Garden of the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Chinese Capital.
These 90 objects of ceremony and leisure, including murals, paintings, furniture, architectural and garden components and jades will reveal the contemplative life and refined vision of the Qianlong emperor, one of Chinese history's most influential rulers.
"It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for American public to see this extraordinary works of art and to have a sense of the Qianlong emperor, who is unquestionably the most powerful and wealthy man in the world in the 18th century," Dan Monroe, executive director and CEO of PEM told Xinhua.
Reigning from 1736 to 1796, the Qianlong emperor moved China to its imperial zenith in terms of territory, wealth, military strength, and culture. Under his leadership, China's economy dwarfed those of England and France, and the Qianlong emperor controlled vastly greater territory than his key contemporaries -- America's George Washington and England's Elizabeth I.
Completed in 1776, the Qianlong Garden and its artworks represent one of many monuments to the Qianlong emperor's power, wealth, and ingenuity. It is located in the northeast of China's renowned Forbidden City with 27 buildings and numerous artworks within its two-acre site.
The Qianlong Garden is a very private space that the Qianlong emperor built for himself alone as a retreat to cultivate himself and not to think about politics. Even when he is alive, very few people went there.
Closed since China's last emperor left the Forbidden City in 1924, it is now the beneficiary of intense restoration and conservation in preparation for opening to the public for the first time around 2019. All these 90 objects to be displayed in the U.S. have not been shown in public even in China.
"We are so pleased to introduce American public to meet the Chinese emperor in an entirely different way, yet in an intimate way," said Lynda Hartigan, chief curator of the PEM.
Visitors to this exhibition will be invited to walk through the galleries the way the Qianlong emperor would have strolled through his rooms and gardens. Around each corner are opportunities to encounter objects of beauty and exceptional craftsmanship.
Visitors are also able to try their hand at calligraphy imagining being an emperor with a touch station that will lead them through the brush strokes.
"Chinese gardens are very different from Western gardens. They are complex, including buildings, rockery, and works of art. So the exhibition is designed to evoke, not to replicate, the feelings of strolling at the Qianlong Garden, and at the same time, to highlight the extraordinary works of art," said Nancy Berliner, exhibition curator and curator of Chinese art at the PEM.
Wang Yamin, deputy director of China's Palace Museum, told Xinhua that "it is the first time that the Palace Museum has authorized such a large-scale and comprehensive traveling exhibition of original historic cultural heritage objects and interiors."
"We hope the exhibition will benefit a deeper mutual understanding between China and U.S.," Wang said.
The Palace Museum is intimately associated with the Forbidden City, which began to be built in 1420. The museum was established on Oct. 10, 1925, on the foundation of a palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties and its collection of treasures. It is a large, comprehensive national museum that embraces the palatial architectural complex, ancient art, and imperial court history.
The exhibition gives a multi-dimensional showcase of the Qianlong emperor's artistic passion and personal sentiments. It is also a physical manifestation of the ideas -- the Confucian culture and Buddhism-- that prevail in China for years.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a rare imperial " fool the eye" mural painting, a 15-foot-wide work depicting women and children in a palace hall celebrating the Chinese New Year. The mural is one of only six such surviving 18th century works. Painted by Chinese court artists who had been trained by a European artist, the mural reflects a successful blending of European and Chinese traditions.
"The exhibition is in the spirit of internationalism, because it reflects the relationship of China and the West. It combines China's classic arts with Western arts and culture," said Lynda Hartigan, chief curator of the PEM.
The PEM is the longest of any museum in North America. Dating to the close of the 18th century, the PEM's holdings in Chinese art and Asian export art represent some of U.S.'s first efforts to reach outward and establish mutually enriching, lasting exchanges with other nations.
Other objects of the exhibition range from the quietly personal to the flamboyantly crafted and hued. Calligraphy written in the emperor's own hand conveys a sense of his refined thinking and brush technique. Panels carved in semiprecious gemstone or rendered in brilliantly pigmented cloisonne are as vibrant and pleasing as the day they were created.
These 90 objects also experienced quite an adventure from Beijing to U.S.. They have been through the conservation process for over a year, which is part of the joint restoration work by the Palace Museum and the World Monuments Fund on the Qianlong Garden since 2001.
The restoration work combined traditional conservation methods with latest technology including readhering porcelain tablets to the lattice panel, in-painting losses on the Buddhist panel, etc.
The exhibition includes a film and other interactive elements highlighting the conservation process as well as the gifted artisans who restored the objects and architecture to their original condition.
"Art has no boundary and culture is such a wonderful way in bringing China closer to American public. We hope the exhibition will further cultivate ties between the two countries," said Monroe.
|January 26th, 2011, 05:30 PM||#23|
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Qianlong's secret garden for his old age
16 January 2011
China Daily - Hong Kong Edition
In the Forbidden City, a retired ruler made a refuge for himself which is now being lovingly restored.
Even before he abdicated the throne, the Emperor Qianlong was already preparing for retirement. He had a two-acre private courtyard built and filled it with his favorite books, art and a wall mural that brought his garden inside even when he could not go out to enjoy it.
This was the emperor's personal retreat, Juanqinzhai, more known to antiquities experts as the Qianlong Garden. Its name, which alludes to "rest after a lifetime of work", reflected Qianlong's love of scholarship and the arts. He prided himself as an accomplished calligrapher and he is known for his huge collection of art and antiques.
Much of this has been lost, plundered by the turbulent times that China went through before it finally emerged, cleansed and ready for new beginnings. But there is enough left within the courtyard to make it very interesting to the experts.
Built in the 1770s, Juanqinzhai fell into disrepair after China's last emperor, Puyi, was expelled from the Forbidden City in 1924. For decades, it suffered the fate of being forgotten, a decrepit storage space.
The World Monuments Fund (WMF) from the US has played a key role in its restoration with not only funds but also expertise, according to Nancy Berliner, curator of Chinese art at the Peabody Essex Museum.
The $3-million project can be seen as a good example of international cooperation in cultural relics conservation, says Li Ji, deputy director of the Palace Museum. "The cooperation with the WMF was the first major collaboration between a US conservation group and the Palace Museum."
The WMF starting working with the Palace Museum in 2002 to restore the Qianlong Garden and helped train Chinese conservators as they faced the many complex challenges posed by the fragile historic interior and its unusual mix of materials and techniques.
One such was the wall mural that stretched over the ceiling of the room where a miniature stage was built for opera performances, one of Qianlong's loves. It is a detailed depiction of the palace gardens complete with lilacs and trailing purple wisteria. Craftsmen spent much time and money matching the unusual pigments used for the trompe l'oeil, and this was where the expertise from the WMF came in most useful.
This joint conservation exercise has proved so successful that the WMF, a New York-based non-profit organization, signed a broader agreement to restore all 24 buildings and the elaborate outdoor courtyards of the entire Qianlong Garden.
The expected date of completion will be in 2019, a year before the Forbidden City marks 600 years of existence.
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Last edited by hkskyline; January 26th, 2011 at 05:36 PM.
|February 17th, 2012, 08:58 PM||#24|
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Too many visitors puts Palace Museum at risk: curator
BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The high number of visitors to China's Palace Museum, especially during public holidays, was more than the palace complex could safely handle, according to its newly-appointed curator.
Shan Jixiang, who took the post as the museum curator a month ago, said the museum receives as many as 130,000 tourists a day during peak seasons, a number that has far exceeded its capacity.
Visitors tend to follow the central axis from south to north, which has made the protection of certain parts of the museum more difficult, according to Shan.
In 1949, the number of tourists to the museum was 1 million. The number grew seven-fold in half a century to reach 7 million in 2002. And then just 10 years later the number doubled to 14 million in 2011, according to Shan.
Located at the heart of Beijing, the Palace Museum had been the throne of 24 ancient Chinese emperors and home to a vast collection of the imperial treasuries.
Given its status, the museum is a preferred choice for numerous exhibitions. However, the management of the Palace Museum has been under fire since May 2011 after several accidents.
In May 2011, exhibition pieces on loan from a Hong Kong-based museum were stolen in the palace complex. And on July 31, the museum reported that a researcher had accidently damaged a rare thousand-year porcelain dish.
Whistle-blowers also have accused the museum of running an exclusive club in one of its palaces and paying hush money to insiders who threaten to expose ticket scandals.
The safety of visitors as well as the cultural relics is the most challenging task for the management of the Palace Museum, Shan said.
World-class security systems will be used to replace what's being used, most of which were constructed in the last three decades of the 20th century and were outdated, he said.
Museum authorities will strive to ward off security risks, increase the transparency of their work, and invite the public to submit suggestions regarding museum management, he said.