This is the Lunar New Year. An 18th-century family, dressed in their best festive clothes, sits down to a sumptuous banquet in a room decorated with elaborate decorations.
The scene will be familiar to many families in China and around the world, enjoying its festivals, traditions and symbolic foods during the holiday season that begins on Sunday. But there are some notable differences: this hotpot dish is beautifully decorated in cloisonné enamel, the signs are covered in turquoise, jade and ruby, and the patron’s fashion choice is a silk robe with a dragon motif. The hands are covered with gold. It is suitable for the emperor of the new lunar year.
Daisy Wang, deputy director of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, said it is a symphony of the senses, where treasures from the Qing Dynasty are displayed on the second floor of the second floor of the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
“You have to imagine what the emperor and his family will hear, what they will taste, what they will touch, what they will smell,” Wang added. “We have to use all our senses to imagine what happened inside the Forbidden City 300 years ago.”
The $450 million building opened last summer and houses more than 900 treasures on loan from Beijing’s Forbidden City, from rare ceramics to delicate scrolls. Marking its first Lunar New Year, the museum invites visitors to see how China’s longest-reigning emperor celebrated the festival through exquisite objects on display.
Decoding the Past
The fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the Qianlong Emperor, “was one of the most powerful rulers on earth in the 18th century,” Wang said. “He ruled over a vast area, probably over 300 million people.”
His reign, from 1735 to 1796, also marked the growth of arts and creativity in the country. He published more than 40,000 poems during his lifetime, and amassed a large collection of antiques and commissioned imperial works during his six-decade reign.
Everywhere you look in the palace museum exhibits, the emperor’s luxury is displayed, from hanging panels to jade flower motifs to a pair of gold ornaments. Hungry decorations. The latter, set in semi-precious stones and featuring the Chinese characters for “great fortune”, are among more than 60 dragon-shaped ornaments made by the Qianlong Emperor for the Spring Festival in 1746 alone. During the Forbidden City are set to be decorated.
On display are some illuminated items related to the Lunar New Year, which are gold-shaped ornaments. Credibility: CNN
Like many works of art, they have a “hidden meaning,” Wang said. A symbol of fertility, the bottle gourd, or “hulu,” has a name that sounds similar to the Chinese words for “lucky” and “wealth,” she added.
The emperor didn’t just work on artwork, though: his unusual taste extended to his wardrobe. “(She) never chose (just) one piece of clothing,” Wang said. “It should always be two, four, six.”
Known to change her outfit up to seven times a day, one of the unusual costumes on display is one adorned with intricately hand-stitched dragons, flying in gold-covered clouds.
This regal dragon robe was one of the Qianlong Emperor’s favorite ceremonial robes. Credibility: CNN
With a taste for elaborate banquets, often consisting of hot pot, dumplings and roast duck, the emperor’s eating habits – and use of serving dishes and utensils – would be familiar to many. According to Wang, Qianlong was so fond of hot herbs that he ate 200 of them a year, which some believe contributed to his longevity (he was in his late eighties). died in).
Lunar New Year feasts were special for the emperor as it would be one of the very few occasions he was allowed to dine with family and friends in the same room. “Due to safety concerns, he usually ate alone,” Wang said.
An unusual hot spot used by the Qianlong Emperor. While beautifully decorated using the cloisonné technique, the copper interior makes it fully functional. Credibility: CNN
The imperial materials he used, apart from gold and jewels, also show how much tradition remained.
“One of the things that struck me is how similar the celebration of the Lunar New Year is to our practice today.
“I hope visitors will come and connect these antiques with their own lives.”
Watch the video above for an inside look at the Lunar New Year items on display at the Hong Kong Palace Museum.