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Golden Age of China

16 Apr 2015

Golden Age of China Image

Review By Louis Blake

The National Gallery of Victoria, in partnership with the Palace Museum in Beijing, is currently playing host to an exhibition featuring rare and valuable works from one of the cultural high points of antiquity.

Several years in the making, the exhibition is entitled A Golden Age of China: Qianlong Emperor (1736–1795).

Over its run from March 27 until June 21 the exhibition aims to offer patrons a rare insight into the cultural world of pre-revolutionary China. A Golden Age of China opens a window into the life of one of China’s most revered leaders, Prince Hongli (1711–1799). Hongli ruled over China as the Qianlong Emperor from 1736 until 1795.

During his personal rein, the Qianlong Emperor presided over a cultural golden age in a nation that was, at the time, the most wealthy and powerful country in the world.

The emperor himself was a renowned art collector, curator and even creator. The Qianlong Emperor was a dedicated painter, calligrapher and wrote more than 40,000 poems.

More than 1100 sqm of gallery space has been given over to the exhibition that recreates a world of extravagant wealth that was typical of the Chinese ruling class.

Over 120 different works are in the exhibition that includes extravagant silk robes, paintings depicting imperial life, as well as ornate swords and bows. Among the collection are a number of paintings and calligraphy pieces that were done by the emperor’s own hand.  

The exhibition layout features five distinct thematic sections that are based on the layout of the original home of the Qianlong Emperor, Beijing’s Forbidden City.

NGV director Tony Ellwood calls the exhibition “a once in a lifetime opportunity” as many of the pieces on display are rarely shown in their home nation.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says that the exhibition is an “incredible opportunity” and highlights that “our state is Australia’s art and cultural capital”.

For more information and to purchase tickets please visit: www.ngv.vic.gov.au

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