Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Golden Age of China: Review

PD Ritchie | Posted: Thu, 30 Apr, 2015 04:18 pm Updated: Wed, 3 Jun, 2015 03:22 pm | | Print
Portrait of Qianlong Emperor
PD Ritchie

For the first time ever, the National Gallery of Victoria is playing host to a lavish collection from one of China’s most successful rulers and foremost art collectors, Qianlong emperor.

A Golden Age of China transforms the empty art space into the Qing dynasty, taking patrons to another time and place.

With more than 120 hidden treasures on display all the way from Beijing’s Forbidden City, the exhibition produces an atmosphere bursting with decadence.

Attendees can immerse themselves through five rooms, exploring enormous silk paintings, ceremonial robes, bygone weapons, sumptuous trinkets and portraits aplenty, as they discover the remnants of a 500-year-long reign.

Some of the pieces were created and used by the emperor; others are displayed next to paintings depicting them.

And while the collection reveals how sumptuous it was to live as an emperor, the best element is its resemblance to pop-culture and how close it has come to imitating an era – think Avatar: The Last Airbender.

From the details on a sword to the embellishment on each segment of jade, the parallels are obvious.

Qianlong ruled China at a time when it was the wealthiest and most populous nation in the world, explaining why his collection was so vast.

The emperor endeavoured to create a new golden age modelled from the past, and did so by promoting arts and culture, studying Chinese painting, calligraphy and practicing his skills in poetry.

Aside from his time painting and writing, he spent a lifetime collecting art and using his role as preserver of the Chinese cultural heritage to combine a collection of more than one million pieces from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Each piece of work on display was personally selected by the emperor himself and provides some insight into his art-riddled life.

The showcase will stay on display until 21 June with tickets available at the door.

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