A privileged glimpse into Qianlong's private garden

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am


Hongkongers will be among the first to get a two-centuries-old glimpse into a legendary emperor's private garden in the Forbidden City, when a blockbuster exhibition opens at the Museum of Art in June.

Emperor Qianlong, a big collector and patron of the arts during the Qing dynasty, had the garden built during his reign, from 1735 to 1796. Its gates have never been opened to the public. The exhibition will display 95 items from the Palace Museum, 43 of which are from the secret garden. The museum and garden are in the Forbidden City in Beijing.

One-third of the display items are being shown outside mainland China for the first time, as part of Hong Kong's celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the city's handover from British rule.

The Hong Kong museum's chief curator, Eve Tam Mei-yee, said the exhibition was intended to unveil an intimate side of the emperor, who dedicated himself to collecting art treasures from across the country.

'The exhibition gallery will be designed to reconstruct the sense of intimacy and the allure of Qianlong Garden,' Tam said.

'It will attempt to show the emperor's philosophical thoughts and religious beliefs, and his pursuit of longevity and eternal bliss through the design of the artefacts.' The artworks are exceptionally precious and were all hand-picked by the emperor himself, reflecting his taste.

The first phase of the restoration of the garden, also known as the Ningshou Gong Garden, was completed in 2008, and the work is expected to continue until 2019.

Some of the artefacts were shown in three cities in the United States last year.

Hong Kong will be the first Asian city to stage them.

The exhibition will feature ink paintings, calligraphy, furniture, mural paintings, architectural ornaments and religious art on loan from the Palace Museum.

The exhibition - 'A lofty retreat from the red dust: the secret garden of Emperor Qianlong' - will be at the Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui from June 22 until October.