Is there a message behind Beijing’s move to loan Empress Dowager Cixi’s old silk screen to Hong Kong?

Silk screen that is part of exhibition was used by Empress Dowager Cixi as she guided her son and nephew to rule China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 6:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 11:04pm

A historical silk screen used by Qing dynasty (1644-1911) Empress Dowager Cixi, a symbol of her “pulling strings behind the curtain”, is coming to Hong Kong for an exhibition.

The curtain from the Forbidden City in Beijing was used by the Qing dowager to hide behind while she advised her son Tongzhi and then her nephew Guangxu, who sat on the throne as “puppy emperors”.

The Chinese phrase “holding court from behind a screen” describes the political manipulations of the late 19th century.

Shan Jixiang, the director of the Palace Museum, told reporters on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress that the exact screen, along with other royal artefacts from the Hall of Mental Cultivation inside the Forbidden City, would be sent to Hong Kong for a goodwill exhibition as part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from British rule.

There would be more than 200 artefacts from the Forbidden City displayed in Hong Kong from June 28, Shan said on the sidelines of the China’s annual congressional sessions.

Shan said it would be the first time for these artefacts to be displayed outside of the royal halls.

Following the death of the Xianfeng emperor in 1861, Tongzhi, who was only five at the time, became the new ruler of the middle kingdom. After political infighting between Cixi and senior ministers, which the empress won, she held audiences with government officials from behind the screen in a chamber in the Hall of Mental Cultivation during the boys’ reigns.