“Garland of Treasures” 集瓊藻 is the name of a treasure box that Emperor Qianlong owned and kept some of his favourite curios. This permanent exhibition at the National Palace Museum displayed some of the best treasures from his collections. Here are some of the best of the best of the best.
清 子孫萬代金葫蘆 Pair of golden gourds representing a myriad generations of descendants, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
“The Descendants of the Golden Gourd” 子孫萬代金葫蘆 is a pair of hollow gilded censer, each made up of an upper and lower sections, and the joints are engraved with the flower and leaf pattern. There is a pedicle on the top, and there are vivid leaves. The bottom is slightly concave with engraving of a five-petal flower pattern. The pattern extends from this flower as the centre, with more gourds of different sized intertwined with their leaves and flowers, covering all sides. Each neck is engraved with a bat pattern and the characters “Auspicious”, “Shou”, “卍” and 團壽 “Tuan Shou” symbol, signifying plentiful descendants like belongs in the field, good fortune and longevity. They are each equipped with a red sandalwood wood carved gourd twine design wooden seat.
雕象牙透花人物套球 Ivory balls of nested concentric layers with human figures in openwork relief
This piece de resistance in the museum was often wrongly attributed to Emperor Qianlong. This ivory carving was dated late Qing dynasty from Guangdong area. This is made from a single ivory tusk, carved layer by layer from inside. There are a total of 18 layers and each spherical layer can spin independently.
雕象牙透花人物套球 Ivory balls of nested concentric layers with human figures in openwork relief is composed of four parts: a fish hook that holds everything together, a carved top balance with two standing ladies, the main hollow ball set, and a counterbalance with two immortal He He 和合二仙. There are chains carved from the same piece of ivory that held the hook and the top balance and the ivory ball with the counterbalance. Only the top balance and the ivory ball are connected by a thread and hidden away from sight using an outer ivory sphere.
The outer layer of ivory ball is full of high relief landscapes, pavilions, and figures, and the inner layer is decorated with hollow patterns. According to its carving skills and style, this ivory ivory ball should be made by a Guangdong artisan after the middle of the Qing Dynasty. Among the Inner Court of Forbidden City, this Southern school of carving skills was also known as “Xiangong” 仙工 or “artisan out of this world”.
珊瑚魁星點斗盆景 Planter with a coral carving of the planetary deity Kuixing
Kui Xing 魁星, also known as Kui Dou Xing Jun 魁斗星君 or Kui Xing 奎星, was said to be the guiding star of the Big Dipper. The mythical character was responsible for the scholastic examinations and selection of cultural events in the world. This piece uses a jade basin as a base, with flowers and stones as a landscaping work, presenting waves of the ocean with plentiful fishes and shellfish. Kui Xing made of fossilised coral holds up the constellation in one hand and raises one foot back, making a dynamic image of kicking and fighting, signifying the start of a cultural event. Various precious materials are vividly engraved and embedded with exquisite gold and silver inlay work. It is a luxuriously ornate and gorgeous handicraft at its best among the Qing Dynasty palace treasures.
鏤空龍紋盒 Openwork box with dragon decoration
The octagonal sunflower-petal box is made by molding, filigree, braiding, chiseling, welding and other methods. The top is covered with double dragons, the outer ring is decorated with eight treasures, and the petal-shaped periphery has a floral pattern of turning branches. The centre of the bottom-half of the box is made of eight-petal flowers, and the peripheral filaments are in the shape of a cloud-shaped scroll. The whole body is beautifully shaped, the coiled silk is finely finished, and the open shading is like a tulle, showing a high degree of exquisite and delicate metal craftsmanship.
金胎掐絲琺瑯鳳耳豆 Gold cloisonne dou vessel with phoenix handles
A lot of the treasures are cloisonné’s that came into China back in the Yuan dynasty through the Silk Road. The 金胎掐絲琺瑯鳳耳豆 Gold cloisonne dou vessel with phoenix handles are shaped like bronze Dou food vessel in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. The cover has a round catch, the cover and the body are combined to form a bulging abdomen, with a high stand and gilt gold rings on both sides attached phoenix-engraved ears. The whole body is decorated with dark green cloisonné enamel. Except for several key patterns, the whole vessel is covered with circle patterns, and the interior is decorated with white enamel beads with three borders. “Qianlong reign” was inscribed on the bottom of the vessel. The whole ware imitates the Yongzheng dynasty copper cloisonné enamel phoenix ear Dou, but the enamel technique is more mature.
銅鍍金詩文懷錶 Gilt copper pocket watch with literary inscriptions
OK this watch is not that fantastic. Round waist watch with gold-plated copper casing, original (or replacement?) glass-inlaid cover, two copper hands, black lettering on the dial with enamel glaze, and the central ink script “Imperial Poem on the Time Table” 「御製詠時辰表詩」by Emperor Jiaqing in Kai italics. There is a hole on the back of the watch for winding and a copper key is attached. The watch is stored in a gold-plated copper watch box, with a royal yellow strip on the outside written in regular script: “Mental Cultivation Hall”「養心殿」, indicating that it was originally placed in the Emperor’s residence.
The writing is immature, but since this was the Emperor, nobody dared to comment on its lack of finesse. It demonstrated that not everyone in the palace had good taste and refinement, and sucking up to your boss was present throughout history.
About the National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) was originally founded within the walls of the Beijing Forbidden City in 1925, the present-day National Palace Museum moved to Taipei’s Shilin District following the Republic of China government relocation in 1949 with an official opening for the public in 1965.
Over 600,000 of the most precious artefacts within the collection were moved to Taiwan to prevent their desecration during and after the Chinese Civil War.
Due to the enormous numbers of collection spreads over 4 floors and 2 exhibition halls, the museum’s exhibits continuously rotate, as only a small percentage of the museum’s collection can be displayed at a given time to prevent wear and tear, so there will always be a new series of collection being exhibited on each visit!
Date Visited : Oct 2018