Accessories
Mar 7, 2014

ancient chinese decor: inside the forbidden city at the rom

By: Sara Cation
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Accessories
Mar 7, 2014

ancient chinese decor: inside the forbidden city at the rom

By: Sara Cation

Tomorrow, The Forbidden City exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum opens its doors to the public. An historic collaboration between the ROM and the Palace Museum in Beijing, this exhibit boasts more than 400 of the 1.8 million artifacts within the walls (and storage) of Beijing's Forbidden City. Many of the items have never been on display in North America; some have never been seen outside of China. Even within China, historically, the average person couldn't enter the grounds of the Forbidden City. Built over 14 years between 1406 and 1420, The Forbidden City, comprised of more than 900 buildings, served as the Imperial Palace for over 500 years. To this day, it's the largest palace complex in the world - but only recently, in 1925, was it opened to the public. Now a World Heritage Site, anyone in Beijing can enter the sprawling Forbidden City. But how lucky for those of us on the other side of the world that a piece of that history has found its was to the ROM for us to enjoy.   Whether you're a China-phile, a lover of history of or a lover of home decor, this exhibit is worth visiting more than once (they'll be changing some of the artifacts out halfway through). Here, I've highlighted my favourite pieces that offer a glimpse into ancient China's home decor.  

  I love how much this double-gourd vase looks like something we would find in any modern-day decor store. Double gourds (known as a hulu) represented fruitfulness and prosperity in ancient China. From Emperor Qianlong's era in the Qing Dynasty (1711-1799), this enameled porcelain vase is adorned with 100 bats, another symbol of luck in the era.   I wish I understood the stories behind all the modern-day Chinoiserie I'm drawn to. This porcelain vase depicts children at a New Year festival: playing in the garden, setting off fireworks, beating drums and holding lanterns.   Even ancient China's royalty were guilty of over-indulging their dogs! And this luxe silk imperial dog outfit was just the beginning: Royal dogs also had their own digs! Rumor has it these pet pavilions had marble floors and silk cushions for sleeping.   From the period of Emperor Kangxi's rule (1661 to 1722), this enameled copper plate is representative of China's changing techniques: The Emperor was so into Western science and technology that he invited French Jesuits to teach their enamelware craft to workers in China.   This ancient ice box made of cypress wood served a dual purpose: It not only kept food cold, but released cold air through tiny holes in its lid, cooling the royal quarters like an early air conditioner.    
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ancient chinese decor: inside the forbidden city at the rom