Oct 02, 2013


Beijing Palace Museum

The Palace Museum, founded in 1925, is a national museum housed inside the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming (1368-1683) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties and a World Heritage site since 1987. Located at the center of Beijing, the Palace Museum holds over 1,807,558 artifacts, including paintings, pottery, inscribed wares, bronze wares, and court documents. There are over a million rare and valuable works of art in the museum's collection. Here is a list of the top ten treasures to be found at the museum.


Yaxu Rectangular Vessel.

The bronze Xu Rectangular Vessel is a wine container popular from the Shang Dynasty (1556 BC – 1046 BC) to the Warring States period (475 BC -221 BC). It is 38 centimeters wide, 45.5 centimeters tall with a caliber measuring 33.6 * 33.4 centimeters. The vessel weighs 21.4 kilograms and has four handles on each side in the form of an elephant's head. Between the two handles are decorations of other unknown animals. The body is covered with motifs of dragons and animal masks against a thunder pattern.


Lang-Kiln Red-Glazed Vase.

At the request of Qing Emperor Kangxi, this red-glazed vase was produced in China's porcelain capital of Jingdezhen, under the supervision of Jiangxi governor Lang Tingji. It is regarded as a rare jewel among the porcelain collections in the Palace Museum due to the artists' exceptional craftsmanship and use of superior materials.


Silk Tapestry of the Painting Plum Blossom and Magpie.

This masterpiece, 104 centimeters long and 36 centimeters wide, is the work of Southern Song Dynasty master weaver Shen Zifan of Suzhou, who meticulously depicted this serene traditional landscape scene on silk.

Silk tapestry, known literally as cut silk in Chinese, refers to a method of weaving on a flat loom in which colored vertical threads are passed back and forth through a fixed matrix of horizontal threads to form the desired pattern. The term cut silk is derived from the fact that the patterns often appear as if they were literally cut out of a larger piece of cloth. It is regarded as the noblest form of silk weaving craftsmanship.


Colorized Lacquer Clock with Eight Immortals.

This clock, which sits on a rectangular table, is a representative masterpiece among clock collections in the Palace Museum. It is 185 centimeters tall, 102 centimeters wide in the front and 70 centimeters wide at both sides.

The clock was made during the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong, and took five years to complete. There are seven mechanical systems that control the timepiece and chimes. When the springs at bottom are wound, the scenes to the right and left of the clock panel will rotate. The clock strikes at every quarter hour and three doors on the second story will automatically open to show three figures holding hammers and bells. The figures on the right and left strike bells to announce the quarter hour and the central figure marks the hour. After that, the figures retreat into the tower, music plays and the scenes beside the clock panel begin to move.


Letter of Recovery.

Letter of Recovery was written by Lu Ji, a famous calligrapher during the Western Jin Dynasty, who wrote to his friend inquiring about his friend's illness. It is one of the oldest manuscripts in China and a model calligraphic work collected at the Palace Museum.

Some scholars believe it was a cursive form of official script. Characterized by a simple and vivid style, this masterpiece is 23.7 centimeters wide and 20.6 centimeters long. The letter had been handed down from collector to collector before it was donated to the Palace Museum.


Riverside Scene during Qingming Festival.

Riverside Scene during Qingming Festival is one of the top ten Chinese classical paintings. It was painted in the Song Dynasty by Zhang Zeduan, a royal-assigned painter who worked in the Imperial Art Academy, considered one of the greatest ancient Chinese painters.

The masterpiece is 24.8 centimeters wide and 528.7 centimeters long, depicting real-life scenes of China in the 12th century. It displays the prosperous city of Bianjing (now called Kaifeng) on Qingming Festival, highlighting the developed economy of the Song Dynasty.


Cloisonné Incense Burner with Lotus Decoration and Elephant-trunk Handles.

This Yuan-dynasty incense burner is 13.9 and 13.5 centimeters in diameter. It has a round and bulging brass body, two handles shaped like elephant trunks and a foot ring. Around the neck are 12 yellow, white, red and purple chrysanthemum flowers on a light blue enamel background. The body is decorated with six red, white and yellow intertwining lotus flowers on a sapphire blue background. Below them is a band of lotus petals. The enamel coating is shiny and smooth. In some places, it is as transparent as glass.


Gray Jade Stove Carved with Dragon in Cloud.

The stove is considered a jadeware masterpiece among the Palace Museum's collection. Made in the Song Dyansty, the stove is 7.9 centimeters tall and 12.8 centimeters in diameter. The surface is carved with floating dragons, auspicious clouds and the oceanic waves. Carved at bottom of the piece is a classical poem written by Emperor Qianlong.


  Carved Lacquer Plate By Zhang Cheng.

Zhang Cheng was the lacquerware carving master of Yuan Dynasty and his masterpiece is traditionally regarded as the gem of carved lacquerware works. This plate is the representative masterpiece of lacquerware collected in Palace Museum. It is 3.3 centimeters tall and has a caliber measuring 19.2 centimeters. The body of the plate is made of wood and painted black. The inside and outside of the plate are both carved in the shape of clouds.

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