Qianlong Garden Complex.
The exhibit "The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City" at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts displays exquisite art objects, furnishings, screens and wall hangings from the Qianlong Garden Complex of the Forbidden City in China. Since 1924, the doors had been closed on this secluded compound of pavilions and gardens deep within the palace. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Portrait of the Qianlong Emperor, ink and colors on silk.
As the fourth emperor of the Qing (pronounced ching) dynasty to rule China, his 60‐year reign spanned the American and French Revolutions. The Qianlong emperor led China to sweeping administrative, military and cultural achievements while far surpassing European monarchs of his day in wealth and power. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Qianlong Garden Complex, Juanquin theater room stage.
The 18th‐century emperor commissioned these lavish buildings, fine objects, and remarkable landscaping for his personal enjoyment. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Panel with niches (hanging), zitan, painted and gilt clay, colors on silk.
The Qianlong emperor was dedicated to Buddhism, Confucian morals, love of literature and reverence for nature. This hanging Buddhist shrine painted on silk is a mandala, a Buddhist cosmogram depicting a portion of the universe with deities and other supernatural beings arranged in a ritually auspicious design that can aid the meditation of initiated worshippers. The emperor is depicted in gold as the Bodhisattva Manjusri at the center. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Detail of panel with niches (hanging), zitan, painted and gilt clay, colors on silk.
In an innovative combination of two and three‐dimensional formats, the painted figures sit nestled in glass‐covered insets, dotting the piece like set gemstones. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Throne, from Yanghe Jingshe, zitan, bamboo, jade, semi-precious stones, and lacquer.
This throne exemplifies the exceptional craftsmanship of artisans engaged by the emperor to furnish his private world. This piece was carved from zitan, a wood so hard and dense that it sinks in water. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Panels (hanging, pair), wood, lacquer, jade, semi-precious stones, and glass.
Artisan techniques at the time included gold painting on lacquer, bamboo thread marquetry, fine wood carving, and jade and hardstone inlay. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Detail of the panels. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Cabinets (pair), from Yucuixuan, wood, lacquer, and gilding.
By the 18th century, Europeans and Americans were clamoring for Chinese silk, porcelain, tea, and furnishings. The wealthy also desired exotic Chinese-style gardens that mimicked drawings published in Europe by artists in the emperor's court. By the mid 19th century, Western merchants and sea captains had amassed personal collections of Chinese export art. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Qianlong Garden Complex.
The Qianlong Emperor may have lived an insular life, but he knew about European culture, particularly the architecture of the Versailles Palace and the latest painting styles. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Nancy Berliner, curator of Chinese art at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), who helped organize the current exhibition of imperial treasures from Beijing’s Forbidden City. Ann Hermes/Staff