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Adele Schlombs. 'Imperial Splendour: Life and Art in the Forbidden City' at the Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne

For more than 500 years, the Forbidden City in Beijing was the seat of the emperors of China. Within the 8-metre-high walls of the palace complex, an extraordinary flourishing of art and culture took place, culminating in the pinnacle of Qing rule (1644-1911): the Kangxi (1662-1722) to the Qianlong period (1736-95). It is this period that forms the focus of the exhibition ‘Imperial Splendour: Life and Art in the Forbidden City’ at the Museum of East Asian Art in Cologne this autumn, featuring works generously loaned by the Palace Museum, Beijing. The concept for the show, comprising ninety groups of objects, was developed in 2010, when the mayor of Cologne invited the museum to participate in events celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations between China and Germany, as well as 25 years of partnership between the cities of Beijing and Cologne. Highlighting the political, ceremonial and religious role played by the emperors and their self-understanding as foremost collectors and commissioners of art, the exhibition offers the visitor an opportunity to explore a tradition in which the emperor enjoyed quasi-divine status as a link between heaven and earth, being responsible for harmonizing ‘everything under Heaven’. 

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