Gugong Museum ed: PU TIAN TONG QING: QINGDAI WANSHOU SHENGDIAN. The World Rejoices as One: Celebrating Imperial Birthdays in the Qing Dynasty. Beijing, 2015. 411 pp. Colour plates throughout, many full page. 1 foldout. 38x27 cm. Cloth.
Large and weighty catalogue of an amazing exhibition exploring the sumptuous birthday celebrations and associated rituals, gifts and tributes to the emperors and empresses throughout the Qing dynasty up to and including the Guangxu emperor and dowager empress Cixi.
The exhibition was in six sections: Attaining Longevity Together; Birthday Celebrations in the Capital; Reverently Presenting Birthday Gifts; Birthday Celebrations in the Grand Hall; Sumptuous Banquets; Auspicious Birthday Operas. Whilst the exhibition covered imperial birthday celebrations throughout the Qing dynasty, there was a focus on the celebrations of emperors and empresses who had attained their 60th and 80th birthdays - both highly auspicious anniversaries.
Many of the exhibits (over 500!) were quite extraordinary, of the highest quality, and rarely-seen before. A huge 16 panel double-sided screen (with calligraphy by the emperors sons and embroidery) commissioned for the Kangxi Emperors 60th birthday (painstakingly restored for this exhibition), gifts produced with the rarest and finest materials, birthday robes and gowns, theatre costumes and many associated objects decorated with auspicious emblems and symbols.
Amongst many highlights was a 40 metre long and hugely-detailed scroll painting showing street celebrations for the Kangxi emperor's 60th birthday. The scroll begins at the gates of the Garden of Everlasting Spring (Changchunyuan at Yuanmingyuan) and follows the route of the emperor's procession and ends at the north Gate of Military Prowess (Shenwu Men) of the Forbidden City. This scroll painting formed the basis for the woodblock-printed book 'Wanshou Shengdian Tu'. The exhibition also had numerous other superb and rarely-seen paintings including 'Twenty-Seven Elders Travelling to the Fragrant Hills' and full length imperial birthday portraits. Much Kangxi, Qianlong and late 19th century material. All illustrated in fine colour plates.
A number of essays accompany which explore various aspects of the birthday rituals and celebrations and there is a detailed chronology of the complex celebrations organized for the 80th birthday of the empress dowager Chongqing, the mother of the Qianlong emperor.
Foreword, introductions to sections, abstracts to essays and captions to plates in English. Main text in Chinese.
An excellent visual and research reference on an important aspect of Qing court life which can be extrapolated to such celebrations throughout Chinese imperial history.
This catalogue has proved highly difficult to source. As with another superb exhibition catalogue of an important Gugong exhibition in 2015, it would appear that nearly all of the edition of this catalogue was retained to present as official gifts to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Gugong Museum. We have managed to obtain just a couple of copies.
Subjects: Court Life Painting
Available, as of: 26/04/2018
Was item 375 in printed List 189.
Record produced by Hanshan Tang Books, www.hanshan.com.