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Selected Ruyi Scepters from the Palace Museum Collection

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Location:Dongguan Museum, Guangdong Province

Dates: 2016-02-02 through 2016-05-03

From 2 February 2016, the Museum's touring exhibition "Selected Ruyi Scepters from the Palace Museum Collection" will be on show in the Dongguan Museum, Guangdong Province. This is the fourth exhibition featuring the Museum's ruyi scepter collection in a Chinese museum. An extensive selection of ninety-nine pieces of ruyi scepters will be displayed in five categories. This grouping is based on either the materials used in crafting, such as jade, bamboo, wood, or metal, or by special stylistic features—for instance, ruyi scepters with triple inlays. During the Qianlong reign (1736-1795), ruyi scepters, especially those made from red sandalwood (zitan), were first crafted with jade inlays on the head, middle of the handle, and end sections; the emperor deemed these works as having a special scholarly elegance. Another stylistic category is for those crafted in sets of nine. In traditional Chinese symbolism, the number nine (jiu) signifies endless blessing, fortune, and happiness. These works offer a masterful sampling of the quintessence of Qing dynasty (1644-1911) ruyi scepters. As visitors glimpse the superb craftsmanship and rich variety of this unique form of Chinese art, the exhibition will provide a delightful feast to the eye.

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 Originally a backscratcher to help relieve the hard to reach parts of the back, the ruyi scepter is named after a phrase that literally means "according to one's wishes". This functional daily utensil gradually developed into an object of exquisite craftsmanship with rich and auspicious symbolism. The distinct, historical significance of the art form includes exorcizing evil and praying for heavenly blessing. In the Qing dynasty, it was regarded as the symbol of regal supremacy and unrivalled wealth. Its presence on imperial thrones and tables in the imperial palace reflects the enormous popularity the ruyi scepter enjoyed during that period.

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  Favored not only by the ancients, the auspicious symbolism of the art form is esteemed by modern Chinese. Whenever they are featured in exhibitions organized by the Palace Museum, ruyi scepters always draw tremendous crowds. First displayed in August 2013 in Guangzhou's Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King (Western Han dynasty, 206 BCE - 24 CE), the exhibition has travelled to the Hebei Museum during the Spring Festival of 2015 and to Xiamen, Fujian Province earlier this year. With a grand opening celebrating the 2016 Spring Festival, the exhibition will remain on show in the Dongguan Museum until 3 May.

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