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Location: Tower Galleries atop the Meridian Gate (Wu men)
Dates: 2019-09-03 through 2019-10-31
Admission: Free with the purchase of a general admission ticket
“Seasons of Beauty: A Special Exhibition of Floral Themed Artifacts” is on view in the galleries atop the Meridian Gate (Wu men) from 3 September through 31 October 2019. Following “Celebrating the Spring Festival in the Forbidden City”, this current exhibition is the second largescale display of art held this year. The theme of flowers and decorative plants is a magnificent display in celebration of the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. FAW Group Co., Ltd. (originally known as First Automotive Works), with its representative Hongqi (lit. “Red Flag”) sedan, is the exclusive automobile-manufacturing partner of the exhibition.
The exhibition is set in the three galleries atop the Meridian Gate in three corresponding sections. The first section, “Seasonal Sketches”, located in the West Tower Gallery is a showcase of realistic paintings of flora by court painters and other historical professional artists. Found in the Central Tower Gallery, the second section, “Refined Leisure”, presents the works of literati painters and some by non-literati artists. The third section, called “Emotive Significance”, in the East Tower Gallery has a variety of art and objects highlighting the cultural significance of floral imagery in daily Chinese life. With 307 pieces (or sets) of art, the exhibition features a selection of the finest works with floral themes from the Palace Museum collection. The one piece from an outside source is on loan from the Tianjin Museum.
As a systematic presentation of China’s ancient tradition of floral and plant themes in art, the exhibition has a few unique aspects. It is the first comprehensive, largescale exhibition in the world of art with floral and plant themes. Designed in the context of current academic perspectives, the exhibition reflects the understandings of flora by ancient Chinese observers. The galleries primarily feature paintings, but a range of ceramics, lacquers, embroideries, screens, and documents are also on view. The second special aspect of the exhibition is its systematic presentation of the development of floral paintings and related arts. With many of the works being shown to the public for the first time, the art on view includes a many from the Song (960–1279) and Yuan (1279–1368) dynasties. Among the works are the hanging-scroll painting Layers of Icy Silk (Cengdie bingxiao tu) by Ma Lin of the Southern Song (1127–1279), the painted scroll Butterflies (Jiadie tu) by Zhao Chang of the Northern Song (960–1127), and One Hundred Flowers (Baihua tu) by an anonymous Song painter. Other floral-themed works by Southern Song court painters such as Ma Yuan, Ma Lin, Lin Chun, and Zhu Shaozong are highlights of the gallery displays. The third unique feature of the exhibition is the fusion of academic perspectives and colloquial expressions as a way of emphasizing the culture developed around floral art; the galleries show the connection between floral imagery and daily life. As a fourth specialty, the exhibition is part of the national celebrations of the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of New China. The Palace Museum presents the festive exhibition as a blessing for the glory and prosperity of the People’s Republic of China.
An exhibition catalogue is available for purchase. The catalogue is published as a set of two volumes with images of each item on view and additional images of works unable to be displayed due to art-conservation requirements to protect against various forms of damage. In addition to the beautifully arranged images, the book includes papers by researchers of ancient Chinese floral paintings.
In tandem with the Palace Museum’s celebratory exhibition, the Shenyang Palace Museum in Liaoning Province is currently holding a similar exhibition with floral themed art.
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Xiaolu Kang