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Lacquered Folding Screen with Red Sandalwood Frame Inscribed with the Essay For the Room of the Five Classics

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Dimensions: height: 188 cm, width of each panel: 38 cm, overall width: 230 cm

The folding screen consists of six panels. Framed with red sandalwood, each panel is coated with lacquer on both sides. Five cross bars decorate the panel. On the lower board, or the "skirt panel", a medallion design depicting two hornless dragons surrounding a Chinese character for "longevity" (shou) is carved in relief. The hornless dragon design with and without the character "longevity" can also be found over and below the skirt panel, and on the apron that ornaments the lower edge. The full text of the Qianlong Emperor's essay For the Room of the Five Classics was carved from Nanmu wood, gilded with golden paste, and then inlaid against the lacquered background.   
  The five classics are the Book of Changes (Yi Jing), Book of Odes (Shi Jing), Historical Documents (Shu Jing), Book of Rites (Li Ji), Spring and Autumn Annals (Chun Qiu). They are works esteemed by Confucians as the literary cornerstone of Chinese civilization.   
  The essay tells the history of the block-printed edition of the five classics that Yue Ke (ca. 1183-1240) commissioned, and the Qianlong Emperor's naming of the Room of the Five Classics (Wujingcui shi). The room is in the Forbidden City in the Hall of Displaying Benevolence (Zhaoren dian) east of the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong).   
  After its completion, the folding screen was placed in the Hall of Displaying Benevolence to mark the collection of the five classics. Emperors of the Qing dynasty read books here. Late in the Jiaqing reign (1796-1820), a big fire broke out in the Palace of Heavenly Purity and spread to the Room of the Five Classics. As a result, the folding screen, with the five classics, was destroyed. The existing screen was immediately created as a copy of the original.

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