Exhibition: Empresses of China’s Forbidden City

 

 

Exhibition dates: 18 August 2018 – 10 February 2019

This is the first major international exhibition to explore the role of empresses in China’s grand imperial era — the Qing dynasty, from 1644 to 1912. Nearly 200 works, including imperial portraits, jewellery, garments, Buddhist sculptures and decorative art objects from the Palace Museum, Beijing (known as the Forbidden City), tell the little-known stories of how these women influenced art, religion, court politics and international diplomacy.

The Qing imperial court was strictly patriarchal and hierarchical. The empress’ primary duty was to bear a son to continue the imperial line, but she was more than the borrowed womb of the dynasty. She also headed the imperial harem and could influence the emperor. She was regarded as the “mother of the state” and a role model for all women.

Moving boldly against the tradition that “women shall not rule,” some empresses took more direct control of state affairs in challenging times. Presiding over the state ritual of promoting silk production and the textile industry, empresses honoured women’s vital economic health of the state. A number of empresses played a prominent role in art patronage and religious activities. They did not bind their feet and could learn to ride and hunt.

For more details visit the website of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Massachusetts

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