In early March I did a whirlwind tour of East Asia! This was my first time back to the region since before the pandemic, and over a 14 day period I visited Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo. It was a great feeling to visit this part of the world again - especially Hong Kong where I was able to see numerous family members and friends again.
One of the highlights of my trip was to visit the newly opened Hong Kong Palace Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District. This new museum was years in the making and finally opened up on July 3rd of 2022. It is conveniently located just a quick bus ride from the Kowloon MTR station.
The design of the Hong Kong Palace Museum is by Rocco Design Architects and (in my opinion) resembles an ancient Chinese spade-form bronze coin, OR possibly an archaic Chinese bronze cooking vessel.
All of the galleries have special themes and most of the objects are on loan from the Palace Museum in Beijing's Forbidden City. They all showcase the pinnacle of Imperial Chinese art from the past 2000 years. (Note: in this blog I will be using the term 'Imperial' a lot!)
Image 1. Li-Chun Hu and I in front of the main entrance of the building. If I was better at photoshopping, I'd be able to remove the metal fences and the other people taking photos!
Image 2a. One of the first items I admired at the Hong Kong Palace Museum is this incredible flambé glazed bottle vase from the Qianlong Period (1736-1795). The surface is decorated in gilding with floral scenes on one side and an Imperial poem on the other.
Image 2b. The reverse of the Qianlong flambé vase with its poem. The gilt painting in the borders is really something!
Image 3. Here are some examples of the numerous Imperial jade seals at the Hong Kong Palace Museum. These are dated to c. 1790 of the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) and were housed in this zitan (purple sandal wood) box with Imperial text all along the exterior. The surface of the box is carved in relief with delicate, yet powerful dragons.
The seals are carved of white jade and typical in its form with a square base surmounted by a double dragon. The seals were ordered specifically by the Qianlong Emperor to commemorate his 70th and 80th birthdays.
Image 4. This is a very large Imperial gilt bronze automated clock from the Qianlong period. At the hour, sections of the clock will start moving with figures coming out of the numerous compartments, and the crystal and glass cylinders rotating to imitate waterfalls. The clock is raised on a set of incredibly detailed gilt bronze elephants.
Image 5. This display cabinet is quite amazing because it copies the layout of an Imperial throne room. On the sides are a pair of tall incense containers and a pair of large cloisonné enamel longevity cranes. The cranes would have held something in their mouths (ie a bronze lotus leaf) that would have functioned as a candelabra or incense holder.
The throne in the middle is constructed of zitan, while in the front is situated a very comfortable footrest. Behind the scene is a formidable five panel screen, also made of zitan.
Image 6a. Here I am again, blown away by this set of Imperial Buddhist bronze figures from the 18th Century. It's extremely rare to see so many of these types of sculptures in person, and all of them feature an Imperial reign mark. These Buddhist figures would have been part of a shrine within the Forbidden City.
Image 6b. A close up of one of these Buddhist bronze figures. This is a three-faced bodhisattva (an enlightened Buddhist being who chose to remain on the earth to ease humanity's suffering) and features a reign mark stating it was 'respectfully made during the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty' 大清乾隆年敬造.
Image 7. One of my favourite pieces at the Hong Kong Palace Museum is this elegant wine ewer from the Qianlong Period. The body is constructed of gilt bronze and cloisonné enamel, while the cartouches are painted in fine enamel work from the Imperial workshop. The scenes are quite beautiful in their use of Western-influenced shading and perspective.
Image 8. And here is one of the major highlights of the Hong Kong Palace Museum! Here is an extremely rare Ru yao shallow dish from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).
The Ru kiln site is known as one of the 'five great kilns' of the Song Dynasty and there are only approximately 90 recorded examples in the world. These ceramic pieces are known for their fine potting, delicate shapes, and sky-blue glaze.
There is an extremely high demand for Ru wares when they appear on the auction market, with prices in the millions and millions of dollars.
Sotheby's Hong Kong sold a Ru brush washer from the Le Cong Tang collection in October 2017 for HKD 294,287,500 (approximately CAD 50 million) and Christie's Hong Kong sold a bowl from a Japanese collection in November 2018 for HKD 56,350,000 (approximately CAD 9.6 million).
Image 9. The Hong Kong Palace Museum also features numerous important porcelain pieces, and if you have been reading my blogs and/or following my Instagram account @anthonywuart over the years, you'll know that I love porcelain from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Obviously there are way too many porcelain examples from the museum to showcase in one post so I selected (sadly) only three.
The spectacular bowl shown here uses falangcai enamels (literally 'foreign colours') that were introduced to the Qing Court by visiting Jesuit priests during the early 18th Century.
The style looks very European Baroque with its bold colours, scrolling vines and use of shading. The base features a four-character reign mark stating 'made by Imperial command from the Kangxi Emperor' 康熙御製 (1664-1722). This is a REALLY state-of-the-art porcelain bowl in its use of both Western and Eastern technologies.
Image 10. Another incredible porcelain piece at the museum is this doucai and famille rose enamelled moon flask decorated with flanking dragons amongst scrolling clouds, a flaming pearl of wisdom, and ocean waves.
The moon flask features a Qianlong reign mark to the base and showcases the bold porcelain craftsmanship and excellent enamelling from the 18th Century Qing Court.
Image 11. And finally, the last image for this blog is one of the most famous vases from the Beijing Palace Museum. Hopefully it will stay in Hong Kong for my next visit, but I am guessing it will be rotated back to Beijing in the near future.
This vase is from the Qianlong Period and uses famille rose enamels to depict an endearing scene of young boys. The figures are extremely well-painted and the vase would have been made directly for the Qianlong Emperor - possibly wishing the Emperor the gift of more future sons and heirs. Its shape is extremely unique and rare in that it is made to look like a conjoined vase.
Thank you again for reading this edition of my blog and hopefully you will all get a chance to visit the Hong Kong Palace Museum someday.
At the time of writing this, I am on my way to New York for the Asia Week events, including auction previews at Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's. Immediately following my New York trip I will be heading to Vancouver to finalize my online Asian Art auction for Heffel. I'll definitely be posting more news in the coming weeks with many more Asian art highlights!