Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Forbidden City

I went to the Forbidden City exhibit (subtitle: Inside the Court of China's Emperors) at the Royal Ontario Museum today.  Photography in the exhibit was strictly prohibited, so all you get to see are these goofy pandas from the gift shop at the exit.

When China forbids something, you shouldn't take it lightly, or you might find yourself getting run over by a tank or something.  Better safe than sorry.

I had just watched a moderately interesting TV show about the Forbidden City.  It is a huge, walled complex of buildings inside modern Beijing.  It was the Chinese imperial palace from the 1420 to 1912, per Wikipedia.  Apparently a more ancient Chinese capital was further south, but the capital was relocated to Beijing by a Mongol conqueror who wanted to be able to pop back across the border to see his extended family without a lengthy commute.  Later on, Chinese rulers saw the wisdom in remaining there so that they could keep an eye on the Mongols.  Those Khans weren't the type of guys you could just turn your back on and forget about.  They liked conquering too much for that.

The exhibit was a bit underwhelming.  I'm not sure whether to blame this on the curator, or on my own lack of imagination.  Maybe I'm just not a museum type of gal.  I find it difficult to make the mental and emotional leap from a thing in a glass case in a dark room to the real life of actual people. I do better with books (history or historical fiction), and TV shows that feature believable re-enactments.  The truth is that a 300-year-old Qing dynasty cloisonn√© vase looks remarkably like the cloisonn√© vases that I could buy for $20 or less just a few blocks away in Chinatown.

There were some items that were truly beautiful, especially some of the silk embroidery/tapestries.  But I have to say that my favourite artifact was the hot pink embroidered silk dog suit.  By this, I mean an actual garment to be worn by a dog.  It was designed to cover the dog from its snout to the tip of its tail.  In other words, my Asian neighbours who take out their chihuahuas dressed in Juicy Couture are not indulging in a purely modern folly.  They can point to their cultural heritage for justification.

Once I finally escaped from the exhibit, which was hot, stuffy, and (by my standards) crowded, I had myself a little sit-down break in the rotunda.  The rotunda has a pretty mosaic ceiling.  

It says: "That all men may know his work."

And that's it!  I went home.  It was raining.  I got a little damp because I didn't have an umbrella with me.  But I'm not made of sugar, so I dried out.  And here I am.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Did you buy me the panda?!? Huh??? Did ya???

Lynn said...

Viewing exhibits can be exhausting - I agree. That looks like a beautiful place though. :)

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: I got you one of those red and blue hats.

Lynn: I love the old museum building. I used to volunteer there when I was a teenager, helping out with the weekend kids' courses, and I worked at the summer camp for several years.

DarcKnyt said...

Too bad about the prohibition on photos, but you raise a good point. Better take 'em seriously when they say don't do something.

Good shots of that fanciful and beautiful ceiling though. :)

Granny Annie said...

A photograph of a gift shop and a ceiling. Guess your day wasn't a total waste:)

Jenski said...

I've been to the Forbidden City! The irony is that commoners weren't allowed in there, and now the government party's headquarters are right next door and the modern commoners aren't allowed in there...

LL Cool Joe said...

My partner loves pandas.

I have to say I'm not into museums at all, but it does look interesting, and I'm glad you made it out alive! I had no idea that you aren't made of sugar! ;)

Vanessa T said...

You are too sweet not to be made of sugar. Just sayin'.

I'm sorry the museum exhibit wasn't as fun as you'd hoped. That ceiling though - wow! I'd make a trip just to see that! Thanks for the great shots of it. :)