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 cloisonné vase looks remarkably like the cloisonné 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.
Posted by Sparkling Red at 10:29 PM