Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Emperor's Toy Chest

"Every curio box is well designed and full of interest. In the process of opening and closing a curio box, one can enjoy the same feelings as when playing a hide and seek game. One may find a new surprise every time it is played."

The first time I visited Taiwan I was awestruck by an exhibit at the National Palace Museum in Taipei City called The Emperor's Toy Chests. The exhibit was a room full of curio cabinets from the 15-18th centuries. Each curio cabinet was a unique and fascinating piece of craftsmanship containing between 12 and 92 drawers each... many of which were hidden behind revolving doors and in secret spaces. Inside every drawer was a tiny treasure.. a carved ivory elephant, a cloisonné perfume bottle, a tiny watercolor painting, a gold and pearl necklace, an embroidered coat clasp... Each item was precious and beautiful and made by hand.
Emperor's Curio Boxes (see
I imagined the person who received the chest of treasures, opening the many drawers and admiring the lovely things inside... and I imagined the many craftspersons who created the beautiful objects... I know the feeling of creating something beautiful for others.. imagining how it will be used, imagining the "life" of the object.. I have tried to recreate that gathering up of handcrafted beauty several times.. and again with this week's Book of the Week, The Emperor's Toy Chest.
   A round brass button and a jade green satin ribbon allude to the wealth and opulence of the Qing Dynasty when the emperor's toy chests were created. The cover reminds me of the doorway leading into a royal palace. The emerald green paste paper cover reinforces the richness and variety of jade.. a lucky stone in asian culture.
   And my Emperor's Toy Chest opens into an accordion book of pockets... filled with treasures and labeled with fortunes.
Inside The Emperor's Toy Chest
Page 1, a tiny book of handmade paper; Page 2,  pieces of  mica
                               Page 3, Mother of pearl carved heart; Page 4, print of Grandma Sadie on her wedding day

                                                        Page 5, Copper enamel 'love, love'; Page 6, dried pansy
Last Page watercolor painting and its Fortune
The back side of the book has the same number of pockets as the inside, but these pockets are empty.. for treasures that come along... a sort of "activity book" for collecting small (flat-ish) objects of beauty...
Back side... an accordion of colored pockets to fill...
It touches your imagination, yes?
What would you put in your own Emperor's Toy Chest?