Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Week 1: Within the Forbidden City

   From the early 15th century until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the Forbidden City was the royal  residence of 24 emperors of China. During this time fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty lived and ruled within this mammoth complex in the heart of Bejing. Constructed between 1406 and 1420 by Emperor Zhu Di Yongle, the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, it was erected on the same site as the palace of the Yuan emperor Kublai Khan. Over 1 million builders and architects followed 1500 year-old specifications set by Confucian text to construct the largely wood, ceramic, and marble complex. Designed on a central axis with a symmetrical grid, the huge facility is like a curio cabinet of walls within walls of craftsmanship and beautiful art. It is now open to the public as a museum. The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 180 acres. With over 8000 rooms, the Forbidden City most certainly requires a map to navigate its maze of crimson walls and yellow tile roofs. This beautiful and fascinating structure is the basis of the first book-of-the-week for 2015, a box titled Within the Forbidden City.

the cover...
The cover of the cigar-style box has a vintage National Geographic map of the Forbidden City, and a hand-carved bone clasp and satin ribbon closure. The box measures 5 x 5 inches square by 1 inch tall. Handprinted Japanese paper covers the outer walls of the box. Moss green silk bookcloth is used for the box hinge and to cover the partitioned tray inside.

the map
   Glued to the inner lid of the box is a map legend which identifies the major temples, halls, and structures marked on the map. Inside the box is a 4-section tray with a unique object in each compartment... a tiny porcelain vase, a butterfly, a carved ivory sail on a crystal geode, and a tea-dyed paper scroll tied with a silk thread. The four objects are more than tactile illustrations... they are symbolic representations of the untold stories of 500 years of the Forbidden City as a thriving complex of Chinese power, government, and culture. 

treasures tell the story...
Ivory and crystal boat
a butterfly
a tiny vase
The treasures can stay inside their book/box or they can be taken out and examined. 

the objects can be held or played with...
The Forbidden City was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. Read more about it at this link: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/439
View some of the artworks housed inside the Forbidden City National Palace Museum at http://www.dpm.org.cn/shtml/2/@/8797.html#148.

box of carved ivory combs and hair pins, Qing Dynasty, 1800's
Ming vase, 1368-1644
It's interesting to think of objects as pages of a book...

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