Exhibition Details

Location: South Wing
Dates: November 10, 2001
to April 7, 2002


The 15th century palace of China’s all-powerful Emperors, now the country’s most important national museum, has unlocked its most precious possessions of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) for an unprecedented exhibition. Phoenix Art Museum is proud to bring Secret World of the Forbidden City: Splendors from China’s Imperial Palace to Arizona, November 10, 2001 - April 7, 2002. The inner and most secret world of the Imperial Palace - or Forbidden City, as it became known - will be revealed through sumptuous items which formed part of the day-to-day life of this highly ritualized and most mysterious hidden court. Many of the well over 300 objects in the exhibition come from the Palace’s storeroom vaults and have never before been exhibited in the U.S.

"The Forbidden City is truly one of the world’s architectural wonders, ranking with Versailles," said Jim Ballinger, director of Phoenix Art Museum, who attended contract signing ceremonies in China. "The fact that The Palace Museum in Beijing has agreed to share these rare objects from its collection with the people of Arizona is truly gratifying. The exhibition continues Phoenix Art Museum’s commitment to bring extraordinary exhibitions of international treasures to the Southwest."

The Qing Dynasty Emperors are the subject of the exhibition, representing the pinnacle of achievement in the over 5,000-year history of this extraordinary country. The Dynasty ended with Emperor Xuantong (Puyi), some of whose favorite possessions will be among the items in the exhibition, including his famous bicycle as depicted in Bernardo Bertolucci's Academy Award-winning film The Last Emperor.

The inner life of the Forbidden City, the largest palace complex in the world with 9,999 rooms, courtyards, fortified walls and a protective moat within the heart of Beijing, has remained mysterious until today. This fascinating exhibition will be replete with intriguing stories detailing the life of this closed and exotic world.

Among the rare objects on view in this landmark exhibition will be the contents of a throne room, where great affairs of state were conducted. Artworks produced exclusively for the Imperial Court represent the highest levels of craftsmanship in gold, silver, gems, jade, precious woods, silks and inlaid metals. Items include paintings and portraits of the Emperors and their courtiers, superb ceramics, ceremonial furniture, ornate embroidered robes and jewelry.

Secret World of the Forbidden City is organized by The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Santa Ana, California, in association with The Palace Museum, Beijing, China. Phoenix Art Museum’s Curator of Asian Art, Dr. Janet Baker, had a primary role in creating this exhibition while at The Bowers, prior to coming to Phoenix.

Major funding for the Arizona showing of Secret World of the Forbidden City: Splendors from China’s Imperial Palace is provided by APS with additional support from Avnet, the Museum’s Asian Arts Council, GFWC-Desert Jade Woman’s Club, the Chinese Restaurant Association of Arizona, and the J.W. Kieckhefer Foundation. Promotional support is provided by 12 News, The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com, Phoenix Magazine, Dillard’s, and KJZZ/KBAQ FM 91.5 and 89.5.

Image Credits

Left: Statue of a Standing Maitreya, 18th century, Gold Inlaid with Pearls. Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing. Center: 10 Nations Coming To Pay Tribute, Qing Dynasty, Collection of The Palace Museum, Beijing.

Right:Throne Room, including: 18th century Red Sandalwood Screen & Throne, Incense Tables & Burners, and 19th century Wool Rug. Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.