The Forbidden City comes to Toronto

The Royal Ontario Museum will be hosting an exhibition next year which will highlight one of the most famous historical sites in the world. The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors, which is being done in partnership with Beijing’s Palace Museum, will open at the Toronto-based museum on March 8, 2014.

Imperial Throne for Qing QIanlong (1736-1795)- photo courtesy Palace Museum

The exhibition will feature about 250 objects, many of which have never before left the Forbidden City, which will chart the history of the complex from its construction in the 15th century until the site was turned into a museum in 1925. These include textiles, calligraphy, paintings, books, official documents, ceramics, silver, gold, jade, enamel, lacquer, and wood.


Among the exhibition highlights are an 18th century throne of lacquer, jade, and ivory; a delicate porcelain cup (adorned with chicken images was created in the 15th century; and a ceremonial robe, made of yellow, heavily embroidered silk, that was worn by six year old Emperor Tongzhi when he ascended to the throne in 1862.

Janet Carding, the CEO and Director of the Royal Ontario Museum explained, “Our exhibition takes visitors on a remarkable journey to the heart of the Forbidden City, eventually to the personal study of the Emperor were few have ever been. With incredibly rare artifacts from Beijing’s Palace Museum, augmented by objects from the ROM’s own renowned collections, we tell the extraordinary stories and reveal the characters that, for centuries, made the Forbidden City the compelling centre of an immense empire.”


Janet Carding

Wen-chien Cheng, one of the curators of the exhibition, explained that last winter a team from the Royal Ontario Museum travelled to Beijing to select which items that would be sent to Canada. “It was an exciting experience for us,” she explained, as each day the team was taken to an underground storage area in the Chinese capital, where they inspected various artefacts.

With tens of thousands of artefacts to choose from, the curators wanted to find items that would fit in with their storyline for the exhibition. She adds that their Chinese hosts “were puzzled by some of our selections”, such as an ice-box that was used to keep food cool, but the ROM exhibition was also meant to show some of the aspects of daily life in the Forbidden City.

Dr. Chen Shen, the lead curator of The Forbidden City, adds  “This exhibition will allow Canadians to see, for the very first time, the finest objects hidden from view in the Forbidden City.  We have enjoyed working with our Palace Museum colleagues and, together, are developing fascinating, previously untold stories about life in the courts of the Chinese Emperors. The two museums’ relationship ensures that ROM visitors will enjoy many of China’s national treasures; some of which have never left the Palace. These objects, both luxurious and everyday, provide an extraordinary opportunity to advance our understanding, and appreciation of the people who lived within the walls of the Forbidden City.”

The Royal Ontario Museum  will host The Forbidden City exhibition from Saturday, March 8 to Monday, September 1, 2014. It will be one of the highlights for the museum, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014. Click here to visit the Royal Ontario Museum website.


ming dynasty bowl