“A Garland of Treasures” is the title given in the Qing dynasty by the Qianlong emperor to a curio box in his collection. As the name suggests, it means a group of small but precious artifacts. The cherished crafts in the collection of the National Palace Museum include enamels, clothing and accessories, studio objects, lacquerware, Buddhist ritual implements, carvings, and curio boxes. Covering a wide range of forms and materials, these artifacts are especially numerous and of high quality, revealing an important facet of the Qing imperial collection. This exhibition is divided into the themes of “precious” and “crafts.” “Precious” refers to the treasured materials and exceptional workmanship, while “crafts” indicates the consummate skill that went into the design and production of the classical forms, making it difficult for the viewer to stop admiring these objects.
The collection of precious crafts in the National Palace Museum mostly derives from items used in daily life at the imperial court. Some were ritual objects and others diplomatic gifts. There are accessories that were used for ceremonial purposes, while others formed part of the dress and make-up for those living in the ladies’ quarters. Some crafts were displayed in palace halls, served as curios to be appreciated at leisure, or found in the scholar’s studio. Others are also rare collectibles stored in chests that were all specially designed and marvelously produced.
The materials used in this eclectic grouping of crafts often include composition combinations, being mainly gold or silver, semi-precious stone, bamboo or wood, ivory or horn, and ink or inkstone. They are also skillfully integrated frequently with bronzes, porcelains, and jades, with many different materials often appearing together. And along with a mixture of different techniques, these objects truly reflect the diverse beauty of Chinese arts and crafts. As for the subjects to decorate them, they often interweave auspicious patterns, folk legends, and historical allusions, being profoundly steeped in the essence of Chinese culture to create a sense of dignity, elegance, and delight in life.
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