Treasures from the Forbidden City

Treasures from the Forbidden City
Courtesy of the Palace Museum, Beijing

View into the Emperor's Theater
A circular portal — one similar to the "moongates" that are a common outdoor feature of Chinese gardens — opens on to a ground level view of the Emperor's theater. The Emperor loved illusions and filled the pavilions of the Qianlong Garden with them. One of them is visible at rear — a two-story wall painting of a garden as seen through a trompe l'oeil painted portal that mimics the real one that we look through in the foreground. Through the circular entry a white crane, symbol of longevity, peers into the room. The "bamboo" lattice work in the foreground is itself an illusion — real bamboo would crack in the cold winters of Beijing, so the Emperor's craftsmen used carved wood, which they stained to create the appearance of bamboo.

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