Celestial Empire – Life in China 1644-1911 @ National Library of Australia

Occasionally I make a point of going to the first day of an exhibition. I have been looking forward to this one since I first heard about its coming maybe six months ago. A comprehensive exhibition on the Quing Dynasty from 1644- 1911 drawn almost exclusively from the resources of the National Library of China would be hard to make a mess of.

Walking into the crowded space today immediately confirmed my expectations that this would be exhilarating. The first object was a huge blue and white map on fabric that must have been 12 sq mtr. Around the corner there was an abundance of hand drawn maps and story books, maps, building plans, rich, beautifully coloured illustrations and massive paintings of 3D map like paintings on silk scrolls.

In the centre of the gallery there is one of those fun glass topped touch screen map devices. I spent 20 minutes on it. There were translations of documents, information flags on map locations, historical photo collections and exquisite painting reproductions linked to elements of the main map. I guess I got less than half way round and will go back for more.

I plan to go back for several more visits. I was almost shocked that it was free. The quality of the objects exhibited and the helpful amount of detail in the text was enjoyable. As there is a photograph ban in the gallery I have included the webpage link and a picture of a horse drawn carriage from the foyer of the Library.

It was a privilege to view this material and chatting with several Chinese visitors I got some insight into some of the untranslated text. Thanks NLA staff – it was awesome.

https://www.nla.gov.au/exhibitions/celestial-empire

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