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Museum of History launches large-scale exhibition on Qing court attire (with photos)

     "The Splendours of Royal Costume: Qing Court Attire", the latest large-scale exhibition to be staged at the Hong Kong Museum of History, will be held from tomorrow (July 31) until October 7. The exhibition will not only enable visitors to appreciate up close the costumes of the Qing emperors and their consorts, but will also give the public an opportunity to take in a comprehensive overview of the Qing court costume system.

     The exhibition is jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Palace Museum, and has been organised by the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Palace Museum. Solely sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the exhibition is the second in the 2013 Hong Kong Jockey Club Series after the exhibition "The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia". The new exhibition features more than 130 valuable costumes selected from over 100 000 textile pieces in the Palace Museum's collections, and more than 60 per cent of the exhibits have never been shown outside the Mainland before. Nearly 30 per cent of the items are being displayed for the first time.

     The exhibition was officially opened today (July 30) by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing; the Director of the Palace Museum, Dr Shan Jixiang; the Steward of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Mr Anthony Chow; the Chairman of the History Museum Advisory Panel, Dr Philip Wu; the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; and the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History, Ms Susanna Siu.

     Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Tsang said that under the letter of intent on co-operation signed by the LCSD with the Palace Museum in June last year, the exhibition is another joint venture after the exhibition "A Lofty Retreat from the Red Dust: The Secret Garden of Emperor Qianlong", which was held at the Hong Kong Museum of Art last year. The new exhibition is also the first joint venture between the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Palace Museum.

     Mr Tsang noted that the costume system of the Qing dynasty was the largest in scale and the most elaborate of all the dynasties' systems. The court attire was the core, as well as the most complicated, of the Qing costume system, and took an important role in the history of Chinese costume. The exhibition offers visitors a rare opportunity to view, from different perspectives, the Qing court attire and the cultural phenomena it showed.

     The court attire of the Qing dynasty reflects the highly hierarchical system and the strictness of the imperial court system, as well as how the rigorous system of Qing court attire served to differentiate rank and status in society. The exhibition "The Splendours of Royal Costume: Qing Court Attire" focuses on the costumes of the emperors and their consorts, including official costumes, which were worn on important ceremonial and sacrificial occasions; festive costumes, which were worn for important festivals and feasts, and during the prelude and conclusion periods of sacrificial events; regular costumes, which were worn on solemn occasions including the Classics Lecture presided over the emperor and festivals during mourning periods; travel costumes, which were worn when making hunting and surveying expeditions, and during battles on horseback; military costumes, which were worn when participating in military events; and leisure costumes, which were worn during leisure time.

     The valuable relics on display include the festive robe of Emperor Shunzhi; the armour and helmet worn by Emperor Kangxi when he inspected the Eight-Banner troops; the court robe of Emperor Qianlong; the Eastern pearl court necklaces worn by the emperor, empress and empress dowager on important ceremonial occasions; the leisure dresses of Empress Dowager Cixi; the matrimonial dragon robes of Emperor Guangxu and his empress; the surcoat of Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty; and full-size sketches used by the imperial textile manufactories. The fascinating court attire on show illustrates the protocols, patterns and production techniques of Qing court attire, revealing how the Manchu hunting culture, as well as the rituals and traditions of the Central Plain, cast an influence on the designs. The Qing court attire was most impressively expressed in silk and textile products that demonstrated superb standards of workmanship and were exquisitely woven and resplendently decorated, involving elaborate and diverse techniques. As such, every piece is already a beautiful work of art.

     To enhance visitors' knowledge of the costume system of the Qing court, the Hong Kong Museum of History has produced two multimedia programmes entitled "Seasonal Activities of an Emperor" and "Making a New Robe for the Emperor". The former introduces a range of costumes for different seasons and occasions throughout a year for an emperor and an empress. They include the costumes designed for New Year, the Seven Sisters Festival, grand inspections and the paying of homage to heaven. The latter programme describes the process of how an emperor's robe was designed and produced.

     To enrich the contents of the exhibition, the Hong Kong Museum of History collaborated with the Hong Kong Design Centre to launch a series of creative art programmes. These have included arranging for design students to work together with the museum designers in designing the exhibition gallery and multimedia programmes. The museum has also partnered with the Institute of Textiles and Clothing of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to organise "Discovering Qing: Fashion Design Competition" using Qing court attire as the theme. The prize presentation of the fashion competition was held today at the opening ceremony, and winners' works were shown in a catwalk display. The winners' works and other selected works from the competition will be put on display at the museum's lobby during the exhibition period.

     The Hong Kong Museum of History will also hold a series of educational activities, including guided tours, lectures, workshops, an interactivity scheme and a caring for the community scheme. The aforementioned multimedia programmes and the educational and creative art events are sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. For details of the exhibition and educational activities, please visit the Hong Kong Museum of History's website at For enquiries, please call 2724 9042.

     The Hong Kong Museum of History is located at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It is open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays, and from 10am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). The admission fees for the exhibition "The Splendours of Royal Costume: Qing Court Attire" are $20 (standard ticket) and $10 (concession ticket). Half-price concession tickets are available on Wednesdays.

Ends/Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Issued at HKT 20:20


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