Happy Birthday: Emperor Qianlong
Thematic Gallery (5),
Hong Kong Heritage Museum
17 December 2000 - 15 March 2001
The inaugural exhibition of this gallery featured a hundred exhibits on loan from the Palace Museum of Beijing and offered a wonderful insight into the grand occasions that were the imperial banquets during the Qing Dynasty.

To coincide with the exhibition, the Hong Kong Tourist Association had kindly assisted the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and approached local Chinese restaurants with the suggestion that they served Qing palace cuisine during the period of the exhibition.

Exhibit Highlights

Clock with monkeys offering birthday gifts Clock with monkeys offering birthday gifts
Qianlong period
44(L) x 29(W) x 104(H) cm

This elaborately structured clock resembles an edifice with three stories. Encrusted with coloured glass, the clock features an hour hand, a minute hand and a second hand, while beneath the face is a stage-like setting. When the spring is fully wound, the glass panels in front of and behind the stage lift simultaneously and the monkeys inside, kneeling, offer their gifts to the accompaniment of birds twittering behind them. The clock's middle section is a square terrace; the front of the foundation is encrusted with three glass flowers, while projecting from either side is a small balcony with a revolving flower. The top section is a hexagonal pavilion with six pillars enclosing a revolving blue vase, around which figures in a circle also present gifts. The theme of monkeys offering gifts is a characteristic trait of clocks commissioned by high officials from Guangzhou clockmakers as tributes to the emperor.

Emperor Qianlong's jade seal
Qianlong period
8.5(L) x 8.5(W) x 9.3(H) cm

To mark Emperor Qianlong's 70th birthday, a seal was made bearing the inscription Guxi tianzi zhi bao: "The Son of Heaven's treasured seal on reaching the age of 70". Ten years later, it was thought appropriate to commission a new seal, pictured here, to commemorate his 80th birthday. Made in the 55th year of Emperor Qianlong's reign (1790), this seal is inscribed with the legend Bazheng mao nian zhi bao, carved in positive seal script and which can be loosely rendered as "Treasured seal of the octogenarian who experiences all eight states". Another seal was carved at about the same time, this one bearing the motto Ziqiang bu xi, or "Constantly striving to improve oneself", and these two seals were frequently affixed together on paintings and calligraphy works.
Emperor Qianlong's jade seal

Fruit stand with pine canopy Fruit stand with pine canopy
Qing dynasty
63(H) cm

Displayed at celebration banquets held in the Imperial Palace, this hexagonal fruit stand has a gold base with six interwoven gilded dragons rising up to provide the elevation and support the superstructure, their heads emerging atop the cover at the six corners. A cloak of green velvet strips worked into pine twigs and needles to form the canopy add a rustic touch to an elaborate glittering object.

Set of cloisonné enamel bowls
Qianlong period
6.9(H) x 15.3(Dia) cm

This set of bowls and dishes was made especially for Emperor Qianlong's 80th birthday banquet. Each vessel is decorated with a design of four lotus blossoms executed in cloisonné enamel on a blue background, with four equally spaced circular panels each enclosing one of the four characters Wan shou wu jiang, "Longevity without end", gilded against a dark blue enamel background. The decorative bands of ku dragons below the rim and of lotus petals above the foot are engraved. An inscription reading Zi sun yong bao – "Always to be treasured by sons and grandsons" – is engraved in seal script within double square enclosures on the base.
Set of cloisonné enamel bowls

Carved red lacquer banquet utensil box Carved red lacquer banquet utensil box
Qianlong period
54(L) x 24.5(W) x 24.3 (H) cm

This oblong red lacquer box has a wooden base, over which the deep cover fits snugly to suggest the dome of heaven enshrouding the earth. The top of the cover is carved with a scene of cliffs and waves, dragons and clouds. The four vertical sides of the cover are each inset with a rectangular panel of gilt bronze mesh. This is surrounded by carved designs of dragons and clouds as well as the characters qian kun ru yi ("In heaven and on earth all goes according to wish") and fu lu chang chun ("Blessings, benefits and longevity"). The inside of the base features 10 recesses in gilt bronze to hold 10 bowls. The outside of the base is marked with a tribute to the emperor, Da Qing Qianlong nian zhi, while the name of the box, Fei long yan he or "Banquet box with flying dragons", is also inscribed on the base.

Other Past Exhibitions