In between dispatching armies to secure the empire and building China into the richest country in the world, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned a retirement home for himself in the Forbidden City palace.
Never intended as a simple hideaway, the garden quarters built in the 1770s by the fifth emperor in the Qing Dynasty set a standard for opulence befitting an emperor renowned for his power and refinement: screens inlaid with rare hardwoods, intricate silk embroideries, delicate carvings of jade and bamboo.
To Chinese eyes of 200 years ago, it screams wealth. “It’s as if everything is gold-plated,” said Nancy Berliner, a curator of Chinese art at Massachusetts’ Peabody Essex Museum.
Unused and sealed off for most the past century, the garden is three years into a 12-year restoration. One part, a lavish apartment and private theater for the emperor — the Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service — was officially completed Monday and will be open to the public next year for the first time ever.[continue].