The Shenyang Palace Museum is a royal palace built and used in the early Qing Dynasty. Construction began during Nurhachi’s reign and was completed during the reign of Hong Taiji. It was expanded and improved many times during the Kangxi and Qianlong reigns, making it the largest palace complex during the period when the Qing Dynasty ruled beyond the Shanhaiguan Pass. The Shenyang Palace Museum and the Palace Museum in Beijing are listed as the two most complete extant ancient palace complexes in China. Both are national-level protected historical and cultural sites and world cultural heritage sites. The Shenyang Palace Museum, established on the basis of the Shenyang Palace, possesses a rich collection of Qing Dynasty court treasures. To a certain extent, it not only represents the highest achievements of Qing Dynasty court art but also systematically reflects the etiquette, customs, art culture and religious beliefs of the court.
After the Qing Dynasty moved its capital to Beijing, Shengjing, now Shenyang in Liaoning Province, was transformed from the “place of the emperor’s carriage” (the place where the emperor lives) to the nation’s “former capital”. The Imperial Palace in Shengjing became the “palace of the alternate capital.” The emperors of the Qing Dynasty continued to improve the status of Shengjing through institutional design. Since the beginning of Emperor Kangxi’s reign, the palace became the temporary residence of emperors visiting their ancestral tombs. Emperors including Kangxi and Qianlong repeatedly appropriated funds to repair and expand the palace, forming a vast palace complex. Successive emperors transported huge quantities of porcelain, enamel, bronze wares and other artifacts here, and treasured the imperial edicts, factual records, the genealogy of the imperial clan and similar documents, making the Shengjing Palace a veritable treasury of the Imperial Household Department. The collection of palace artifacts is thus famous for its quantity of specimens, variety of artifacts and quality of craftsmanship.
The exhibition Hall of Great Treasures: Selected Qing Dynasty Court Treasures from the Shenyang Palace Museum Collection is jointly held by the National Museum of China and the Shenyang Palace Museum. It represents the first time for the fine cultural relics from the Shenyang Palace Museum to be displayed systematically in Beijing. This exhibition is divided into five sections, namely “Imperial power and order,” “Life and customs,” “Furnishings and decorations,” “Arts and beliefs,” and “Literary governance and military equipment.” A total of more than 200 Qing Dynasty court treasures from the Shenyang Palace Museum and 30 exquisite Qing Dynasty court artifacts from the collection of the National Museum of China are exhibited.
Among the exhibits are majestic, elegant and dignified ceremonial objects, memorial jade seals and jade books of the emperor and empress, magnificent and exquisitely crafted furnishings, beautifully decorated and auspicious household objects, as well as paintings and calligraphy of the emperors and their ministers, and gold and bronze Buddha statues with solemn and graceful decorations. It is worth mentioning that on the occasion of the Chinese New Year, the exhibition not only presents a large number of objects symbolizing good fortune but also adds New Year-themed elements from the Qing palace, such as door gods, Spring Festival couplets and palace lamps, to create a festive atmosphere.