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Classic tour I (about 60 minutes)

  • Estimated visit time: about 60 minutes
  • Suitable type of visit: adults, student groups
  • Explanation of route planning: If you are interested in various types of cultural relics, and want to experience the changes of Chinese history through cultural relics, we recommend that you choose this tour route, stroll from the third floor to the first floor, and appreciate 26 masterpieces of the permanent exhibition of the Place museum.

|Cooperating with the exhibition operation, there may be changes in the showroom or exhibits. Please refer to the current exhibition information. 3F動線圖

清 翠玉白菜
01 Qing dynasty - Jadeite Cabbage

3F|Gallery 302|A Gathering of Treasures in the National Palace Museum North and South

*No exhibited temporarily.

This piece is almost completely identical to a piece of bokchoy cabbage. Carved from verdant jadeite, the familiar subject, purity of the white vegetable body, and brilliant green of the leaves all create for an endearing and approachable work of art. Let's also not forget the two insects that have alighted on the vegetable leaves! They are a locust and katydid, which are traditional metaphors for having numerous children. This work originally was placed in the Forbidden City's Yung-ho Palace, which was the residence of the Guangxu Emperor's (r. 1875-1908) Consort Jin. For this reason, some have surmised that this piece was a dowry gift for Consort Jin to symbolize her purity and offer blessings for bearing many children. Although it is said that the association between the material of jadeite and the form of bokchoy began to become popular in the middle and late Qing dynasty, the theme relating bokchoy and insects actually can be traced back to the professional insect-and-plant paintings of the Yuan to early Ming dynasty (13th-15th c.), when they were quite common and a popular subject among the people for its auspiciousness. In the tradition of literati painting, it has also been borrowed as a subject in painting to express a similar sentiment, indirectly chastising fatuous officials. For example, in a poem written in 1775, the Qianlong Emperor associated the form of a flower holder in the shape of a vegetable with the tradition of metaphorical criticism found in the Tang dynasty poetry of Du Fu, in which an official was unable to recognize a fine vegetable in a garden. The emperor thereupon took this as a warning to be careful and alert. Regardless of whether it is a court craftsman or the maker of this jadeite bokchoy cabbage, all are merely giving play to their imagination and creativity, following the taste and directions of their patrons. Despite not having more historical records to probe these ideas, it nonetheless provides the viewer with greater room for imagination.

清 肉形石
02 Qing dynasty (1644-1911) AD1644-1911 - Meat-shaped Stone

3F|Gallery 302|A Gathering of Treasures in the National Palace Museum North and South

Of the beautiful mineral materials that resemble jade, the quartz minerals, agate and jasper, are often used to make ingenious carvings, due to their unique and diverse patterns and colors. This "Meat-shaped stone" was carved from jasper minerals, and its natural layered patterns were utilized by the artist to good effect. Fine holes were drilled on the surface to resemble pores, and also to loosen up the material and facilitate dyeing. The top layer was then dyed brownish-red, to mimic the color of pork skin marinated in soy sauce.

山東龍山文化晚期 玉圭
03 Late Longshan Culture BC2200-1900 - Jade Gui Tablet

3F|Gallery 306|Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth: Masterpieces of Jades in the Museum Collection

During the Longshan Culture, social divisions became increasingly distinct and only members of the ruling class were allowed to use jade, highlighting its use as a symbol of social status. Long narrow pieces of jade were called gui, while larger broader pieces were known as yue.

The human face decoration on this piece is yellow-gray in color and of fine texture. According to Raman spectroscopy, it has been determined to be nephrite. An analysis of the shape and pattern of the piece indicates that it is most likely a ceremonial jade from an area located midstream to downstream on the Yellow River in the Longshan period. When the tapering end of the piece points upwards, the central area is decorated with representational relief on one side and an abstract pattern on the other. The former shows a figure wearing a hat in the shape of the Chinese character for jie (介). The face has round eyes, a grin, protruding teeth and round earrings from which hang a human head in profile. The other side displays a combination of a vortex pattern and a jie-shaped hat, which stretches outwards to the left and right like wings or the horns of a bull.

This jade gui became part of the imperial collection more than 3,000 years after it was made and was particularly favored by the Qianlong Emperor. Qianlong not only commissioned an exquisite red sandalwood stand for the piece, but also wrote poems praising it on his 38th and 58th birthdays, which were then carved onto the piece. Unfortunately, Qianlong’s poetry and the original Longshan motifs are oriented in opposite directions on this tablet. Over the past 30 to 40 years, the National Palace Museum has made use of scientific archaeological data to re-examine the Qing dynasty imperial collection, as a result of which a completely new understanding of prehistoric jades has been developed. Thus, it has been decided that this piece should be displayed with the wider end pointed upwards in both exhibitions and related publications in line with the intention of the original maker.

良渚文化晚期 玉琮
04 Late Liangzhu Culture BC2500-2000 - Jade Cong Tube

3F|Gallery 306|Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth: Masterpieces of Jades in the Museum Collection

This large jade cong tube probably entered the Qing court in the 19th century, which is why its surface was not adorned with imperial inscriptions of praise by the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) and thereby retains its original appearance. It is carved from a piece of deep green nephrite with light and dark ochre spotting. The surface still reveals the arcing traces of depressions lefty when the jade was first cut. Of a tall, square, columnar form, the top is slightly larger than the bottom. The hole in the center was drilled from both ends, there being a slightly uneven ledge where the two did not match up. The upper hole is slightly flaring, while the wall of the lower is straighter. With patterns of small eyes as the center of the four corners, extending from top to bottom is a total of 17 small-eye masks carved on the piece. By the late Liangzhu Culture, few Liangzhu jade cong like the other one here were being carved with combination patterns of small- and large-eye masks. Sometimes on the mouth area of such tall cong are very faint and broken lines, representing the engravings of some mysterious symbol. The mouth of this jade cong also includes this symbol. Among them is a slight diamond shape depression besides each line. Opposite the sides is an engraving of a standing column with the top larger than the bottom, which continues with five small circles. Their meaning is probably related to the "spirit bird" beliefs current at the time.

清中期 白玉錦荔枝
05 White Jade Fair Litchi (balsam pear), mid-Qing dynasty, 1736-1820

3F|Gallery 306|Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth: Masterpieces of Jades in the Museum Collection

The jade is white and clean, and the color is warm and moist. There are three bitter gourds with carved pedicles, the skin of which is uneven and lifelike. The name of this vessel in the Qing court is "White jade brocade lychee", and "brocade lychee" means bitter melon. It was originally collected in the Qianqing Palace in the Forbidden City. This device is equipped with a wooden base for display and for people to enjoy.

西周晚期 散盤
06 Late Western Zhou dynasty BC857-828 - Pan water vessel of San

3F|Gallery 305|Rituals Cast in Brilliance: Masterpieces of Bronzes in the Museum Collection

With a wide and shallow basin, tall pedestal, and pair of loop handles, this water vessel presents a sense of reserved dignity. The 350-character inscription on its inside pleasingly compliments the vessel's design. The inscription narrates the state of Zhe's failure to invade the state of San, as well as San's subsequent annexation of a portion of Zhe's land. The text precisely details the land transferred as well as the names and ranks of officials involved in the enforcement of the agreement. The states of San and Zhe were closely linked during the Western Zhou period, including by marriage in times of peace. This vessel was meant to leave a lasting record of San's successful territorial defense and subsequent restitution.

西周晚期 宗周鐘
07 Late Western Zhou dynasty BC857-828 - Bell of Zong-zhou

3F|Gallery 305|Rituals Cast in Brilliance: Masterpieces of Bronzes in the Museum Collection

This flat oval yong bell has a closed tile shape, with a curved mouth. There are 18 mei bosses on either side of the bell. The crown is decorated with cloud patterns, the waist on both sides of the central strip is adorned with diagonal S-shaped twin kui dragon patterns, and the center of the soundbow is decorated with left-right symmetrical dragon patterns. On the central strip and soundbow, an inscription of 111 characters can be seen. The political situation during the late Western Zhou was quite harsh, with the Xianyun tribes posing a threat to the northwest, and the southern states roiling with rebellion. Beset by internal pressures and external threats, the making of this work and the content of its inscriptions represent a valiant effort by the Zhou King to stem the tide and aspire to eternal peace and prosperity for the realm.

西周晚期 毛公鼎
08 Late Western Zhou dynasty BC857-828 - Mao-kung Ting

3F|Gallery 305|Rituals Cast in Brilliance: Masterpieces of Bronzes in the Museum Collection

This "ting" cauldron has a wide, flared mouth, a linked ring motif decorating the rim, upright handles, and three hoofed feet. The inscription, which can be divided into seven sections, describes how when King Xuan of Zhou came to the throne, he was anxious to see the country thrive, and charged his uncle, the Duke of Mao, with governing the domestic and external affairs of state, big and small, and to do so conscientiously and selflessly. The inscription goes on to state that the King then presented the Duke with official vestments and gifts, and that this vessel was cast in order to record the honor given to the Duke for his descendants.


北宋 定窯 白瓷嬰兒枕
09 Northern Song dynasty AD960-1127 - Pillow in the shape of a recumbent child with white glaze, Ding ware

2F|Gallery 205|The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum

During the Tang dynasty, most ceramics pillows either had a three-color glaze, or were glazed brown, black, or a changsha bronze color. At the time, there were only two types of these pillows, one for sleeping  and the other for taking a pulse. By the Song dynasty, there was a greater variety of designs, including one made especially to be buried with the deceased. The variations included those of different sizes, styles, and decorations, the last of which usually implied auspicious meaning. This example, in the form of a child playing, was for general use. The design is both life-like and alluring, with the child, clearly in excellent health, wearing a suit of clothing including a long brocaded top, lying on a mattress, legs crossed behind. The National Palace Museum in Peking has a very similar example, but it lacks the detail in the child's clothing in comparison to this artifact. The front and back of the pillow were made separately, mold-pressed and then put together before firing. After they had been put together, the facial expression and details on the clothing were carved. The base is flat, with a round hole cut into the left and right sides to allow air to escape during the firing process, preventing the piece from exploding in the kiln. The glaze is ivory white with a hint of gray. As Ting ware was fired using charcoal as fuel, it had to be fired in an oxidized atmosphere, giving the white glaze this yellowish hue. The glaze has run on several parts of the base, an effect described by literati as "tear marks." The bottom of the pillow has been inscribed with a poem written by the Qianlong Emperor in the spring of 1773.

北宋 汝窯 青瓷蓮花式溫碗
10 Northern Song dynasty AD960-1127 - Warming bowl with celadon glaze, Ru ware

2F|Gallery 205|The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum

This bowl was molded. The even curves on its wall follow the foliated contour of the mouthrim. The entire vessel is coated in consistent and smooth celadon glaze, displaying a bluish green color. Both its interior and exterior walls are covered with crackles stained brown. With a high, splayed ring foot, this piece has five spur marks along the edge of its base. Similar specimens have been excavated from the kiln site in Qingliang Temple, Baofeng County, Henan Province. There existed two ways of firing for this type of vessel: fired on spurs for fully glazed vessels or on setters. In the Song dynasty, warming bowls and ewers were paired wine vessels for daily use. Their usage can be seen in mural paintings from the tombs of the Liao dynasty and in the painting, Literary Gathering (attributed to Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty, National Palace Museum). Apart from Ru ware, lotus-shaped warming bowls were also produced at kilns across northern and southern China and similarly-shaped vessels have appeared among Korean Goryeo celadon wares as well. In light of silverware discovered in Southern Song hoards, it can be surmised that the emergence and prevalence of ceramic ewers and lotus-shaped bowls reflect the contemporary trend of emulating gold and silver wares.

北宋 十一世紀後半至十二世紀早期 汝窯 青瓷水仙盆
11 Northern Song dynasty AD960-1127 - Narcissus basin in bluish-green glaze, Ru ware

2F|Gallery 205|The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum

This oval dish has deep, slightly flaring sides, a flat base, and four cloud-shaped feet. The body is very thin on the sides, becoming slightly thicker on the base and feet. It is covered all over in a light blue, highly lustrous glaze, which shows a hint of green at the base: the glaze is slightly thinner at the rim and the corners. During firing, the piece would have been supported from underneath by small points on the feet, and on these parts the cream color of the body could have be seen where the glaze did not cover them. The glaze over the whole piece has a wonderful smooth quality, devoid of any markings, a very rare feature among extant examples. The lustrous, elegantly aesthetic, and harmonious effect created by the artifact was much sought after during the Song dynasty.

明 成化 鬥彩雞缸杯
12 Chenghua reign (1465-1487), Ming dynasty AD1465-1487 - Porcelain chicken cup in doucai painted enamels

2F|Gallery 205|The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum

Late Ming collectors prized blue and white porcelain from the Xuande reign above all other ceramics, followed by wucai porcelain from the official kilns of the Chenghua reign. In the eyes of collectors at the time, wucai refers to this type of doucai porcelain. Of the Chenghua doucai works in the collections of the National Palace Museum, the decorative patterns on the cups are the most varied, including cups with grape patterns, cups with babies playing together, cups depicting great scholars, tall-footed cups with flower and bird patterns, and of course, the renowned chicken cups. In his work, "Rongcha lishuo," the late Ming to early Qing scholar Cheng Zhe stated that doucai chicken cups were highly regarded, and a pair of these had already reached a price of one hundred thousand cash during the reign of Emperor Shenzong of Ming. This small cup has a wide mouth, short walls, and a flat base with a short ring foot. The exterior walls are painted with two scenes of a rooster and hen accompanying their three chicks. The two scenes are divided by painted China roses and orchids. Around the mouth and base, three blue lines have respectively been painted. The inner surface is pure white and unadorned. On the underside of the base, six characters in blue and white glaze stating, "Da Ming Cheng Hua Nian Zhi (Made in the Chenghua Reign of the Great Ming Empire)," have been inscribed in standard script. Previously from the Chenghua official kiln archaeological site at Chushan in Jingdezhen, a half-completed blue and white chicken cup with only the cobalt glaze applied was excavated, and a comparison of this with existing works suggests that doucai porcelain was made by first painting the outlines with cobalt glaze, and then using glazes of other colors to fill in the outlines, after which the works were fired in the kilns. From the Imperial Workshop Archives of the Qing Court, the provenance of this doucai chicken cup can be traced to the Yongzheng reign at least, and the accompanying box with silk embroidery was made at the behest of the Qianlong Emperor.

清 乾隆 霽青描金游魚轉心瓶
13 Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty AD1736-1795 - Revolving vase with swimming fish in cobalt blue glaze

2F|Gallery 205|The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum

This reticulated vase has an inverted mouth, inward sloping sides, a long neck, broad shoulders, tapered belly, and short ring foot. The shoulders of the vessel are decorated with four ring-shaped loops. The belly of the vase is divided into inner and outer layers. The inner layer is coated with light lake-green glaze to create a background akin to the waters of a lake, within which aquatic plants, fallen blossoms, and goldfish are painted in fencai. The underside of the outer base is coated in lake-green glaze, and an inscription in blue and white glaze with seal script characters reads, "Da Qing Qian Long Nian Zhi (Made in the Qianlong Reign of the Great Qing Empire)." Viewers can grasp the neck of the vase and turn the inner layer, and through four openwork panels on the belly of the outer layer, painted scenes of fish swimming among aquatic plants on the surface of the inner layer can be seen to dance before the eyes. The effect is similar to the trotting horse lamp, and thus vessels such as this one are known as "revolving vases."


清晚期 雕象牙透花人物套球
14 Second half of the 19th century AD1850-1900 - Ivory balls of nested concentric layers with human figures in openwork relief

1F|Gallery 106|A Garland of Treasures: Masterpieces of Precious Crafts in the Museum Collection

This set of movable openwork ivory balls nested in concentric layers comprise four main parts: a dragon fish hook, two ladies-in-waiting carved in the round, a set of hollow nested concentric balls, and a pendant depicting the Heavenly Twins of Conjugal Felicity. In between, varying lengths of linked chain connect the respective parts, and an additional small round ball is connected by screw threads between the nested ivory balls and the two ladies-in-waiting. A total of 18 nested concentric balls have been counted, with fluid movement allowed between each layer. On their outer side, mountain and water landscapes, pavilions, and figures have been carved in high relief, while the inner side is decorated with openwork image patterns. Based on the carving technique and style, this openwork set of nested ivory balls was likely made by Guangdong ivory carvers dating from after the mid-Qing era. During the Qing dynasty, the linked chains, animated openwork, floss weaving, and nested concentric ivory balls of the Southern School of ivory carving were so wondrous that they were referred to in the Beijing Imperial Workshop as "the work of celestial beings".

清 珊瑚魁星點斗盆景
15 Qing dynasty (1644-1911) AD1644-1911 - Planter with a coral carving of the planetary deity Kuixing

1F|Gallery 106|A Garland of Treasures: Masterpieces of Precious Crafts in the Museum Collection

Take a close look at this planter: you won’t find an actual plant inside, but instead, you’ll see a special kind of sculpture. This was in fact an auspicious planter display that was very popular in the Qing dynasty court. Here, the figure is the Planetary Deity Kuei-xing delicately carved from a piece of red coral and holding a representation of the Big Dipper. Legend has it that the Kuei-xing was a highly educated scholar, but his ugly appearance always prevented him from passing the civil service examinations. In a fit of anger and resentment, he threw himself into the waters but was saved by a fish dragon. Thereafter, he was transformed into the celestial head of the Big Dipper and was put in charge of determining the outcome of examinations, and career advancement. He thus became one of the commonly worshipped deities.

The figure seen here is completely in vermilion red, with budding horns, bushy eyebrows, protruding eyes, and fangs, for a fierce and animated look. The deity is accompanied by accessories such as fluttering sashes, and holds a representation of the Big Dipper and a branch of plum blossoms. He is standing on the head of a fish dragon with a dragon’s head and fish’s body carved from green jadeite, and soaring among surging waves. The two objects held by the deity serve as symbols for coming in first place in the civil service examinations. One of his legs is also kicking back towards the main star of the Big Dipper. Known as the “dipper kick,” it is a metaphor for being the best among those on the list of successful examination candidates.

The Deity Kuei-xing not only represents prospect of success in the civil service examinations but is also surrounded here by various auspicious symbols. The sides of the jade planter, for example, are adorned with images of multi-colored bats surrounding a longevity character, symbolizing prosperity and long life as well as good fortune at one’s doorstep. The fungus on the garden rock in the planter is an auspicious imagery of immortality, while the branch of plum blossoms in the deity’s hand also serves as a harbinger of spring, blooming before all the others. This sculpture features lively carving and skillful inlay techniques combining gold, silver with semi-precious gems and convey auspicious connotations, all that makes this piece of display exquisitely beautiful.

明 嘉靖 剔紅雲龍紋小櫃多寶格 含木箱共109件
16 Carved red lacquer curio cabinet with cloud-and-dragon decoration (109 items, including wood chest), Jiajing reign (1522-1566), Ming dynasty

1F|Gallery 106|A Garland of Treasures: Masterpieces of Precious Crafts in the Museum Collection

The Qing Palace used the lacquer cabinets from the Jiajing Dynasty of the Ming Dynasty as Duobaoge. The cabinet body is divided into four layers. Each layer has one, two, three, and four drawers. Inside the drawer is another wooden drawer made by the Qing Palace, and the cultural relics stored are mainly Qing Dynasty product.  The content includes 12 pieces of Qing Dynasty ink, 41 small jade wares of Ming and Qing Dynasties, 3 small calligraphy booklets, 6 pieces of Qing Dynasty porcelain, 7 pieces of Western clock, enamel, 8 pieces of small picture scrolls and albums of Qing Dynasty, 6 pieces of Ming and Qing lacquer boxes, and 3 pieces of bronze wares There are also 22 pieces of stationery such as glass, honey wax, and sandalwood, such as seal stones, water containers, and paperweights,. Total is 109 pieces including Carved-red lacquer small cabinet with cloud-and-dragon pattern and Duobao Court.

Last Updated:2023-04-13