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Eternal Enlightenment:
the Virtual World of Jiajing Emperor

Overview

2022 marks the 500th anniversary of the Jiajing Emperor, Zhu Houcong's (1507 – 1567) ascension to the throne. With that in mind, the Hong Kong Museum of Art has organised an exhibition focused on the emperor, in collaboration with the owner of the famed Huaihaitang Collection. The life of the Jiajing Emperor was a legendary one. At thirteen years of age, he went from being a vassal prince to becoming the ruler of the Ming dynasty, over which he would reign for the next forty-five years. During the Jiajing era, the Ming dynasty was plagued by internal strife and foreign threats. In the 21st year of the Jiajing period (1542), the emperor moved to the West Park and lived there until his death in 1567. After retreating to the West Park, built to resemble an immortal land on earth, the Jiajing Emperor devoted himself to pursuing immortality and building temples and palaces. The imperial porcelain designs during his reign were greatly influenced by his Daoist belief. From then on, the quantity of porcelain wares ordered by the imperial court from the Jingdezhen kilns increased substantially. The average number of imperial porcelain items supplied per year grew from over four thousand in the early years to more than thirty thousand. A total of nearly six hundred thousand pieces were produced during this period. The forms and patterns of these wares reflected the hopes and wishes of the Jiajing Emperor and mirrored the predicaments and uncertainties of reality at the time. Through his design of the West Park, usage of vast quantities of wares, and practice of Daoist rituals, the emperor was seemingly building his idealised immortal world just like a virtual world nowadays, where he could one day transcend the temporal realm and achieve immortality. In this exhibition, we hope to shed light on the struggles and aspirations of this legendary Ming emperor by featuring artefacts that have survived for five centuries from the era.

  • Date
    2022-12-092023-06-14
  • Venue
    Chinese Antiquities Gallery, 3/F
  • Fee
    Free

Audios

Playlist

View Floorplan
Paused
  • 700 Exhibition Overview
  • Vase with Arabic scripts in underglaze blue 701 Vase with Arabic scripts in underglaze blue
  • Combined scriptures of the original acts of the exalted and superior Jade Sovereign 702 Combined scriptures of the original acts of the exalted and superior Jade Sovereign
  • Ewer inscribed with "<i>sihai laichao bafang laijing</i>" in underglaze blue 703 Ewer inscribed with "sihai laichao bafang laijing" in underglaze blue
  • <i>Yuhuchun</i> vase with deers and cranes design in underglaze blue 704 Yuhuchun vase with deers and cranes design in underglaze blue
  • Large bowl with assorted musical instruments design in underglaze blue 705 Large bowl with assorted musical instruments design in underglaze blue
  • Daoist painting with donor's inscription 706 Daoist painting with donor's inscription
  • Charger with the Three Friends of Winter and <i>fu</i> character design in underglaze blue 707 Charger with the Three Friends of Winter and fu character design in underglaze blue
  • Double-gourd vase inscribed with "<i>fengtiao yushun guotai min'an</i>" blessings in underglaze blue 708 Double-gourd vase inscribed with "fengtiao yushun guotai min'an" blessings in underglaze blue
  • Pair of dishes with clouds and <i>shou</i> character in cloud script design in underglaze blue 709 Pair of dishes with clouds and shou character in cloud script design in underglaze blue
Floorplan

Talk Series

"Eternal Enlightenment: the Virtual World of Jiajing Emperor" Talk Series

In January to April 2023, HKMoA will launch a talk series to tie in with the exhibition, inviting three scholars in the field to give differently themed talks that delve into the artefacts of the Jiajing period from various perspectives. The first talk will be conducted on 14 January through live streaming. Please stay tuned for updates about the other talks!

Talk 1

Prints, Porcelain & Architecture: The Daoist Belief System and Material Legacy of the Jiajing Emperor

Date: 2023.01.14 (Saturday)
Time: 2:30 - 4:00pm
Format: Live streaming

Speaker: Prof. Maggie C. K. Wan (Associate Professor at the Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Language: Cantonese
Streaming Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85001645054?pwd=SkhTY05McEpZU2FkUStPRGp4RG5Kdz09

About the Talk

From where did the Jiajing Emperor derive his Daoist belief? What turned a young emperor into a Daoist god emperor devoted to the pursuit of immortality? This talk will examine the development of the Jiajing Emperor's Daoist belief through art and artefacts of the time. It begins by looking at the impact of his parents, including the Emperor's making of Daoist prints to express his belief in the Jade Emperor which he inherited from his mother, and his order for the production of porcelain modeling on those of his grandfather, the Chenghua Emperor, as a way to fight for his father imperial title. After the eighteenth year of his reign, he finally constructed his own immortal land in the West Park with Daoist buildings and imperial wares.

About the Speaker

Prof. Maggie C. K. Wan is the Associate Professor at the Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on the art and material culture of the Ming dynasty, history of Chinese ceramics and Daoist art. Publications on Jiajing artefacts include "Grotto-heaven in West Part: Daoist Motifs on Jiajing Imperial Porcelains" (2013), "Building an Immortal Land: The Ming Jiajing Emperor's West Park" (2009), "Jiajing Emperor and His Auspicious Words" (2008), "Motifs with an Intention: Reading the Eight Trigrams of Official Porcelain of the Jiajing Period (1522-1566)" (2003).

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