A Guide to the Hong Kong Palace Museum

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The Hong Kong Palace Museum exhibits artifacts on loan primarily from The Palace Museum in Beijing. In addition, it displays objects lent by prestigious local and overseas institutions. Located in the West Kowloon Cultural District, the Palace Museum Hong Kong has nine galleries. And each one has a specific focus. More than 1,000 treasures are currently on display. The Hong Kong Palace Museum aspires to be one of the world’s top museums focusing on Chinese art and culture. Look over my shoulder as I preview the Hong Kong Palace Museum!

The Back Story

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I was one of a select group of journalists invited to preview the Hong Kong Palace Museum before its grand opening several days before it opens to the general public on 2 July 2022. To clarify, that is one day after the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on 1 July 1997.

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The Press Preview began with opening remarks in Cantonese or Mandarin by the museum’s key figures: Dr. Louis Ng, Museum Director; Dr Daisy Wang, Deputy Director, Curatorial and Programming; Brian Yuen, Deputy Director, Museum Operations; and Dr Jiao Tianlong, Head Curator.

Following the remarks and photo-taking, attendees were divided into manageable groups and escorted through the nine galleries. And in each one, a different person briefed us on the contents.

Following the tour, we were allowed to wander through the museum to take a closer look – and take pictures. But time was quite limited as we had to vacate the premises before the opening ceremony began.

And I can assure you that I plan on making many additional trips to the museum in the future! There was just too much to take in in such a short time!

Hong Kong Palace Museum – Overview

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The Hong Kong Palace Museum is a collaboration between the West Kowloon Cultural District and The Palace Museum in Beijing, which is one of the world’s top repositories of classical Chinese art. In fact, the museum has 1.86 million treasures in its collection!

As a result of the collaboration, the Beijing museum lends objects to the Hong Kong museum to be displayed for both extended and short periods. For example, the Hong Kong museum’s opening exhibitions include 914 objects lent by its Beijing counterpart.

But the Palace Museum Hong Kong borrows works from other prestigious bodies, as well. In addition to the works on loan from Beijing, more than 100 works have been borrowed from other museums and institutions in Hong Kong. And 13 works are on loan from the Musee du Louvre in Paris, France.

Hong Kong Palace Museum – Opening Exhibitions

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The exhibitions in galleries 1 through 5 focus on the history and culture of The Palace Museum in Beijing.

The exhibition in Gallery 6 focuses on the history of Chinese art collecting in Hong Kong. And the exhibition in Gallery 7 features multimedia works by six Hong Kong artists in dialogue with palace culture. The final two galleries are dedicated to special exhibitions.

In my view, the horse head on loan from the Louvre Museum in Paris (above) is one of the most stunning treasures currently on view! If you are interested, you can see it in Gallery 9, which focuses on horses.

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Gallery 1 features a collection of approximately 180 significant works from the Palace Museum in Beijing. This exhibition sheds light on the architecture and collections of the museum. In addition, it illustrates the activities of the multi-cultural Qing Dynasty court.

FYI, the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty was established in Manchuria in 1636. And it entered Beijing in 1644, extending its rule across China. As the country’s last dynasty, the Qing ruled China until 1912. To clarify, it was overthrown by a rebellion led by Dr Sun Yat-sen, who established the Republic of China. In fact, he is also thought of as the Father of Modern China.

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Dr Daisy Wang Yiyou, Deputy Director, Curatorial and Programming (left), explains what life was like for emperors and empresses living in the Forbidden City during the Qing Dynasty.

Divided into nine sections, Gallery 2 displays more than 300 artifacts highlighting daily court life in the Forbidden City, which is located in the heart of Beijing.

Daily routines ranged from religious activities to rulership, tea and poetry, calligraphy, and court theatre.

I visited the Forbidden City during a trip to Beijing several years ago. And I only wish I could have spent more time exploring its grounds! Thankfully, I can now view some of its artifacts here in Hong Kong!

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Nearly 170 pieces of ceramics from the Ming and Qing dynasties are on display in Gallery 3. And 66 of them are Grade One National Treasures. In addition, There are learning areas where museum-goers can take part in interactive and multimedia activities.

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Eight ancestor portraits of Qing Dynasty emperors and empresses are on display in Gallery 4. Instead of being mere works of art, these portraits were used for ancestor worship. What I found especially interesting was the way they were painted.

First, an artist paints an outline of the portrait with a fine brush, indicating which colours should be used (left). If you look carefully, you can see Chinese characters indicating the colours.

A similar outline is painted (right), and an artist fills in the appropriate colours, using the first outline as a guide.

I found this particularly interesting! A bit like painting by numbers, isn’t it? Is this where the idea for that came from?

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More than 90 examples of modern Chinese design are displayed in five sections in Gallery 5. To clarify, they explore how the aesthetics and craftsmanship of traditional Chinese design influence the contemporary world.

I can’t help but wonder if works or reproductions of work by the King of Kowloon will be included in this gallery at a later date?

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Private to Public: The History of Chinese Art Collecting in Hong Kong is the focus of Gallery 6.

In fact, wealthy individuals in Hong Kong started collecting Chinese art in the late 19th Century.

Over time, these collections started moving from private hands to museums – both Private to Public:

Happily, the public at large can now view these priceless works – up close and personal.

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In Clock of Nature, Joseph Chan ( above) attempts to respond to traditional mechanical design through modern engineering, seeking to present simultaneously the two through the realms of time.

With the exception of screws and bolts, every piece of this moving sculpture was designed by Joseph and custom produced by an engineering company in Shenzhen. It took about four months to complete.

Joseph is one of six Hong Kong-based multimedia and interdisciplinary artists to showcase works in the No Boundaries: Reinterpreting Palace Museum Culture exhibition in Gallery 7 of the museum. Their works will be on display for one year.

It was great to meet Joseph in person and learn about where he found inspiration for his works and how they were produced. I was especially impressed that practically all of the many parts were custom-designed by him!

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Thirty-five early Chinese paintings and calligraphy masterpieces from the Palace Museum in Beijing are many being displayed for the first time outside Beijing. There will be three rotations.

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Gallery 9 showcases 111 equine artworks, including paintings and sculptures. Included are 13 pieces on loan from the Louvre Museum in Paris.

FYI, horses are a recurring theme is Chinese art. Usually, they represent military and political power. And they show up in many forms – from paintings to ceramics to statues!

“It was during the Golden Age of Chinese art that the horse statue became a true work of art. The Tang Dynasty (618 – 906) was a period of peace and prosperity with traders venturing further than ever before. Returning home, they brought back Western fashions and traditions which were quickly embraced by the upper classes,” Ollis Chinese Antiquities.

But not always! For horses can also symbolize barbarian faults and noble frailties!

I think this gallery was my favourite. I enjoyed it because of the variety of genres represented.

Food and Beverage

The Hong Kong Palace Museum has three food and beverage outlets. All of them are located on the lower ground floor, with both indoor and outdoor seating. And they all have panoramic views of Victoria Harbour.

Cupping Room – a coffee shop specializing in small batch specialty coffees. The Cupping Room serves ice drip coffee, cold brew iced tea, and a range of artisanal teas. In addition, it serves non-coffee options and milk alternatives. If you’re hungry, there are Chinese style sandwiches and pasta dishes. Operated by Hong Kong-based Cupping Room Coffee Roasters.

Jin Y Ju Noodle Bar – specializes in a variety of Chinese style noodles. Featured dishes include Huadio chicken noodle soup, braised beef noodle soup, fried chicken nuggets, spicy stewed beef tendon, and braised tofu. If you’re thirsty, there are bubble teas and peanut butter and oat ice shakes with black tapioca pearls.

Crepes & Bakes – an all-day dining French café serving crepes. baguettes, croissants, and tartes. If you’re thirsty, there is a range of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

The Western Kowloon Cultural District has a blossoming food and beverage scene. In fact, the following café is within a short walk of the Palace Museum Hong Kong. Check out my first hand review:

Shopping

Pop-up Corner – don’t go home without picking up some mementos of your visit to the Hong Kong Palace Museum! Products run from art books and apparel to mugs, tote bags and stationery.

Scheduled to open in fourth quarter 2022.,

Museum Location

Hong Kong Palace Museum – 8 Museum Drive, West Kowloon Cultural District, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

The museum is a five to 10-minute walk from Elements, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, and Kowloon Station on the Tung Chung and Airport Express MTR lines. Several bus lines and the 26D and 74D  minibus lines also stop nearby.

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