As it launches its year-long Centennial celebrations, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) unveils The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors, presented by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation with Manulife as Lead Sponsor. The exhibition is on display in the Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall from today, March 8 until Monday, September 1, 2014. Presented in collaboration with Beijing's Palace Museum, the show brings to Canada for the first time approximately 250 treasures that were part of Chinese imperial life for five centuries in a city strictly off-limits to all but the emperor, his family, and his personal servants. These objects are the relics of a momentous chapter in China's long and fascinating history.

More than 80 of the exhibition's objects, including textiles, calligraphy, paintings, and armour, have never before travelled outside the Forbidden City. Complemented by stunning artifacts from the ROM's own internationally celebrated Chinese collections, these objects tell captivating stories and reveal the fascinating characters that made the Forbidden City the centre of an immense empire for more than 500 years. Due to the significant number of light-sensitive textiles and paintings, there will be an extensive rotation of objects half way through the exhibition's engagement, presenting a new opportunity to experience the stories and exquisite objects of the Forbidden City.

"The ROM's exhibition takes visitors on a remarkable journey to the heart of the Forbidden City - once off limits to all but a privileged few," said Janet Carding, ROM Director and CEO. "Carefully selected by our

curatorial team, these extraordinary artifacts from Beijing's Palace Museum will give visitors an inside view of life within the Forbidden City and immerse them in China's rich history. The exhibition is the centerpiece of the Museum's Centennial, bringing to life our promise to connect our visitors with their communities, world, and with each other."

The ROM has partnered with Beijing's Palace Museum to create an exhibition that uncovers untold stories about life in the courts of the Chinese emperors. Dr Chen Shen is the exhibition's lead curator and the ROM's Vice President, World Cultures and Senior Curator, Bishop White Chair of East Asian Archaeology. He said, "This exhibition allows Canadians to see, for the first time, the finest objects hidden from view in the Forbidden City. We have worked with our Palace Museum colleagues to develop untold stories about life in the courts of the Chinese emperors; ensuring ROM visitors will enjoy many of China's national treasures, many of which have never left the palace. These objects - both luxurious and everyday - provide the unique opportunity to advance our understanding of the people who lived within the walls of the Forbidden City."

In December 2012, Dr. Shen travelled to China with co-curator Dr Wen-chien Cheng, the ROM's Louise Hawley Stone Chair of Far Eastern Art, and curatorial advisor Dr. Sarah Fee, the Museum's Curator, Eastern Hemisphere Textiles and Fashion to spend time in the vaults of the Palace Museum and select the most compelling objects in the vast and storied collection.

Robert H. N. Ho, Founder of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, said "The Foundation is pleased to presentThe Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors in Canada. Advancing the understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture is a key mission of our foundation. Robust educational programming in support of the exhibition should encourage wider exploration by the public, especially teachers and students. The Foundation is also proud to once again be working with the ROM, an outstanding institution which together with Beijing's Palace Museum, has developed this wonderful exhibition, bringing to life the 600-year-old imperial palace and revealing for the first time many of its treasures and secrets. "

"The Forbidden City is a true celebration of Chinese culture and history," said Nicole Boivin, Chief Branding and Communications Officer for the exhibition's Lead Sponsor Manulife, "As a global company, Manulife is committed to engaging the international communities in which we live and work, including China where we've been operating since 1897. Partnering with the ROM to support this exclusive exhibit is an excellent way to honour the China-Canada Cultural Exchange and the ROM's 100th anniversary."


The ROM's exhibition uncovers the stories of the Forbidden City and China's last emperors who led their lives deep within the palace's opulent interior. Through intimate encounters with everyday objects, visitors meet a cast of real characters, including emperors, court officials, concubines, and eunuchs - castrated men who served the imperial families. The ROM's exploration of life inside the mysterious Forbidden City transports visitors through increasingly restricted areas - the palace's great halls, grand courtyards, and intricate terraces and roofs, until visitors ultimately gain access to the most private space of all: the emperor's personal study.

Upon arrival, before reaching the admissions desk, visitors are introduced to the Forbidden City in the exhibition's Prologue. An intricate model including many of the complex's significant features is displayed in the Thorsell Spirit House, complemented by the one of the ROM's most recent acquisitions - a yellow-glazed bowl, commissioned by Ming Emperor Wanli. The colour yellow was strictly reserved for royal families and could not be used in any way outside the Forbidden City unless explicitly permitted by the emperor himself.

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