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Golden Age of China – Treasures Ming to Qing at NGV, 2015

Emperor Qianlong

Qianlong Emperor in his study, painted by Jesuit priest and painter Giuseppe Castiglione, who won favour at the court of three Chinese Emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong courtesy ©Palace Museum, Beijing

The western predilection for gorgeous goods was perpetuated in the European mind from early in the thirteenth century by Venetian adventurer Marco Polo, who related fascinating stories about visiting the far off luxurious land of Cathay.

Seemingly filled with precious gems, exotic spices and glorious rustling silks, the east was believed to be lived in by an amenable people who whiled away their hours posing pleasantly in perfect pavilions set in ethereal landscapes.

It is perhaps extraordinary to us today that one man’s personal view of the East, played such a vital and in many ways, unique role in the development of international foreign trade and political relations. But it did.

Marco Polo said words to the effect ‘let us now travel into Cathay, so that you may learn something of its grandeurs and treasures’ inspiring the notion at Cathay was a land, unlike any other.

This idea found fertile ground in the imagination of western people who were lured by its exotic charms and promise of excitement.


Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial armour on Horseback painted by Giuseppe Castiglione, a Jesuit priest at the court of three Chinese Emperors courtesy Palace Museum, Beijing

Initially Europeans could not differentiate between Chinese, Indian, Japanese South East Asian, or Middle Eastern peoples, so the vision they had was vast.

The exhibition The Golden Age of China: Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736–1795) is coming to the National Gallery of Victoria from 27th March – 21st June 2015.

Tony Ellwood, Director NGV, said, “This exhibitions tells the fascinating narrative of one of China’s most influential rulers and a great champion of the arts, whose passion saw him become one of China’s foremost collectors and conservators of art.”

It was 1685 when the Manchus began their ascendancy towards the splendour and power achieved during the eighteenth century and reign of three Manchu Qing dynasty emperors Kangxi (1662-1722), Yongzheng (1723-1735 and Qianlong (1736-95).

China emerged as the greatest Imperial power in Asia under this trio of Emperor’s enlightened guidance. They ensured the China Trade with the west flourished.

Hung-li came to the Throne of Heaven taking the name Qianlong (Ch’ien-lung) at the age of twenty-four.

A warrior and hunter of the first rank, he reigned for sixty years (1736-1795) at a time when China was the wealthiest and most populous nation on earth.

Qianlong Emperor BEST

In My Heart there is the Power to Reign Peacably (detail) Qianlong Emperor, painting on silk, courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Ohio

A man of letters, calligrapher and passionate poet, Qianlong was fourth emperor of the Manchu dynasty and his name was associated with works of literary importance.

He is said to have written more poetry than the poets of the celebrated Tang dynasty (618-906).

The NGV International on St Kilda Road will devote 1,100 square metres of its gallery space for this exhibition, which uncovers the richness of Chinese history and culture, and reveals the human interests of a governing emperor.

Splendid silk court robes, precious-stone inlayed objet d’art and portraits of the Qianlong emperor, his empress and imperial concubines will be part of the display, with silk paintings, dragon-embroidered silk court robes and precious objet d’art in gold and jade.

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The Theory of Everything – Stephen Hawking, a Practical Life

Hawking & Redmayne

Stephen Hawking and Eddie Redmayne at the premiere of The Theory of Everything, London December 9, 2014

My first conscious encounter with the reality of infinity happened in London when in 1988 I was invited to a dinner with a group of designers in London when I was there extending my studies of the theory and practice in design for the modern age.

As I arrived at my host’s front door set into the middle of a three-sided porch, I discovered much to my delight a pair of mirrors set into each side. A thought provoking designer, he had split a model in stone of an obelisk shape, and applied half to the centre of each mirror.

As I gazed in one mirror the reflection in the other of the whole obelisk spread ever outwards towards infinity. This image believed to have arisen from the ancient Egyptian’s scholarly observations of astronomical phenomena and studies of the universe, recently sprang into my mind.

I was watching The Theory of Everything at the Palace Cinema Como, which is about the nobility of spirit, and the events surrounding the life of English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, atheist, socialist and lover of classical music Stephen Hawking.

Eddie Redmayne is Stephen Hawking in the James Marsh directed film. His performance is so brilliant that it ensured for me that words would fail, as it appears they did for Mr Hawking who on seeing his portrayal recorded “At times, I thought he was me”

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking, The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking, The Theory of Everything

This is a triumph of tale telling about how intellectualism can and will triumph over adversity and how important our attitude is in dealing with the disasters that befall our lives.

It also proves Stephen Hawking’s quote ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change’. Although the movie is not just presenting a theory, because as Eddie Redmayne portrays Hawking, it makes it true.

It’s emotional to a point where it inspires and elevates you above the commonplace into a realm where you realize not only the importance of cherishing life on earth, but also how we each must endeavour to live it to the full and to best of our abilities.

The Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking has defied every ounce of medical knowledge out there.

They gave him two years to live when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aged 21. Now 72, Hawking continues to use his great mind to think, to develop and to expand ideas and theories with colleagues and to lecture when he can.

Space is usually the final frontier as we know it, so that seems entirely appropriate Stephen Hawking has broken every barrier put in front of him.

Despite his physically confining existence he has, in his mind, reached for the stars and beyond.

Theory of Everything 6

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything

Here’s a man who cannot do anything physically without assistance but he has surpassed in spades what the rest of us will ever achieve in our full-bodied lifetimes.

His Brief History of Time, which was published in 1988, clung to the bestseller lists for 237 weeks.

It sold one copy for every 750 people on earth and even if they didn’t all read it, they were engaging with the art of science.

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Passionate Pursuits

Fashion Elixir Quick Snippets of Culture Carolyns Conversations


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