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Hong Kong Palace Museum: Discovering the treasures of the Forbidden City and beyond

Hong Kong Palace Museum: Discovering the treasures of the Forbidden City and beyond

Travel and food writer Baldwin Ho visits the burgeoning cultural quarter of Hong Kong at West Kowloon Cultural District to visit their newest museum.

July 5th, 2023

The cultural scene in Hong Kong is thriving at the moment. That is in no small part due to the likes of the West Kowloon Cultural District. One of their latest museums to open is arguably its finest: Hong Kong Palace Museum. They house over 900 invaluable artefacts from The Palace Museum in Beijing. Many priceless pieces have never left the capital city or even been shown to the public. They have seven thematic galleries focusing on these items, general Chinese art and modern reinterpretation of Palace Museum culture. There are two galleries with temporary exhibitions showcasing art and treasures from other parts of the world. Currently, they have the blockbuster, Cartier and Women exhibition as well as Radiance: Ancient Gold from the Hong Kong Palace Museum Collection and the Mengdiexuan Collection.

The state-of-the-art building has been designed by Rocco Design Architects Associates Limited. With an exhibition space of 7,800 square metres, it has been designed to offer abundant rest areas both inside and outside the galleries. The facilities are barrier-free and particularly spacious, capable of handling substantial crowds during the holidays periods. You can observe throughout the building, they've used contemporary interpretations of traditional aesthetics. They've taken inspiration from the architecture of the Forbidden City but also taken care to blend in with Hong Kong's urban skyline.

The themes of galleries are very well construed. For example, in gallery two, they have "From Dawn to Dusk: life in the Forbidden City". You can follow the noteworthy events in the daily life of an emperor and other staff members in the palace. You will encounter what the emperor might be wearing on different occasions.

They don't shy away from using modern technology in portraying the historical details of the period. Expect to see state-of-the-art video walls that will transport you back to the time of the Qing Dynasty. In gallery four, you'll encounter very impressive portraits of Qing Emperors and Empresses. They've also created helpful timelines, where you can follow the imperial lineage. Even the main thematic galleries from one to seven are not expected to be permanent exhibitions and they will likely be rotated out after being on display for over a year.

Hong Kong locals will be particularly fascinated by gallery six, which explores "Private to Public: the history of Chinese art collecting in Hong Kong". It explores the philanthropy of Hong Kong donors who have chosen to donate artwork they've privately collected, so the public can enjoy the beauty of these pieces. Often this has been to help promote Chinese culture at home and abroad. With each display, there is a handy note explaining the original owner of the artwork. For example, there is a wonderful oil on canvas painting of The Matilde moored in Hong Kong Harbour from the Anthony Hardy Collection.

Despite the historical nature of most of the artefacts, the museum is a very forward-thinking and progressive institution. This is very much in evidence in gallery seven "No boundaries: reinterpreting Palace Museum culture". In this gallery space, they've asked six Hong Kong-based multimedia and interdisciplinary artists to create fresh and bespoke pieces of art installations for the museum which takes a fresh interpretation of the art and culture of the Forbidden City. The most impressive installation is without a doubt "A grandiose fanfare" by GayBird. The artwork fuses the atmosphere of Qing court music with modern festive performances through 31 audio channels and kinetic installations. It even includes a special sound installation performance every half an hour.

No modern-day museum is complete these days without world-class dining options and a well-stocked gift shop. Hong Kong Palace Museum has numerous options from the high-end King Lung Heen offering fine dining Cantonese cuisine to the very accessible Chinese teahouse, Xia. Their gift shop, ART EXPRESS by The Commercial Press is a treasure trove of Chinese cultural gift ideas from ornamental trinkets to coffee table books.


Baldwin Ho

Baldwin Ho

An intrepid adventurer and foodie, Baldwin is always on the lookout for latest trends on the culinary scene as well as pushing himself out of his comfort zone in trying out new activities. He has a particularly keen interest in food and travel photography.

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