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'Dream of the Red Chamber' special exhibition kicks off at NPM

05/17/2024 07:52 PM
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Poster courtesy of the National Palace Museum
Poster courtesy of the National Palace Museum

Taipei, May 17 (CNA) A special exhibition that features museum collections arranged to take visitors into the fictional world depicted in the classic Chinese novel "Dream of the Red Chamber" (紅樓夢), kicked off Friday at the National Palace Museum (NPM) in Taipei.

Written by Cao Xueqin (曹雪芹, fl. 1716-1763), the novel reminisces about the bygone days of a prominent noble family during the Qing dynasty and is considered one of four great classical novels of Chinese literature.

The exhibition, titled "The Splendor of Dream of the Red Chamber," showcases collections of objects and materials from the NPM, National Central Library and National Taiwan University Library, according to the museum.

Curator Wang Liang-chung (王亮鈞), who works in the NPM's Department of Antiquities, said in a statement that the exhibition is divided into three sections: The Stately Elegance, The Exotic Novelty, and A Fancy Dream.

In the first section, visitors can learn about the sophisticated material culture of the nobility, which reflects Cao's upbringing, given he was born into intergenerational wealth accumulated through his family's running of the Jiangning Weaving Bureau.

The second section features foreign objects depicted in the novel, highlighting the chic style of the Jia family, which the book revolves around.

The exhibits also showcase the fashion during Cao's time of imitating imperial preferences for foreign goods.

The third section includes portrayals of items used in the novel, giving visitors a chance to learn more about the short but spectacular lives of women in the novel, their different personalities, and the metaphorical meanings of the items.

One of the exhibits is the "Golf finial inlaid with dongzhu freshwater pearl and cat's eye gemstone for the imperial consort's court hat," which was made during Emperor Qianlong's reign and was a symbol of wealth and status, the statement said.

In addition, a "Copper octagonal snuff box with aventurine and glass inlay" is also displayed. Imported from Europe in the 18th century, it was one of the most fashionable and trendy imported items at that time, the statement added.

The special exhibition in Gallery 203 at the NPM will run until May 17, 2026.

(By Wang Pao-er and Bernadette Hsiao)

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