In the wake of the 2020 online exhibition “The Common Folks behind the Vermilion Walls”, the Art Promotion Office under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and The Chinese University of Hong Kong are jointly holding a second exhibition under the “Vermilion Walls” series – “Masterpieces behind the Vermilion Walls” – to further present to a wide public audience about life behind the palace walls. Under the supervision of their professors, research students of the university, together with the Art Promotion Office, have set to work on the sorting, compilation and interpretation of the Palace Museum collections from a whole new perspective to present a picture of everyday life in the Forbidden City so as to know the pursuit of exquisiteness in aesthetics by its occupants.
Although life in the imperial court belongs to the days of yore, the exquisite artworks inside are being revisited to re-enact life in the palace before our eyes. Featuring splendid and opulent masterpieces in the Forbidden City, this exhibition describes the imperial family’s pursuit of ultimate pleasure in everyday life as reflected in the consummate tastes and aesthetics of things inside the palace through the five senses of sight, taste, smell, sound and touch. Exhibits from the Forbidden City include display shelves and partitioned boxes and chests that reflect the popular practice of collection; eating and drinking utensils that show the latest culinary trends of the times; various forms of scent paraphernalia for creating an elegant and fragrant ambience; and devices for heating and cooling for the imperial occupants. With a collection that boasts both functionality and elegance, this exhibition purports to showcase the wisdom and experience of a bygone era in the form of a dazzling collection, so that the audience would hark back to an earlier age and compare modern life and ancient palatial life, and thereby understand the connection between the aesthetics and ethos of life past and present.