Reception Hall from the Palace of Duke Zhao (Zhaogongfu)
Artist/maker unknown, Chinese
This painted chamber, built in the early 1600s, was once the main reception hall in a palatial compound in the Chinese capital city of Beijing. Wang Cheng-en, a eunuch in the service of the last Ming dynasty ruler, built the compound, and it later came to be known by the name of a subsequent owner, Duke Zhao.
The palatial residence, like a traditional family compound, was built on a rectangular plan, facing south, and surrounded by a wall. The reception hall, the most formal of the many buildings, would have been located on the central axis, not far from the south gate. Here, Wang Cheng-en would have received guests and petitioners. The white plaster and brick walls and tile floor are modern replacements, but the rest is original, from the marble bases of the great lacquered wooden columns to the peak of the roof.
As in all East Asian buildings, in contrast to Western architecture, the structure of the roof is greatly emphasized. All of the supporting members of the immensely heavy tile roof have been left exposed, and are accentuated by surface decoration. Although some of the brilliantly painted decoration has been lost, the effect is still one of dignified beauty. The hall is furnished with lacquer storage chests, a dog cage, porcelains, jades, and imperial jewelry. The Crozier Collection of rock crystal, formerly part of the Chinese Imperial Collection, is also displayed here in cases.
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