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Reception Hall from the Palace of Duke Zhao (Zhaogongfu)

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Made in Beijing, China, Asia

First half of 17th century

Wood with painted decoration

18 feet x 46 feet 4 1/4 inches x 35 feet 2 1/2 inches (548.6 x 1412.9 x 1073.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

* Gallery 326, Asian Art, third floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Edward B. Robinette, 1929

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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.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    In a traditional courtyard residence of a Chinese nobleman, a reception hall such as this was the most formal building, where official activities were conducted. Originally part of a palace in Beijing built in the early 1640s that passed through various noble families, the last being that of Duke Zhao (after whom the complex is named), this magnificent example is the only one of its type outside China. Its soaring thirty-foot ceiling supported by red-lacquered columns and carved brackets creates a sense of grandeur, while the brilliantly painted floral and animal motifs on the beams and brackets convey auspicious wishes. Hiromi Kinoshita and Felice Fischer, from Philadelphia Museum of Art Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 56–57.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    The residential complex of a Chinese nobleman, like the traditional family compound, was built on a rectangular plan, facing south, and surrounded by a wall. Closest to the south gate was the most formal building, the reception hall, such as this example from Beijing, the only interior of its type in an American museum. It was here that a high-ranking nobleman, seated on his raised lacquer couch, received visitors, who then, as now, would be most impressed by the ceiling, soaring nearly thirty feet high. Its huge beams and rafters are supported by eighteen red lacquer columns as well as the traditional system of interlocking carved brackets. The grandeur of the space is accentuated by the floral, animal, and geometric motifs painted on the exposed ceiling members. Below, the architectural symmetry of the room and the placement of its furnishings reflect the Confucian ideal of order and harmony. Felice Fischer, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 33.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.