Ming: 50 years that changed China
18 September 2014 – 5 January 2015
Exploring the pivotal years of 1400 – 1450, a transformative period in the rule of the Ming dynasty.
Although this period in the Ming dynasty has previously received little attention in Europe, it was a time of extraordinary change. Beijing became the capital city, the nation's borders were fixed as they are today and power was centralised. With a population of 85 million Ming China was the largest state in the world, yet is was ruled by a single family.
The incredible wealth of the Ming dynasty meant this period bore some of the finest objects ever made. Emperors encouraged crafts through their patronage as they sought to fill their vast palaces with colourful treasures. On display are a series of objects that reveal the creative glory of the era – including gold, silver, paintings, porcelains, closienne and lacquer ornaments. The exhibition also charts the empire's military might, drawing on examples of weaponry and the stories of Ming's greatest warriors.
Other themes include religious beliefs and popular entertainment, trade and international relations and the diversity that existed within the Ming Empire itself.
Representing the four emperors that ruled China between 1400 – 1450, the display includes the sword of the Yongle Emperor ('the Warrior'), the handwriting of the Hongxi emperor ('the bureaucrat'), the paintings of the Xuande emperor ('the aesthete') and the portraits of the regents who ruled while the Zhengtong emperor was a boy. There are also examples of costumes, gold, jewellery and furniture that once belonged to the princes.