Treasures That Took 800 Years and 9 Emperors to Collect

This year, the Asian Art Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary, and perhaps fittingly, the show that’s serving as its centerpiece is one big collection of family heirlooms. It’s typical anniversary-celebration fare—typical, that is, if your family happens to be one of China’s imperial dynasties. On loan from Taipei’s National Palace Museum, eight centuries’ worth of Emperors’ Treasures—including cloisonné vases, carved agate bowls, porcelain wine cups, painted scrolls, caliigraphy done by Emperor Huizong himself—will be in residence in San Francisco until September 18, when it will all decamps for Houston. Much of the loot, which decorated Beijing’s Forbidden City until the fog of revolution descended in the 1920s, has never been seen in the U.S. before, including the famed “meat-shaped stone”: a piece of jasper carved and colored sometime during the Qing Dynasty to resemble a slab of braised pork belly. Perfect for the food-obsessed Bay Area, no?

Half-portrait of Emperor Gaozong, Zhao Gou. Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Album leaf, ink and color on silk.  National Palace Museum, Taipei, Zhonghua 000322-11. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Half-portrait of Emperor Gaozong, Zhao Gou. Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Album leaf, ink and color on silk. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Zhonghua 000322-11. Photograph © Na- tional Palace Museum, Taipei.

Meat-shaped stone, China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Stone: jasper; stand: gold. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Guza 000178 Lü-413. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Meat-shaped stone, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Stone: jasper; stand: gold. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Guza 000178 Lü-413. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Flower vase. Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Copper alloy with cloisonné enamel inlays.  National Palace Museum, Taipei, Gufa 000761 Lü 1847-38. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Flower vase. Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Copper alloy with cloisonné enamel inlays. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Gufa 000761 Lü 1847-38. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Cup and saucer with gilt decorations. Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). Porcelain with cobalt blue glaze and gilt decoration.  National Palace Museum, Taipei, Guci017371 Tian-1146-1, Guci 017370 Tian-1146. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Cup and saucer with gilt decorations. Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). Porcelain with cobalt blue glaze and gilt decoration. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Guci017371 Tian-1146-1, Guci 017370 Tian-1146. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

 

If you're not already a member, sign up now to start earning points toward incredible Joie de Vivre experiences and free air miles with your very next stay at one of our boutique hotels, each with its own unique brand and personality.