Within their historical context in an exhibition at Freer | Sackler, the empresses of China’s Qing Dynasty succeeded in making meaningful lives for themselves, and that is something to celebrate and admire.
Many of the objects in Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644-1912 at Freer | Sackler have not previously been available for research, have never traveled outside of China, and might not be likely to reemerge again.
Sensory pleasure inspires this exhibition design, treating the last imperial dynasty of China as a feast instead of a major art movement.
In 1870, 29-year-old British photographer Thomas Child moved to Peking — as Beijing was formerly known — to work as a gas engineer for the Imperial Maritime Customs Service.
China was, and will always be, in its heart of hearts, an empire — whether it is royal, revolutionary, or techno-bureaucratic-communist-cum-capitalist.