The Qianlong Emperor came to the Imperial throne when he was just 24 years old, and he oversaw one of the largest empires that the world has ever seen – one that is said to have spanned a mind-boggling three million square miles. You might think that being in charge of such a huge area would involve quite a lot of conflict in order to maintain that supremacy, and you’d be right. But the emperor wasn’t just a military man; he also had a penchant for preserving Chinese culture.
You see, the emperor himself was an art lover, and thanks to him, China’s imperial collection – the personal art museum of the ruler – grew ever larger. Indeed, while the haul itself had been around for centuries, Qianlong was particularly invested in expanding and curating it.
The emperor amassed everything from jade to mirrors and bronzes and had a team of consultants to help him acquire pieces. And at around that time, artworks looked arguably even more magnificent than they had ever done before. A new color palette had been imported to China from Europe, with the tones subsequently used likely elevating already beautiful objects to the realm of the sublime.