Thursday, December 06, 2007

Chinese rock gardens

We were at the Museum of Childhood last weekend and the photograph here shows my older son walking past a pair of interesting Chinese landscapes. Their caption reads as follows:

'The Chinese Rock Gardens together with two other landscapes were gifts for the French Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. They were sent by Chia Ch'ing, Emperor of China (1796-1820). It is said that the ship carrying these gifts was captured by an English warship. They were offered back to the French after the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. The offer was declined. It is recorded that the models arrived at the East India Company's India Museum in 1809. They passed to the Victoria and Albert Museum, then the South Kensington museum, in 1880.'

I'm not sure why these miniature landscapes are in the Museum of Childhood - the implication is that they were toys, but they look more like decorative art works, not dissimilar to the jade mountain I've described here before, showing the The Nine Elders of Huichang. I would love to know more about them. It is hard to imagine Napoleon drawing any inspiration from these little Chinese rock gardens...

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