Home China Guide Beijing Tips & Articles The Top 10 Treasures Housed in the Forbidden City

The Top 10 Treasures Housed in the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, also called the Palace Museum, house numerous priceless things from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The follow 10 things are considered the most valuable treasures according by Chinese experts.

1. "Eternal Territorial Integrity" Gold Cup with Jewel Inlay 

Height: 12.5 centimeters. Mouth diameter: 8 centimeters. Foot diameter: 5 centimeters.

The gold cup is considered to be the best masterpiece of the Court Relics of the Palace at the Palace Museum. The gold cup has a straight mouthed rim with a band of rectangular spiral patterns around it. The exquisite gold cup is made of valuable materials such as gold, pearls and jewels. During the Qing Dynasty, the gold cup was considered to be a precious treasure handed down from generation to generation.

As its name implies, the gold cup reflects the desire to maintain the state power firmly and eternally. It was made especially for use by the emperor of the Qing Dynasty and the emperor would use it in the first writing ceremony on the first day of a new year.

2. "Made by Zhang Cheng" Lacquer Plate with Carved Clouds 

Height: 3.3 centimeters. Diameter: 19.2 centimeters.

Zhang Cheng was the great master of carved lacquer wares in the Yuan Dynasty. His representative pieces are considered to be the best and most precious treasures for lacquer wares. The "Made by Zhang Cheng" Lacquer Plate with Carved Clouds is a masterpiece of lacquer wares in the Palace Museum. Both sides of the plate are painted with thick black and are carved with smooth and clear clouds, making it bright and shiny. 

3. Jade Burner with Dragons and Clouds 

Height: 7.9 centimeters. Mouth diameter: 12.8 centimeters.

Made in the Song Dynasty, the blue jade burner is one of the representatives of jade and precious stones of the Palace Museum. The jade burner is carved with dragons, clouds and seawater on the ground with "工" lines. At the bottom of the burner, there is a poem with seven characters to a line by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty.

4. Cloisonné Enamel Burner with Lotus Decoration and Elephant-trunk Handles 

Height: 13.9 centimeters. Mouth diameter: 16 centimeters. Foot diameter: 13.5 centimeters.

The enamel burner was made in the Yuan Dynasty. It is one of the representatives of the court collection.

The burner has a round and bulging brass body, two handles in the shape of elephant trunks, and a foot ring. There are 12 yellow, white, red, and purple chrysanthemum flowers on the light blue enamel background around the neck of the burner. The body is decorated with six red, white and yellow entwining sprays of lotus flowers on a sapphire blue background. Below them is a band of lotus petals.

The enamel coating is shiny and smooth. In some places, it is as transparent as glass. The colors of the enamel are harmoniously matched so the burner looks elegant and classical in its style. The burner is a distinguished inlaid enamel work belonging to the Yuan Dynasty.

5. Along the River During the Tomb-sweeping Day

The painting records the daily lives of people and buildings along the Bianhe River from the end of the Song period (the reign of Emperor Huizong), in the capital city of Bianjing (today's Kaifeng). In particular, the painting captures the celebration of the Tomb-sweeping Day by the people, the prosperous streets, the beautiful landscape and other features, such as boats, bridges and shops.

There are more than 500 figures drawn in the painting with different expressions and styles of dress, being involved in different economic activities. The vivid and accurate images of the painting reflect real life, indicating the perfect skills of the painter.

6. Ping Fu Tie

The representative of calligraphy in the museum is 'Ping Fu Tie' created by Lu Ji in the Western Jin period. It is the earliest work of calligraphy in the world. Actually, it is a letter that shows the greeting and blessing from Lu Ji to his sick friend.

7. Black Lacquer Clock with Eight Immortals 

Height: 18.5 centimeters. Width: 102 centimeters. Length: 70 centimeters.

'Black Lacquer Clock with Eight Immortals' is a masterpiece of clock pieces in the museum. The clock has seven mechanical systems which control the devices for chiming and the backdrops. According to a record, it took more than five years to complete the construction of the clock. Before the 17th century, the water clock was widely use in China.

8. Silk Tapestry of Plum Tree Branches and Two Magpies 

Height: 104 centimeters. Width: 36 centimeters.

'Silk Tapestry of Plum Tree Branches and Two Magpies' by Shen Zifan is a great textile work. In ancient times, a silk tapestry/Kesi was the most valuable piece of textile because it required a long time to create, with highly skilled techniques and a great knowledge of painting and calligraphy. 

9. Xuya Bronze Rectangular Vessel 

Height: 45.5 centimeters. Width: 38 centimeters. Mouth diameter: 33.6×33.4 centimeters. Weight: 21.5 kilograms.

This bronze vessel has a flaring mouth and a handle on each shoulder in the form of an elephant's head. Between the two handles are set other decorations in the form of animals' heads. The neck, body and foot are decorated with eight vertical ridges. The body is covered with motifs of dragons and animal masks against a pattern of thunder.

On the inner mouth is an inscription of nine characters in an ancient Shang Dynasty script, indicating that this vessel was a ceremonial object made by the Yaxu ethnic group for royal consorts and crown princes.

The zun is a wine container which was popular during the Shang era and the Warring States Period. The rectangular vessels are rare and there are only fifty vessels of this kind found in the world, and fifteen are in the Taipei Palace Museum's collection.

10. Red-glazed Vase with Vertical Mouth Lang Ware 

Height: 20.8 centimeters. Mouth diameter: 6.1 centimeters. Foot diameter: 9.1 centimeters.

The vase has a straight neck, bulging body and a foot ring spreading outward. There are two rectangle holes on both sides of its foot so it can be carried easily by tethering or being fixed in a place, avoiding damage.

The mouth of the vase is white and the bottom is a thick red glaze, resulting from the enamel's vertical flow during its burning process.