The Palace Museum, Beijing is one of the one of the world's greatest museums. Situated in the over 900,000 roomed Forbidden City, it contains over a million items, of which about 800,000 originate from the holdings of the Qing court. The history and preservation of the collection is highly complex and interesting in itself (see the Palace Museum's website).
The Qing Dynasty lasted from 1644 to 1912. The Royal Academy exhibition (of which this book is the catalogue) covers the years 1622-1795. This was the glory period of the dynasty during which three emperors had highly successful and productive reigns. The Kanxi Emperor ruled from 1662-1772; he began his reign aged 8 and had the longest period of rule in Chinese history. He was succeeded by Yinzhen (1723-35) and later by Hongli (1736-95). After that date things went downhill, culminating with the breakup of the dynasty in 1912.
There were 306 artworks on display at the Royal Academy exhibition. The items were wide ranging in nature; hanging scrolls, snuff bottles, textiles, porcelain, calligraphy, paintings, furniture and so forth. To my eyes, they are consistently beautiful (often breathtakingly so) and of very high quality. It is worth noting that there is much color in the scrolls and paintings, this situation is somewhat unusual in earlier Chinese art.
As is often the the case with Royal Academy publications, the layout of the catalogue is exceptional as is the quality of the color reproductions and printing standard in general. This magnificent book should be an obligatory purchase for anyone interested in Chinese art, history and culture.