China's Forbidden City comes to the VAG

The Vancouver Art Gallery has secured a highly sought-after exhibit featuring some of China's most treasured historical artifacts from Beijing's Palace Museum.

Nearly 200 artifacts from Beijing's Palace Museum

The Vancouver Art Gallery has secured a highly sought-after exhibit featuring some of China's most treasured historical artifacts from Beijing's Palace Museum.

The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors will bring about 200 objects to Vancouver, some of which have never been seen outside of China.

VAG Director Kathleen Bartels announced the exhibit at a press conference Monday morning, attended by B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. 

"It will be the first opportunity, ever, for residents and visitors of Vancouver to view this magnificent collection of rare objects from China's Imperial Palace," Bartels said in a press release.

The exhibit is to be funded by an unusual combination of donors.

Vancouver philanthropist Robert Ho will donate $1 million through his family's foundation, while China's largest state oil company - China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) - will donate an additional $1 million.

Ho said he wants to expose Canada to Chinese culture, as the economic relationship between the two countries grows.

"It is important that we all amalgamate together, instead of grow apart," he said.

CNOOC purchased Canadian energy company Nexen for $15 billion in a controversial deal earlier this year and is a key player in the growing natural gas sector in B.C.

However, the company's Vice President Fang Zhi said its donation "has nothing to do with our specific business interests."

The economic connections between CNOOC and the province, however, were not ignored by Premier Clark, as she took a moment to reference their natural gas investments as she thanked investors during her address.

"Of course CNOOC, a significant investor, is going to be a big part of making sure we create those 100,000 jobs in natural gas over the next few years here," she said.

Gregor Robertson, who spoke in Chinese during his speech, said the artifacts represent the deep connection between China and Vancouver. Both Robertson and Clark will visit China on economic and cultural missions in November.

The exhibit of paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, textiles, decorative objects and architecture will come to Vancouver in fall 2014 and remain until Jan. 2015.

The 'Forbidden City' was the seat of power for China's emperors for more than five centuries during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and houses more than one million artifacts in nearly 10,000 rooms in 980 different buildings.

The massive complex was renamed as Beijing's Palace Museum in 1925, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams


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