Rare treasures, hidden for centuries in the heart of imperial China, will go on display in Toronto this week at the Royal Ontario Museum. 

The ROM’s latest exhibit features 250 artifacts from China’s Forbidden City, the imperial palace which for 500 years was accessible only to the emperor, his family and servants. 

“This exhibition is the kind that comes once in a lifetime,” said ROM CEO Janet Carding. “Once you're through the doors you get the feeling you're no longer in Toronto. … You do get the ‘wow’ of the scale of the architectural grandeur.” 

Some of the items are being seen outside China for the first time. The exhibit includes a gold pitcher and cup — only used on the emperor's birthday — and a robe that was worn only once by a six-year-old emperor in 1861. 

The exhibit is two years in the making, and assembled by lead curator Dr. Chen Shen. 

“We chose artifacts that are relevant to our community … to understand where our life came from,” Shen told CBC News. 

Forbidden City opens at the ROM on March 8.

From a report by Shannon Martin