CHAPTER 6
Myriad Fortunes and Golden Peace

The Qianlong Emperor’s Grand Eightieth Birthday Ceremony (interactive installation)

Eight thousand springs; eight thousand autumns; eight directions transforming the eight winds; celebrating the sagacious birthday; eight decades greet the eighth lunar month (of Your Majesty’s birth). -Ji Xiaolan (1724-1805), Qing dynasty

The Qianlong Emperor occupied the throne for many years. In 1790, at the venerated age of eighty (by Chinese reckoning), a grand birthday celebration was held for him. The details of the event were recorded in the text Eight Decades of the Grand Birthday Ceremony and depicted in a

painting of the same title. The celebrations extended from the West Gate in Beijing to the main gate of the Old Summer Palace, featuring stages, musical troupes, and lamas chanting sutras interwoven into a grand birthday party. Western-style architecture can be seen throughout the depiction of Beijing streets, reflecting the trend towards westernization and Qianlong’s own taste at the time.

In the Hall of Rectitude and Honor in the Old Summer Palace, Qianlong greeted envoys from various states paying tribute to him. This depiction is of one of the last great banquets in this imperial garden, representing the prime of the Old Summer Palace. This area of the exhibit uses a photographic interactive installation that allows audiences to enter the painting of Qianlong’s birthday celebration and join the emperor’s party.