Among the vast collection in the Palace Museum, there is a fantastic Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) picture catalogue called “Hai Cuo Tu.” Featuring over 300 species of marine creatures drawn by Qing-Dynasty painter Nie Huang, the book was said to be a favorite of Emperor Qianlong (reign from 1736-1795).
Now the sea creatures in the ancient book have come to life in an exhibition titled “Marine Life in the Forbidden City -- A Multimedia Exhibition,” which opened July 12 at the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Nanshan District and will run through Oct. 8. The exhibition is co-hosted by the Palace Museum and Shenzhen China Merchants Cultural Industrial Co., Ltd.
The exhibition follows Nie’s research and takes visitors on a journey of discovering the mysteries of the sea creatures depicted by the painter.
The first chapter exhibits duplicated paintings from the catalogue and gives an introduction to the deep-sea creatures that Nie had actually observed. Most of the creatures in his book were painted from real life, the ones living in the intertidal zone depicted with particular accuracy. The intertidal zone is the coastal area that emerges between the high tide and low tide. Although Nie would not have known the term “intertidal zone,” he was said to be a frequent visitor to the seashore to observe the shells.
For creatures that were not commonly seen from the coast, Nie did his research at fishing markets. As a foodie himself, Nie usually painted while eating. The second chapter is about the edible sea creatures in Nie’s time such as razor clams and large yellow croakers, which were portrayed most realistically. Wearing headsets and watching videos, visitors can learn about the intriguing stories of Nie’s research at the fishing market and the basic knowledge of the seafood of the Qing Dynasty.
The biggest highlight of the exhibition is the third chapter, which enables visitors to walk into the world of Nie’s imagination and learn about the legends of sea monsters through cutting-edge digital projections and a uniquely atmospheric light and sound show.
The exhibition also includes instagrammable marine life-themed installations for visitors to take photos and ocean-themed game sections for both kids and adults.
Additionally, the exhibition has launched a non-profit parent-child education program, which serves as an extension to the exhibition and aims to help parents grasp an in-depth understanding of the exhibition and maritime civilization. Courses on science education, knowledge contests for kids and series lectures are also provided during the exhibition.
The exhibition is the first collaboration between the Palace Museum and China Merchants Bureau in the field of culture and education, aiming at promoting fine traditional Chinese culture by adopting digital technology and multimedia means. According to the organizers, the exhibition will continue its tour to Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities in China after its Shenzhen premiere.
Scan the QR code to purchase the tickets:
Date: Until Oct. 8
Time: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday, closed on Mondays) ; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Weekends and holidays)
Tickets: 98-688 yuan
Add: Sea World Culture and Arts Center, Shekou, Nanshan District (南山区蛇口海上世界文化艺术中心)
Metro: Line 2 to Sea World Station (海上世界站), Exit A