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The Forbidden City at 600: The Private Life of the Qianlong Emperor

December 2, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

During the 64 years of Qianlong’s rule, China’s population more than doubled, its territory increased by one-third, its cities flourished, and its manufactures – tea, silk, porcelain – became principal items of international commerce. Join us as we delve into the private life of one of China’s most illustrious rulers – a notorious builder, and prolific patron of the arts, who presided over one of the last golden ages of China’s Imperial Empire.

Speakers’ Bios

Nancy Berliner, PhD, a historian of Chinese art and architecture, is the Wu Teng Senior Curator of Chinese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Her current exhibition at the MFA is “The Weng Family Collection of Paintings: Friends and Family,” highlights from the 2018 transformative gift of over 200 works of art from the most significant private collection of Chinese paintings in the U.S.  Until 2012, she was the Curator of Chinese Art at the Peabody Essex Museum, spearheading and curating the relocated Yin You Tang, a 200-year old rural Chinese house.  Serving as the long-term interpretive and curatorial advisor to the World Monuments Fund for the Qianlong Garden conservation project in the Forbidden City in Beijing, she curated the exhibition The Emperor’s Private Life Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City with objects from the garden and authored the accompanying catalogue.  Dr. Berliner completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard University, and did additional studies at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing.

Mark Elliott is Vice Provost of International Affairs at Harvard University and the Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and in the Department of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  Elliott is an authority on the last four centuries of Chinese history, in particular the Qing period (1636-1911). His first book, The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China, is a pioneering study in the “New Qing History,” an approach emphasizing the imprint of Inner Asian traditions upon China’s last imperial state. He is also the author of Emperor Qianlong: Son of Heaven, Man of the World, and has published more than twenty-five scholarly articles. He serves on numerous editorial boards, and was for three years the director of the Fairbank Center of Chinese Studies. A graduate of Yale (BA 1981 summa cum laude, MA 1984), Elliott earned his PhD in History at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara and at the University of Michigan before coming to Harvard in 2003.

Henry Tzu Ng served for 15 years as the Executive Vice President of World Monuments Fund (WMF) and created its Institutional Initiatives program that expanded WMF’s mission in emerging geographic and programmatic areas of interest.

These initiatives included creating a presence for WMF in East Asia.  In China, he launched national-level architectural conservation programs at Imperial, Vernacular and Buddhist sites, including at Shalu Temple, Tibet, and the 20-year master plan to conserve the long-dormant 18th-century Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City.  In Japan, he developed new programs addressing conservation challenges at medieval sites, vernacular sites, and Buddhist convents, as well as historic sites damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku.  Other global initiatives focused on saving heritage sites-in-conflict, and endangered modern architecture.

Throughout his professional career, Ng, now retired, has implemented large-scale conservation field projects and advocacy programs embracing endangered local and global cultural heritage, and ranging from the ancient to the modern world.


This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


December 2, 2020
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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