Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City at the Science Museum London

Major exhibition opened at the Science Museum London showcasing a unique collection of intricate clockworks collected by Chinese emperors. Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City’ is a ‘pay-what-you-can’ exhibition with a minimum ticket price of £1.

 

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? [BLOG POST IN BIO] You can visit this remarkable exhibition at Science Museum for just £1 @sciencemuseumlondon ‘??????????? 凝时聚珍: ????????? ????????? ???? ?????’? ????????? ????’ is showcasing a unique collection of intricate clockworks collected and cherished by Chinese emperors The collection counts 23 mechanical clcocks that have been kindly loaned from The Palace Museum in Beijing to be exhibited at the Science Museum London for a limited period of time ? Science Museum | Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD (Special Exhibition Gallery 2, Level 2) ? Until 2nd June 2024 ?️ Open daily 10am – 6pm ?️ Science Museum understand that many are affected by the cost-of-living crisis these days. That’s why, this exhibition is operating on a pay-what-you-can basis with a minimum ticket price of £1 (with optional donation) #zimingzhong #sciencemuseumlondon #forbiddencity #clockwork #china #exhibition #londonmuseum

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Mechanical Marvels Collected by Chinese Emperors

 

Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍- Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City

Photo: Urban Adventurer

 

 

‘Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City’ is a unique collection of 23 rare mechanical clocks, known as ‘Zimingzhong’ (translated as: ‘bells that ring themselves’) displayed exclusively together in the UK for the very first time.

 

These rare treasures were collected and cherished by Chinese emperors over the centuries and now the collection has been kindly loaned from The Palace Museum in Beijing to be exhibited at the Science Museum London for a limited period of time.

 

Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City

Photo: Urban Adventurer

 

The exhibition invites visitors to discover flamboyant aesthetics, intricate mechanics, sophisticated musical technology, and technical innovation.

 

The history of ‘Zimingzhong’ dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) when, in the early 16th century missionaries began presenting beautiful automatic clockworks to emperors seeking to ingratiate themselves in Chinese society.

 

Some of the first ‘Zimingzhongs’ were brought by Italian missionary, Matteo Ricci in the early 16th century. Decades later emperors went on collecting those ‘foreign curiosities’.

 

Trade, Mechanics, Making & Design

 

Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City Exhibition at Science Museum

Photo: Urban Adventurer

 

The exhibition has four different sections to cover: trade, mechanics, making and design.

 

The ‘Trade’ section explores the long trade route from London to China. The journey took a whole year for merchant ships to later return to London packed with sought-after goods, such as silk, tea, and porcelain. Beyond goods exchange, this was a unique cultural exchange of ideas and skills between the Eastern and the Western world.

 

Make sure you don’t miss the porcelain tea bowl and saucer found on a merchant ship that had sank in 1752 in the South China Sea.

 

As the demand of Chinese goods were extremely high, English merchants wanted to develop their own merchant trades by providing British-made luxury goods, such as ‘Zimingzhong’ as an exchange. As the British realised there were real interest in Zimingzhong, they started producing them in the hope to appeal the emperors.

 

Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍- Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City - Science Museum London

Photo: Urban Adventurer

 

In the ‘Mechanics’ section luxurious mechanical clockworks are on display, including a beautiful piece of clock with mechanical lotus flowers that were made using Chinese and European technology.

 

The ‘Making’ section discovers the artistic and technical skills required for making ‘Zimingzhong’. In this section visitors have a chance to discover the inner working of the clocks and even touch and manipulate some of exhibition items.

 

Interactive Element of the Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍- Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City

Photo: Urban Adventurer

 

The ‘Design’ section explores how British craftsmen would produce ‘Zimingzhong’ for Chinese market. Often times, however, these craftsmen did not know much about Chinese culture. That’s why some of the clockworks reflect the lack of cultural understanding in their designs.

 

Zimingzhong Exhibition at Science Museum

Photo: Urban Adventurer

 

 

Beyond the elaborated design, ‘Zimingzhong’ had a sophisticated music technology. The clocks often played popular European or Chinese songs, such as Chinese folk songs or ‘Jasmine Flower’ or ‘Rinaldo’ (1711) from George Frideric Handel. These songs are being played at the exhibition.

 

The decline of the ‘Zimingzhong’ begun in 1796 when Emperor Jiaqing decided that collecting and maintaining ‘Zimingzhong’ were waste of money. As a result, trade of these amazing clocks faded. China’s elite rulers in the Forbidden City, however, still continued using the clocks.

 

Practical Info

 

Science Museum London - Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍- Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City

Photo: Urban Adventurer

 

 

 

Address

Science Museum | Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD

Special Exhibition Gallery 2, Level 2

 

Opening Times

Until 2nd June 2024

Open daily 10am – 6pm

 

Tickets

Science Museum understand that many are affected by the cost-of-living crisis these days. That’s why, this exhibition is operating on a pay-what-you-can basis with a minimum ticket price of £1 (with optional donation).

 

Tickets can be purchased on the Science Museum’s website.

 

Recommended age 12+

Children under 11 go free

 

 

 

 

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