Empress Dowager Cixi: Selections from the Summer Palace
November 12, 2017 - March 11, 2018
SANTA ANA, CA 92706 United States
From imperial concubine to fierce ruler, one of China’s most controversial figures will make headlines once again as the Bowers Museum presents Empress Dowager, Cixi: Selections from the Summer Palace. The exhibit, made possible through a partnership with China’s Summer Palace Museum, Beijing, will be shown for the first and only time outside of China exclusively at the Bowers Museum beginning November 12, 2017.
Empress Dowager Cixi was one of the most powerful women in the world for almost half a century (1861 – 1908) ruling China and in many respects, bringing China into the modern world by introducing it to Western Culture. From her early life as an imperial concubine in her adolescence, Empress Dowager Cixi was the longest ruling woman in China’s history and is the only female to have broken from tradition to rule from behind the curtains. Historians are split in their account of Cixi with some arguing she was a shrewd ruler, accelerating modernization to railway and manufacturing, orchestrating mysterious assassination attempts on her enemies and banning the practice of foot binding and death by a thousand cuts, while others accuse her of the fall of the Qing dynasty and Imperial China.
With over 100 pieces of art and artifacts, this exhibition is the first of its kind in the United States and will explore Cixi’s role beyond politics. For the first time, audiences will see this mysterious woman come alive through her furnishings, including a reinstallation of one of her throne rooms complete with imperial accessories, lavish clothing, and her most treasured possessions; many of which were gifts from foreign diplomats and court officials. Especially notable is the 1901 Duryea Surrey – the first automobile to be imported into China. The exhibition will also showcase Cixi’s use of art and symbolism to legitimize her strength as a powerful female ruler in a male-dominated court.
Alongside this exclusive exhibition, the Bowers Museum has also prepared an equally stunning programming schedule which includes international best-selling author Jung Chang, author of Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (2013), a New York Times “notable book” as well as other acclaimed works including Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story, Ying Chen, Guest Curator for the Empress Dowager exhibit, and Chen Kelun, Deputy Director of Shanghai Museum.
Empress Dowager, Cixi: Selections from the Summer Palace opens on November 12, 2017, at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California. It will be the first time that any of the Empress Dowager’s treasures will be seen in the United States, and following its closing on March 11, 2018, the exhibition will be returned to Beijing and the Summer Palace.
This groundbreaking collaboration between the Bowers Museum and the Summer Palace Museum spearheads the growing interest in Chinese women and art among American academic institutions as well as the public at large. Its presence enriches the Bowers’ mission of introducing art and culture to the community and continue its mission of bringing the world’s great art and culture home.