The sovereigns who occupied China's imperial throne were no slouches when it came to living large, but historians generally agree that the Qianlong Emperor—who ruled China from 1736 to 1795, as part of its last dynasty, the Qing—was one of the most extravagant. If you need convincing, check out this exhibition organized by the Peabody Essex Museum. It brings together some 90 paintings, decorative works, architectural elements and religious pieces created for an elaborate two-acre private retreat, built in 1771 within the Forbidden City. No expense was spared in these treasures, made from rare woods, semiprecious stones, cloisonné, gilt bronze, porcelain and lacquer. Ogling is permitted.
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