Chinese imperial culture paints London red and gold

Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, and Madame Liu Yongqing are arriving for a state visit, which will include a banquet at Buckingham Palace and the official opening - with the Queen - of the Royal Academy show. China: the Three Emperors, 1662-1795, includes 400 treasures from the Forbidden City in Beijing whose loan was negotiated by the academy with the Chinese government.

The show, originally due to be held next year, was brought forward to coincide with the trip, the first Chinese state visit since 1999. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited China in 1986.

Among the treasures are ritual paintings, ceremonial robes, armour, words, jades and bronzes, porcelain and lacquer ware, painted scrolls and palace furnishings collected by three of the most powerful emperors in China's last dynasty, the Qing. Many of the items have never previously left China and, indeed, many have not been seen within China.

It will be the biggest display of Chinese art in London since a ground-breaking exhibition in 1935, also at the Royal Academy, which forced even experts at the British Museum to re-consider the significance of early Chinese culture. It is more than 30 years since the academy staged its acclaimed Genius of China exhibition.

The show focuses on the artistic riches of the 17th and 18th century after the Xing dynasty, who were Manchu not Chinese, had overthrown the Ming dynasty. Three powerful emperors ruled for most of this period: the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722), the Yongzheng Emperor (1723-35) and the Qianlong Emperor (1736-95).

An Academy spokeswoman said that the exhibition was "an unprecedented glimpse of some of the greatest Chinese treasures".

The exhibition, which is sponsored by Goldman Sachs, opens to the public on Saturday, 12 November and will run until 17 April next year.

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