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Celestial Empire, Life in China 1644 - 1911

Home > Canberra > School Holiday Activities | Libraries | Free | Exhibitions | Cultural Events
by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun!
Event: -
300 years of Chinese history, family fun & kung fu
The National Library of Australia is holding the Celestial Empire exhibition between January 2nd and May 22nd, 2016. If you have an interest in China's culture, traditions and extensive history, this exhibition will be a fascinating look back over 300 centuries of change in this ever-evolving country. See what life was like for people in the villages and fields, the higher courts and learn about China's last imperial dynasty.

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Image: After Huang Qianren (1694-1771), Complete Map of the Everlasting Unity of the Great Qing between 1796 and 1820, ink on paper, National Library of China, Beijing. Source: National Library of Australia website


This exhibition is an exclusive collaboration between The National Library of Australia and The National Library of China. Visitors to this culturally significant exhibition can wander around the displays in historical order and learn about each time period and what life was life in that era. In particular view historical and exquisite maps, calligraphy, books, prints and historical items never seen before in Australia.

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The Jade Emperor (Yuhuang dadi), Guangxu period (1875–1908), National Library of China. Source: National Library of Australia


Tickets to the exhibition are free, however visitors need to book online and receive an email ticket to gain entry. Visitors then show their ticket at the door and are given a copy of the Celestial Empire Guide to keep. Times available to book are between 10am and 4pm, to minimize overcrowding and experience the exhibition leisurely. Although visitors need to book an arrival time, there is no finishing time to leave, so stay and enjoy the exhibition for as long as required. Click on the "Book Now" icon on the website here to secure your time. Although booking is recommended, there are a number of tickets available from the Celestial Empire Desk in the Foyer in quieter times.

There are also tours of the exhibition at 10:30am and 2:30am daily (select this option when you book your ticket) and a Chinese language tour at 11:30am.

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Celestial Empire Family Room. Source: National Library of Australia


If you have kids, they will enjoy the Celestial Empire Family Room, held in the Brindabella Room up on the 4th Floor. No bookings are required to play in this family space and kids and parents can help paint a giant collaborative dragon artwork, play with puppets, craft, enjoy colouring in or read a Chinese storybook. See here for more information.

As a special event on the 12th of January, there will be also be a colouring in session for kids in the same room with guest illustrator Di Wu. Titled "Rainbow Dragons and Monkey Kings", this Drop - In Colouring morning will run between 10:30am - 12:30am for kids aged 3 and over. See here for more information.

If that is not enough to do, why not enjoy a free screening of the 2008 movie "The Forbidden Kingdom", starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li, in the National Library Theatre - also on the 12th of January. Bookings are essential, see here for more information.

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Source: National Library of Australia website


Before you go....there is also another Chinese exhibition running at the same time as the Celestial Empire. Titled "Hardy Wilson's Peking", this exhibition displays detailed pencil drawings by Australian architect William Hardy Wilson from when he visited China in 1921. There is no need to book for this free exhibition, located in the Treasures Gallery on the Ground Floor.

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William Hardy Wilson (1881-1955), Hall of the Classics at the Temple of Confucius 1912-1953, nla.obj-153531570. Source: National Library of Australia website


With so much to experience at the National Library of Australia in the first few months of 2016, ensure you allow enough time to experience all the exhibits on display. With priceless exhibits, tours, kung fu action, family fun and illustrators - there is something for everyone at the National Library to experience.

The National Library itself is an interesting building to look around, with floor to ceiling stain glass artworks by artist Leonard French to admire as soon as you walk in the door. After your visit, the Bookplate Café is a relaxing cafe to stay for a coffee or lunch and discuss your highlights of the National Library's Celestial Empire exhibition.

With over 300 years covered in the exhibition, there will be a lot to discuss.

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The stunning stain glass windows in the Bookplate Cafe, National Library of Australia

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Why? If you enjoy learning about the Chinese culture, this exhibition will be a facinating insight into their traditions and history.
When: 10am - 5pm
Phone: 02 6262 1111
Where: National Library of Australia, Parkes Place West, Parkes, Canberra,
Cost: Free, bookings required
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