Rare collections of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Updated: 2011-04-06 14:48

By Liu Fang (

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Rare collections of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Gold celestial globe inlaid with pearls

Reign of Emperor Qianlong, Qing Dynasty (1661-1722)

Overall height: 82cm

Diameter of globe: 29.5cm

The Palace Museum

This gold celestial globe inlaid with pearls was made by royal craftsmen during the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795).

It has a pedestal, a holder, a meridian circle, a horizontal circle, and a globe.

The pedestal is round in shape, and made of enamel-inlaid gold and patterned with seawater in relief. In the middle of the pedestal is a compass. Four Chinese dragons support the holder with their heads tilted downward, functioning as the legs of the pedestal. Nine coiling dragons, carved in the shape of a goblet, are erect on top of the pedestal, holding up the globe.

The globe is joined together by two hemispheres, with their seams as the equatorial circumference. Varying shapes and sizes of pearls are inlaid on the surface of the globe, serving as stars. The names of the stars are marked beside them, with shade lines interspersing among the stars, indicating constellations.

According to the Yi Xiang Kao Cheng, a star catalog compiled during the region of Emperor Qianlong, there are a total of 3,242 pearls in total, making up 300 constellations. The globe seems to be a hollow ball, but actually there is a precise machine inside. After winding it up, the globe can revolve slowly, demonstrating the movement of the stars.

The celestial globe is not only an ancient instrument for detecting the motion of heavenly bodies, but also a beautiful decoration. It is made of precious materials, created with superb craftsmanship and a complex structure, from which we can see the new development of making celestial globe during the Reign of Emperor Qianlong.


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