• NLA Director General Anne-Marie Schwirtlich with NLA Chairman Ryan Stokes

    NLA Director General Anne-Marie Schwirtlich with NLA Chairman Ryan Stokes

  • Illustrator of 'New Year Surprise' Di Wu and his wife Kathy Huang

    Illustrator of 'New Year Surprise' Di Wu and his wife Kathy Huang

  • Lilian Mellink, James Pearson and Govert Mellink

    Lilian Mellink, James Pearson and Govert Mellink

  • Reading the catalogue...... former Director Art Gallery of NSW Edmund Capon

    Reading the catalogue...... former Director Art Gallery of NSW Edmund Capon

  • PM Malcolm Turnbull reading the catalogue.....

    PM Malcolm Turnbull reading the catalogue.....

  • Lucy Turnbull and PM Malcolm Turnbull with the catalogue he's been reading.

    Lucy Turnbull and PM Malcolm Turnbull with the catalogue he's been reading.

  • Andrew and Eileen Simon

    Andrew and Eileen Simon

  • 'Celestial' Pork Buns

    'Celestial' Pork Buns

  • Libby and John Oliver

    Libby and John Oliver

  • Andre Svenson and Tracey Keeley

    Andre Svenson and Tracey Keeley

  • Christine Mueller with Ambassador of Spain Manuel Cacho and his wife Maria Teresa Garcia de Oteya

    Christine Mueller with Ambassador of Spain Manuel Cacho and his wife Maria Teresa Garcia de Oteya

  • Anne Davis and Roger Hausmann

    Anne Davis and Roger Hausmann

  • Madelaine Lundgren and David Zhai from sponsors the Wanda Group

    Madelaine Lundgren and David Zhai from sponsors the Wanda Group

  • Sally Burdon, Martin Nagle, Roger and Weilian Carter

    Sally Burdon, Martin Nagle, Roger and Weilian Carter

  • Bini Szacsvay, Susan Hall and writer of 'New Year Surprise' Christopher Cheng

    Bini Szacsvay, Susan Hall and writer of 'New Year Surprise' Christopher Cheng

  • Rachel Huang and Luca Tacconi

    Rachel Huang and Luca Tacconi

  • Guy Hansen and Exhibition Curator Dr Nathan Woolley

    Guy Hansen and Exhibition Curator Dr Nathan Woolley

  • PM Malcolm Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull with Ambassador of China Xhaoxu Ma

    PM Malcolm Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull with Ambassador of China Xhaoxu Ma

  • Ambassador of China Xhaox Ma, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, PM Malcolm Turnbull, Ryan Stokes, Lucy Turnbull, Mitch Fifield, Zed Seselja and Deputy Director National Library of China Li Chen

    Ambassador of China Xhaox Ma, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, PM Malcolm Turnbull, Ryan Stokes, Lucy Turnbull, Mitch Fifield, Zed Seselja and Deputy Director National Library of China Li Chen

  • Lucy Turnbull PM Malcolm Turnbull, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and Ryan Stokes

    Lucy Turnbull PM Malcolm Turnbull, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and Ryan Stokes

  • A traditional Lion Dance welcome to the NLA

    A traditional Lion Dance welcome to the NLA

  • Lucy Turnbull and PM Malcolm Turnbull arrive for the official opening of Celestial Empire

    Lucy Turnbull and PM Malcolm Turnbull arrive for the official opening of Celestial Empire

  • Ambassador of China Xhaoxu Ma, Chairman NLA Ryan Stokes and Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield

    Ambassador of China Xhaoxu Ma, Chairman NLA Ryan Stokes and Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield

  • Artist Claire Treacey and her plastic bottle sculpture of a monkey for the Chinese Year of the Monkey and the opening of Celestial Empire at the NLA

    Artist Claire Treacey and her plastic bottle sculpture of a monkey for the Chinese Year of the Monkey and the opening of Celestial Empire at the NLA

  • Brendan Smyth with Dot and Peter Barclay

    Brendan Smyth with Dot and Peter Barclay

Celestial Empire: Life in China 1644-1911

5 February 2016

The official opening for Celestial Empire: Life in China1644-1911 was ‘bigger than the gladiator’ star Russell Crowe’s appearance at the NLA according to Chairman Ryan Stokes and we well remember that night with lots of ladies all a flutter, his resonant voice best heard with your eyes shut and my contention that his suit was too tight.

PM Malcolm Turnbull on the other hand as the official opener for this exhibition looked the part, performed admirably and taught us a few things in his address to this patient crowd. And to the delight of Director General Anne-Marie Schwirtlich spruiked the catalogue as a must buy at any cost.

There’s been a big lead up to this opening with an earlier media event to peek at the exquisite architectural sketch of the Forbidden City Palace rolled out with precision and reverence amongst the planks, paint and plinths being prepared for the space as the creators worked with the curator Dr. Nathan Woolley to prepare for the January 2 exhibition ‘soft’ opening and since then a steady 20,000 people have wandered in to see 170 rare and precious items that includes 88 from the National Library of China and the rest from the NLA’s extensive collection.

And now it’s officially opened, whatever that might mean, and appropriately timed to coincide with Chinese New Year celebrations for the Year of the Monkey. We have a very cute plastic version created by artist Claire Treacey from recycled plastic bottles sitting on the verandah at the NLA looking like he’d like to take off towards the lake but on this occasion it was ‘monkey can’t’, he had to be stoic in the face of the Lion Dance lion jumping about attempting to intimidate the PM and his wife Lucy who laughed along before gathering their entourage and heading inside.

A few pork buns, a glass of red and a handful of fortune cookies ( not Chinese, they were created in San Francisco) were all we needed to wish the exhibition well and advise that the cookies’ message was – yes all the ones we ate - “Do that which your heart tells you. Visit Celestial Empire: Life in China 1644-1911”