Clocks & Watches Gallery @ Forbidden City, Beijing, China

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Beijing China

The Clocks & Watches Gallery in the Forbidden City (故宮鐘錶館) houses more than 200 pieces of antique clocks from all over the world.  Clocks are western inventions which were first brought into China by a priest from Italy in 1601.  The emperors were extremely fascinated by the intricate details and intrigued by the way the clocks work.  

As China began to play a role in the global scene, many countries gave clocks or watches as a tribute to the emperor.  During that time, the clocks and watches were perfect gifts because those were the things that the roused the emperors’ curiosity and at the same time, they showcased the western countries’ technology.  Among all the emperors during the past 300 years, it was Emperor Qianlong that was the most enthusiastic about the clocks and it was during his reign he had improved, supervised and gave his ideas for the clock makers in his palace.

Here is an example of a clock that was made in the imperial workshop during Qianlong’s reign – The Inner Works of the Tri – Functioned Clock.

Here are more spectacular clocks below:

Gilt Copper Clock in Lotus-Pot Engraved With Floral Design.  This clock has a more oriental feel to it and indeed it was made during the Qing Dynasty (1736 – 1795) in Guangzhou.

Gilt Copper Clock With a Robot Writing Chinese Characters With a Brush, made in England, 1780.  If you look closer, the man sitting in the clock slowly writes out the characters that means infinite longevity, “wan shou wu jiang 万寿无疆”.  There is a stack of refillable paper at the side for him to write more!

Gilt Copper Clock on a Chariot Driven by an Elephant, made in England 18th century.

Gilt Copper Bird Cage Clock with Singing Birds and Revolving Flower, made in England, 1783.  I wonder what kind of songs did the birds sing?

Gilt Copper Wall-Vase Shaped Watch Painted in Enamel, made in England, 18th century.

Gilt Copper Clock with Rolling Device, made in France, 19th century.   When I saw this clock, the clock stood still and wasn’t rolling anywhere, but really the clock mechanism is ingenious.  The clock is powered by the gravitational pull as it moves down the ramp and the clock is designed to remain perpendicular to a flat surface, meaning that you will always be able to read the clock upright.  The ramp is 55cm and by the time the clock has made its way down the ramp, it is exactly 24 hours.  Amazing right?

Clock with a Western Figure Performing Tricks, made in France 19th century.

Watch Inlaid on the Copper Steamer Model, made in France, 21st century.

Gilt Copper Balloon Shaped Clock, made in France 19th century.

Musical Clock Inlaid on the Rockery, made in Switzerland 19th century.

The Clocks & Watches Gallery is really incredible.  I was in awe when I saw the clocks made in every way they could possibly be made.   If you are at the gallery at 11 am or 2 pm, there is a clock show too 🙂

More clocks below which I’ve lost track of where there are from 🙂


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  1. Pingback: CLOCK / WATCH | Not Only Grammar

  2. Pingback: Forbidden City 101 @ Beijing China | Always Travelicious !

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