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The Qing dynasty’s territory spanned temperate, subtropical, and tropical zones, and as such a great diversity of plants and animals made their way to the imperial palaces in the form of tribute. The Qing emperors’ interest in flowers and plants impelled court artists to look beyond the traditional botany of the region south of the Yangtze River as they sought to paint wild high-altitude plants and even non-native flowers imported from the west. The exotic flowers and plants in their paintings give us an opportunity to imagine the splendid flora that once flourished in the imperial gardens.

Flowers may only bloom for a short time, but paintings made in brush and ink let their beauty and vivaciousness live forever. The paintings of flowers and plants left to us by the imperial court are not merely a visual record of their botanical subjects—these artworks also serve as “moving gardens” that allow us to appreciate plants’ glory no matter what time of year they go on display.

The Emperors' Moving Gardens—Flowers EDM