Chinese legend holds that the dragon is ever chasing the pearl (pictured in the ball of fire on the throne) which symbolizes the Universe. If he catches and swallows the pearl, he will become immortal. The dragon, the symbol of the Emperor, is worn on his vest. The cloud design on his robes designate him as the Celestial Son of Heaven, the coin signifies the reign of the Emperor Chien-lung as a new coin was minted each time an Emperor ascended to the throne.

The Ch’ing Dynasty, founded by the Manchus, lasted from 1636 to 1912. its Manchurian Emperors were great patrons of the arts, and the greatest of all was Emperor Ch'ien-Lung.

During his reign of 62 years, he and his Empress commissioned and collected countless works of priceless art. painting, architecture, porcelain and the decorative arts flourished under his largely peaceful reign. To properly display their spectacular collection the Imperial Couple ordered the building of Yuan-zing-yuan, a magnificent Rococo-style palace, the finest example of Western architecture in Asia. Much of what exists today of Chinese art was produced during the benevolent rule of Ch'ien-Lung and his beautiful Empress.

Following the loss of many treasured paintings in a fire brought about during the war with Great Britain and France, the Empress resolved to replace the collection with even more brilliant masterpieces. She gathered artists from around the world, commissioning them to create their finest works for a new Summer Palace in Beijing.