“Don’t touch anything” is one of those long-cherished mantras of parenthood, on a level with “don’t talk with your mouth full” and “don’t run in the streets.” In my family, “don’t spend all your time in the bathroom memorizing the ingredients on the back of the shampoo bottle” was another, though I suspect this may have been unique to us.
My grandfather was, and still is, a collector of antiques. Our extended family never approved of the hobby, commenting as much every time we congregated at his home to find another vase of questionable provenance. For me it translated to sitting a bit uncomfortably on the sofa while behind me perched some object I was terrified of breaking. One I remember in particular is a large Buddha statue of beautiful dark wood, its surface achingly smooth, as I discovered one day when I snuck a touch. If only I were still such a rebel.
My grandfather’s collection, of course, does not compare to the vast holdings of the Liang Yi Museum, where even the pen holders are worth more than your bank account. The entire floor is filled with masterfully carved pieces of zitan and huanghuali that hundreds of years ago lay in the possession of court nobility. Which makes it all the more astonishing that the curators allow you to touch as many pieces as you’d like. This is the museum equivalent of putting out all the food samples at Costco at once.
Well-adjusted adult that you are, you will remind yourself that art is meant to be appreciated in moderation. Your inner repressed child, meanwhile, will insist on touching everything.
Go with the child.
Nestled among the antiques shops of Hollywood road is Hong Kong’s largest private museum, which showcases decorative pieces drawn from the personal collection of business tycoon Peter Fung. The Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture is the obvious highlight, but the Liang Yi Museum also features an impressive assemblage of silverware and vanity cases. Most remarkable is the tactile component: firmly of the belief that furniture was built to be used, director Lynn Fung encourages touching, sitting on, or otherwise interacting with the various chairs, drawers, screens, and tables on display. Visitors must arrange a private tour beforehand, but the personalized experience is worth the hassle.
181-199 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong