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    Precious as the Morning Star: 12th-14th Century Celadons in the Qing Court Collection

    • Dates: 2015/12/25~2017/04/18
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 203

    Exhibit

    "Precious as the morning star" comes from poetry by the Qianlong Emperor in the 18th century. Both "Precious and few as morning stars" and "The morning star truly is precious" are lines that compare something rare and treasured to the fleeting and infrequent phenomenon of a morning star. Qianlong’s line for "Viewing Guan (Official) wares of the Zhao-Song dynasty as morning stars" clearly indicates that he valued specifically Song Guan porcelains as precious treasures.

    Judging from historical records, so-called "Official kilns" of the Song dynasty refer to sites producing porcelains for the court in the Northern Song and those in the Southern Song at Xiuneisi and Jiaotanxia. In more recent times, the exploration and study of Southern Song Official kilns trace back to the 1930s with evidence gathered and fieldwork by Chinese and Japanese scholars. Though Southern Song Official kilns could not be clearly distinguished at the time, the appreciation for celadons they produced and the issue of solving related questions continued into the 1990s. With the discovery of the Laohudong kiln site in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, many scholars have come to recognize that it and Jiaotanxia as indeed where official wares were fired in the Southern Song. In comparison, our understanding of Northern Song official kiln sites has not only progressed along lines revealed by textual analysis but also by researching imperial poetry from the Qianlong Emperor and excavations at the Qingliang Temple site in Baofeng County, Henan Province. In doing so, the Ru kilns have become considered as possible sites for the Northern Song kilns.

    The National Palace Museum has in its collection a large number of celadon porcelains from the former Qing court, and even the places where many of them were stored can be traced. Furthermore, based on the imperial poetry on some, we can learn more about the ideas that the Qianlong Emperor gained by sifting through texts and about the ideas and categorizing of Guan wares in the eighteenth century. Using the past to view the present, how do we ultimately view these precious works from the ages? This exhibition takes into consideration the question of how to use cultural artifacts to not only trace the history of the Qing court collection but also how to integrate modern viewpoints in art history as a way of reinvigorating our understanding of the places, periods, and related issues behind the production of individual wares. This exhibition is divided into four sections on "Ru Wares and the Northern Song Official Kilns," "Southern Song Official Kilns," "The Crackle of Celadon," and "Connoisseurship and Discovery." It is hoped that bringing together these historical objects, textual records, and archaeological materials will illuminate the background for celadon production in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, the emotions engendered by their appreciation, and the features of specific works.

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    Portrayals from a Brush Divine: A Special Exhibition on the Tricentennial of Giuseppe Castiglione's Arrival in China

    • Dates: 2015/10/06~2016/01/04
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 202,204,206,208,210,212

    Exhibit

    Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) was born in Milan, Italy, and studied painting since youth, joining the Jesuit society in Genoa at the age of 19. When the Qing court in China made a request for a Western painter, word reached the Vatican in Rome and Castiglione was chosen to go and also spread the faith. In 1709 he first went to Lisbon, Portugal, and, after several years, finally left for China in 1714, arriving in Macao during the following year (the 54th of the Kangxi emperor's reign). By the end of 1715, Castiglione (and his reputation in painting) had reached Beijing, catching the attention of the court, where, under the Chinese name Lang Shining, he was assigned as an artist. All in all, Castiglione served the Qing imperial household under the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong emperors for nearly 51 years. Following his death from illness in 1766, Qianlong decreed that, in addition to Castiglione's official rank as "Administrator of Imperial Parks," he be posthumously promoted to Vice Minister.

    Unfortunately, the paintings that Giuseppe Castiglione left behind in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) no longer survive. However, his hanging scroll entitled "Gathering Signs of Auspiciousness," done in 1723 for the ascension to the throne by Kangxi's successor, the Yongzheng emperor, won him further respect as an artist. In 1728, Castiglione completed "One Hundred Horses," a monumental handscroll (for which his draft still exists) that is his most famous extant painting. All of Castiglione's works done in China, to one degree or another, demonstrate close attention to adapting Western one-point perspective and painting from life to traditional Chinese art. Despite drawing on Western methods, he still retained much of the auspicious symbolism and aesthetic suggestion of Chinese painting. In the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) under the following emperor, Castiglione continued to use traditional Chinese paper and silk, pigments, and brushes in working with the Ruyi Hall painters, achieving renown for developing a new syncretic style of court painting "joining China and the West." Castiglione (and his colleagues) portrayed a wide range of subjects, from imperial portraits to exotic plants and opulent flowers, fine and unusual animals, and important ceremonial occasions. Castiglione's other major projects for the court included the interior decoration of Western-style buildings at the Old Summer Palace, designs for painted-enamel porcelains, and drafting for the Qianlong emperor's copperplate prints to commemorate Qing victories in suppressing rebellions in what is now Xinjiang.

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    90 Years of Collecting: a Selection of Fine Works of Art Acquired by and Donated to the National Palace Museum

    • Dates: 2015/10/06~2016/01/06
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 103,105,107

    Exhibit

    In celebration of the 90th anniversary, the Museum is launching the special exhibition 90 Years of Collecting: A Selection of Fine Works of Art Acquired by and Donated to the National Palace Museum. The exhibition features approximately 150 sets of works among the 64,000 that had entered the Museum’s collection through acquisition or donation. Spanning from Hongshan Culture to modern times, the works include ancient jades, bronzes, ceramics, curios, calligraphy, painting, rare books, and historical documents. The exhibition not only aims to illustrate the various notions behind collecting activities during different periods of time, but also intends to express the gratitude to the generosity of our donors, whose donations complemented the Museum's existing collections and expanded the scope of scholarships.

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    Exemplar of Heritage: Fan Kuan and His Influence in Chinese Painting

    • Dates: 2015/07/01~2015/09/29
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 202,208,212

    Exhibit

    Fan Kuan (ca. 950-ca. 1031), a master of landscape painting in the Northern Song period, had his ancestral home in Huayuan (modern Yaozhou District, Tongchuan City, Shaanxi Province). Having the style name Zhongli (also reportedly named Zhongzheng with the style name Zhongli), he was easy-going by disposition and broad-minded. As a result, people in the Guanzhong region of Shaanxi, who used the term “kuan” (meaning “broad”) to describe someone deliberate, called him Fan Kuan. In painting, Fan first studied the styles of Li Cheng (916-967) and Jing Hao (fl. first half of the 10th c.), later spending years to observe Nature and develop his own approach. Among landscape paintings with Fan Kuan’s name, “Travelers Among Mountains and Streams” in the National Palace Museum is the one most highly regarded and widely accepted as from his hand. In Fan’s division of that painting into a tripartite composition of foreground, middle, and distance, he skillfully pushed the monumental mountain range back and pulled the foreground up close. In doing so, he not only highlighted the miniscule proportion of the travelers but also created a dramatic contrast with the majestic peaks, forming an impressive sight as if before the viewer’s eyes. And hidden among the trees to the lower right side of this large scroll are two characters for Fan Kuan’s name that represent his signature.

    Another painting in the Museum collection, “Sitting Alone by a Stream,” though unsigned, is generally regarded as a fine early example in the Fan Kuan style. In this hanging scroll, the mountain peaks are dotted with thick forests, the outlines of the landscape forms rendered with heavy ink, and rocks jut out prominently in the foreground by the water. These characteristics can be traced back to Fan Kuan and are seen in his “Travelers Among Mountains and Streams.” The texture strokes in “Sitting Alone by a Stream,” however, reveal more formulaic “small axe-cut” texture strokes rendered with a slanted brush, suggesting a date not far from the time of Li Tang (ca. 1070-after 1150).

    This special exhibition on Fan Kuan as “Exemplar of Heritage” includes 45 paintings. Based on their features, the display is divided into three sections: “The Heritage of ‘Travelers Among Mountains and Streams,’” “Paintings in Fan Kuan’s Name,” and “The Influence of Fan Kuan’s Style.” Together, they systematically present Fan Kuan’s art over the ages via works bearing his name and featuring his techniques, such as “raindrop texture strokes” and “dense alum-head forests,” thereby presenting a comprehensive arrangement of his heritage in Chinese painting. “Travelers Among Mountains and Streams” and “Sitting Alone by a Stream” are designated as “restricted” works for display, so they are being rotated in the first and second half of the exhibit, respectively, offering a feast for viewers’ eyes.

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    The Ancient Art of Writing: Selections from the History of Chinese Calligraphy

    • Dates: Permanent Exhibit 2015/04/01~2015/06/25
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 204,206

    Exhibit

    To meet the need for recording information and ideas, unique forms of calligraphy (the art of writing) have been part of the Chinese cultural tradition over the ages. Naturally finding applications in daily life, calligraphy still forms a continuous link between the past and the present. The history and development of calligraphy, long a subject of interest in Chinese culture, is the theme of this exhibit, which presents selections from the National Palace Museum collection arranged in chronological order for a general overview.

    The dynasties of the Ch'in (221-206 B.C.E.) and Han (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.) represent a crucial era in the history of Chinese calligraphy. On the one hand, diverse brushed and engraved "ancient writing" and "large seal" script forms were unified into a standard type known as "small seal" script. On the other hand, the process of abbreviating and adapting seal script to form a new one known as "clerical" script (emerging previously in the Eastern Chou dynasty) was finalized, thereby creating the universal script of the Han dynasty. In the trend towards abbreviation and brevity in writing, clerical script continued to evolve and eventually led to the forms of "cursive," "running," and "standard" script. Since changes in writing did not take place overnight, transitional styles and mixed scripts appeared in the chaotic post-Han period, but these transformations over the ages eventually led to established brush strokes and character forms.

    The dynasties of the Sui (581-618) and T’ang (618-907) represent another important period in Chinese calligraphy. Unification of the country brought calligraphic styles of the north and south together as brushwork methods became increasingly complete. Starting from this time, standard script would become the universal script down through the ages. In the Sung dynasty (960-1279), the tradition of engraving modelbook copies became a popular way to preserve works of the ancient masters. Sung scholar-artists, however, were not satisfied with just following tradition, for they also considered calligraphy as a means of creative and personal expression.

    Yüan dynasty (1279-1368) revivalist calligraphers, in turning to and advocating revivalism, further developed the classical traditions of the Chin and T'ang dynasties. At the same time, notions of artistic freedom and liberation from rules also gained momentum, becoming a main trend in Ming dynasty (1368-1644) calligraphy. Among the diverse manners of that period, the elegant freedom of semi-cursive script is noted in contrast with more conservative manners. Thus, calligraphers standing out with their own styles formed individual paths that were not overshadowed by the mainstream of the time.

    Starting in the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911), scholars increasingly turned to inspiration from the rich resource of ancient works inscribed with seal and clerical script. Influenced by an atmosphere of careful studies, Ch'ing scholars became familiar with steles and helped create a trend in calligraphy that complemented the Modelbook school. Thus, the Stele school formed yet another link between past and present in the approach to tradition, in which seal and clerical script became sources of innovation and new direction in Chinese calligraphy.

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    Elegant Images of the Brush: Women's Painting in the Late Ming and Early Qing Period

    • Dates: 2015/04/01~2015/06/25
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 212

    Exhibit

    The latter half of the sixteenth century marked the beginning of a breakdown in the political institution of the Ming dynasty court. The followers of Wang Yangming’s (1472-1529) School of the Mind also challenged some of the orthodox views in Neo-Confucian teachings from the Song dynasty, leading towards more liberal ways of thinking. At the same time, the rise of capitalism and a flourishing market economy transformed the overall fabric of traditional society. One of the results was that the originally restricted lifestyle of women started to undergo change. Along with the spread of education and a burgeoning print industry, all of these became factors that created fertile ground for cultivating women of talent and refinement.

    Later in the Qing dynasty, Tang Shuyu (1795-1855) in The Jade Terrace History of Painting compiled a record of women painters over the ages, finding most of them to be active in art circles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Whether ladies of the upper classes or courtesans of renown, these women emerged in the tumultuous period that embraced China in the late Ming and early Qing dynasty. Although these women painters often came from opposite sides of the social spectrum, with the help of teachers in girls’ schools and with male scholars as intermediaries, they were able to form a unique network of social exchange, often reciprocating in art and engaging in social activities. The interaction and deepening of the artistic language between them yielded exceptional works much praised in art circles at the time.

    This special exhibition represents a selection of representative women painters from the late Ming and early Qing period. Spanning the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries, they include Ma Shouzhen (1548-1604), Xing Cijing (1573-after 1640), Zhao-Wen Chu (1595-1634), Huang Yuanjie (1614/20-before 1669), Li Yin (1610-1685), Gu Mei (1619-1663/64), Li Tuona (fl. ca. late Ming), and Lin Xue (fl. ca. 17th c.). These paintings of landscapes, figures, flowers, and plants, whether in the “fine-line” or “sketching-ideas” traditions, in ink and colors or monochrome ink, or with varying compositional formats, all bring the extraordinary talent and grace of late Ming and early Qing women artists into public view once again.

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    Oversized Scrolls and Album Leaves

    • Dates: Permanent Exhibit 2015/04/01~2015/06/25
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 202
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    Flights of Fragrance at a Fingertip: The World of Birds and Flowers in Painting, Tapestry, and Embroidery

    • Dates: 2015/04/01~2015/06/25
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 208,210

    Exhibit

    The beautiful colors of birds and flowers, being full of rhythm and vitality, always evoke images of beauty, which is why artists have repeatedly turned to these subjects over the ages. As early as the Shang and Zhou dynasties, more than two millennia ago, birds and flowers were already important decorative motifs in Chinese art. And by the Tang dynasty, when the techniques of painting began to mature, “birds and flowers” had become an independent category in art. Chinese painting then reached a level of maturity as its methods further developed and diversified in the Five Dynasties period during the tenth century. In the following Song dynasty, “bird-and-flower painting” experienced a heyday, when the idea of “sketching from life” to render forms as they appear in nature became the trend. Then, when literati art took hold in the fourteenth century during the Yuan dynasty, bird-and-flower painting came under its influence, adding the untrammeled aura of monochrome ink to this category. Artists in the subsequent Ming and Qing dynasties followed traditions of the past as bird-and-flower painting in the “sketching ideas” manner blossomed. In all, painters depicting birds and flowers through the ages have constantly engaged in a dialogue with nature. With consummate techniques and spiritual sustenance, they have created a rich and spectacular tapestry of art.

    In addition to painting, the subject of birds and flowers also became popular in the textile arts of tapestry and embroidery, crafts with a long history in China and originally used to decorate clothing. But with advancing techniques and rising aesthetic standards, artisans eventually began looking to paintings for inspiration, even taking them as models for their own works. Using nimble needlework and refined textile methods, imitations of painting soon emerged in tapestry. Starting from the Song dynasty, artistic forms of tapestry and embroidery appeared for the sole sake of appreciation, their silk threads manipulated like brushwork to convey extraordinary expressions of art.

    Artworks related to birds and flowers in the National Palace Museum collection abound in terms of both quality and quantity. This special selection on the subject has been divided into five sections: “The Vitality of Things Observed,” “The Beauty of Decoration,” “The Ingenuity of Composition,” “The Meaning of Metaphor,” and “The Wonders of Technique.” On the one hand, this exhibit presents the ideas of artists and their skillful arrangements of motifs while also exploring the metaphors and symbols that give further meaning to the unique features and artistic accomplishments of these works. On the other hand, this display of two-dimensional artworks featuring birds and flowers brings painting together with other mediums, such as tapestry, embroidery, lacquered-silk painting, and rare books, offering clues to their interrelationship. As audiences admire these marvelous works, they will hopefully come away with an even greater understanding of the varied facets to birds and flowers in Chinese art.

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    Reflections of the Emperor: The Collection and Culture of Mirrors at the Qing Court

    • Dates: 2015/03/31~2017/02/28
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 303

    Exhibit

    In ancient China, the mirror was a precious instrument for examining a person’s appearance. In addition to tidying dress and head ornaments, the ancients associated the bright shine of a burnished bronze mirror with the sun and moon, the mirror gradually becoming a religious instrument considered capable of avoiding and expelling inauspicious things. The reflective property of mirrors likewise turned it into a historical metaphor for looking into the past as a way to understand the present.

    The ancient Chinese cast mirrors out of bronze, burnishing the flat side to make it shiny while decorating the back with various patterns. With their craftsmanship and aesthetics changing over the ages, mirrors became an important medium expressing the artistic spirit of the period in which they were made and thereby highly treasured. In the Northern Song period (960-1127), the court and scholars alike placed great value on antiquities, driving the trend towards compiling and editing catalogues of ancient artifacts. Emperor Huizong (r. 1101-1126) had the court collection of antiquities organized to include 112 Han and Tang dynasty bronze mirrors in his Xuanhe bogutu (Xuanhe Illustrated Antiquities) of 1123, leading the way for mirrors to become part of catalogues on ancient objects.

    Later, in the Qing dynasty, the court amassed a particularly rich collection of ancient mirrors. The Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1795) followed the idea and pattern of Huizong’s Xuanhe bogutu and had four catalogues of ancient bronzes compiled over the years, including Xiqing gujian (1751), Ningshou jiangu (ca. 1776-1781), Xiqing xujian: jiabian (1793), and Xiqing xujian: yibian (1793), collectively known as “Xiqing sijian.” In addition, a special effort was made to bring together the ancient mirrors mentioned in these catalogues in cases named after their respective catalogues. Serving as display objects at various halls in the Qing palaces, it became a new method for the storage of ancient mirrors. Members of the Qing imperial family not only collected ancient mirrors, they also enjoyed actually using them. Having new stands made for these ancient artifacts, considerable refinement was added to everyday life.

    In the sixteenth century, during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, increasing contact between the East and West led to the import of European glass mirrors into China, offering a brand-new experience for the elite. In the Qing dynasty, the Kangxi emperor (r. 1662-1722) even had a glass factory established, and the local production of glass mirrors commenced at that time. Many new materials and techniques were developed to adorn the frames of these glass mirrors, such as painted enamel, carved jade and ivory, and bronze and woodworking. With the spread of glass mirrors in the middle to late Qing dynasty, bronze mirrors were gradually thus displaced as the mainstream.

    The scope of this exhibition deals with the appreciation, mounting, and use of mirrors by members of the Qing imperial court and is divided into three sections. The first is “The Art and Antiquity of Mirrors: The Emperor’s Collection of Bronze Mirrors” and represents a selection of ancient mirrors from the Han to Ming dynasties once in the Qing imperial collection. Presenting a continuous development of bronze mirrors over nearly two millennia, this section also includes the understanding of and comments by ancient rulers concerning antique mirrors. The second, “Storage and Display: The Mounting and Cases of Bronze Mirrors,” features such mirror cases and accessories as “Xiqing xujian,” “Xiqing xujian yibian,” and “Ningshou xujian” in the National Palace Museum collection manufactured by the court of the Qianlong emperor. Not only can audiences appreciate the form and beauty of these album-style cases, the background to the production of these mirror cases can also be traced. The third section, “Adorning the Beauty in Mirrors: Reflections of Mirrors in Life,” shows how ancient mirrors functioned in and adorned everyday life as well as presents an array and the development of glass mirrors at the Qing court.

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    The Ancient Art of Writing: Selections from the History of Chinese Calligraphy

    • Dates: Permanent Exhibit 2015/01/01~2015/03/25
    • Gallery: Exhibition Area I 204,206

    Exhibit

    To meet the need for recording information and ideas, unique forms of calligraphy (the art of writing) have been part of the Chinese cultural tradition over the ages. Naturally finding applications in daily life, calligraphy still forms a continuous link between the past and the present. The history and development of calligraphy, long a subject of interest in Chinese culture, is the theme of this exhibit, which presents selections from the National Palace Museum collection arranged in chronological order for a general overview.

    The dynasties of the Ch'in (221-206 B.C.E.) and Han (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.) represent a crucial era in the history of Chinese calligraphy. On the one hand, diverse brushed and engraved "ancient writing" and "large seal" script forms were unified into a standard type known as "small seal" script. On the other hand, the process of abbreviating and adapting seal script to form a new one known as "clerical" script (emerging previously in the Eastern Chou dynasty) was finalized, thereby creating the universal script of the Han dynasty. In the trend towards abbreviation and brevity in writing, clerical script continued to evolve and eventually led to the forms of "cursive," "running," and "standard" script. Since changes in writing did not take place overnight, transitional styles and mixed scripts appeared in the chaotic post-Han period, but these transformations over the ages eventually led to established brush strokes and character forms.

    The dynasties of the Sui (581-618) and T’ang (618-907) represent another important period in Chinese calligraphy. Unification of the country brought calligraphic styles of the north and south together as brushwork methods became increasingly complete. Starting from this time, standard script would become the universal script down through the ages. In the Sung dynasty (960-1279), the tradition of engraving modelbook copies became a popular way to preserve works of the ancient masters. Sung scholar-artists, however, were not satisfied with just following tradition, for they also considered calligraphy as a means of creative and personal expression.

    Yüan dynasty (1279-1368) revivalist calligraphers, in turning to and advocating revivalism, further developed the classical traditions of the Chin and T'ang dynasties. At the same time, notions of artistic freedom and liberation from rules also gained momentum, becoming a main trend in Ming dynasty (1368-1644) calligraphy. Among the diverse manners of that period, the elegant freedom of semi-cursive script is noted in contrast with more conservative manners. Thus, calligraphers standing out with their own styles formed individual paths that were not overshadowed by the mainstream of the time.

    Starting in the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911), scholars increasingly turned to inspiration from the rich resource of ancient works inscribed with seal and clerical script. Influenced by an atmosphere of careful studies, Ch'ing scholars became familiar with steles and helped create a trend in calligraphy that complemented the Modelbook school. Thus, the Stele school formed yet another link between past and present in the approach to tradition, in which seal and clerical script became sources of innovation and new direction in Chinese calligraphy.

Last Update: 2017-09-20