Ancient painting finally spans a cultural divide

Ancient painting finally spans a cultural divide

Two pieces of 660-year-old mainland masterpiece are unified in Taipei after months of negotiations.

Two pieces of a torn, 660-year-old Chinese painting have been rejoined for the first time in Taipei, in what is being seen as the first cultural unification across the Taiwan Strait.

From today until the end of next month, visitors to Taipei’s National Palace Museum will be able to view Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains – one of China’s 10 best-known ancient paintings – in its entirety.

The exhibition – the result of months of negotiations between Taipei and Beijing – fulfilled a wish by Premier Wen Jiabao , who called for reunion of the two pieces of the master artwork shortly after last year’s National People’s Congress.

The painting, by Yuan dynasty master Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) at the age of 82, depicts an early autumn scene on the banks of theFuchun River in Hangzhou .

It was almost destroyed in 1650 when collector Wu Hongyu, who loved the painting so much he wanted it burned and buried with him as his dying wish.

It was rescued from the fire by Wu’s nephew but a portion of it was destroyed, leaving two separate sections – one, a small piece, ending up in the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, while the larger piece wound up in Taipei’s Palace Museum.

“We are blessed to be able to see the painting in its entirety,” Taipei National Palace Museum director Chou Kung-hsin said. She said not even the Qianlong Emperor in the Qing dynasty had been lucky enough to view the artwork in its entirety.

Zhao Hongzhu , the Communist Party secretary of Zhejiang province, who attended the exhibition’s opening ceremony yesterday, said the reunion of the two pieces of the painting in Taipei was a “grand and happy event” for both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Zhao, who arrived in Taiwan last week, said he hoped the painting could also soon be displayed in Zhejiang in its entirety.

The exhibition is considered especially significant on the mainland, which has repeatedly called for reunification of the two sides, split at the end of the civil war in 1949. Pundits said that after an improvement of cross-strait ties through closer economic co-operation as a result of the engagement policy adopted by mainland-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, Beijing had pushed for further cultural exchanges in the hope of slowly changing the mindset of the Taiwanese people and increasing the chances of future cross-strait unity.

“Though it is an art event, we cannot rule out the political intention behind it,” said political analyst George Tsai We of Chinese Cultural University in Taipei.

He said the mainland had been eager to sign a cultural co-operation agreement with Taiwan.

But Taipei has resisted the deal for fear of giving the pro-independence camp an excuse to attack the Ma government for befriending the mainland ahead of the island’s presidential election in January.

South China Morning Post

Torn ancient China painting joined in Taiwan

TAIPEI – ONE of China’s best-known ancient paintings, torn into two parts in the 17th century, was shown in its entirety in Taiwan on Wednesday for the first time in more than 360 years.

China and Taiwan have one part each, and the fact that the two could be joined together for the first time in generations symbolised a broader trend of closer ties across the Taiwan Strait, officials said.

‘It’s very much like destiny,’ said Zhao Hongzhu, the head of the Communist party in east China’s Zhejiang province, the home of the mainland bit of the ancient piece of art, known as ‘Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains’.

‘The exhibition is a critical step forward for cultural exchanges between the two sides,’ said Mr Zhao, who had accompanied his half of the painting across the Strait.

The painting, which is more than 600 years old, was partly destroyed in about 1650 when its owner, a rich collector, ordered it burned.

This was shortly before his death, and experts have speculated he was hoping to take it with him to the afterlife. — AFP

The Straits Times

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