Treasures of Painting and Calligraphy Acquired
by the Palace Museum over the Last 50 Years
Department of Calligraphy and Painting
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In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the People's Republic
of China, the Palace Museum formally opened the "Grand Exhibition of
Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years" on 8 October 1999.
Another portion entitled "Treasures of Calligraphy and Painting from
Past Dynasties" was installed in the west wing of Bao He Dian (Hall
of Preserving Harmony). The latter contained 100 works of calligraphy,
rubbings, and paintings -- a magnificient view of the finest works in
the collection, all acquired by the Palace Museum after the founding
of the New China in 1949. It should be pointed out that the whereabouts
of many of the treasures in the exhibition were previously unknown,
scattered all over China. After undergoing calamitous upheavals and
drifting from place to place, these works ultimately returned to the
Palace Museum, repository of Chinese cultural and artistic heritage,
where these works were stored intact, thus enabling the world and posterity
to view their superb artistic and historical value.
The Palace Museum holdings of calligraphy and painting rests on the
foundation of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) imperial collections.
The fondness and interest for antiquities cultivated by past emperors
culminated in the accumulation of a great number of art objects in the
palace. During the reign of the Qianlong emperor (1736-1796), the imperial
household collected several tens of thousands of works of calligraphy
and famous paintings from past dynasties, including the Eastern Jin
(317-420), the Tang (618-907), the Song (960- 1279), and the Yuan (1260-1368).
These works were gathered up until practically none were left outside
the imperial purview � at one point a most magnificent collection.
However, following the decline and fall of the Qing dynasty, after the
chaos and ravages of several wars, many of these works were plundered
by foreign powers and taken abroad, and others were stolen away and
dispersed among the populace by the last Qing emperor, Puyi (1906-1967)
[see "New Discoveries of Calligraphy
and Painting. . ." in this issue on the re-emergence of several
of these works]. By the time the Palace Museum was established in 1925,
early inventories showed that fewer than 7000 pieces remained in the
palace. In 1948, when the KMT government moved south, more than 1000
precious paintings were among the cultural relics transported to Taiwan.
In fact, more than 5000 works of painting and calligraphy, many of which
predate the Yuan dynasty, were removed from the Palace Museum.
After the founding of New China, the government has attached great importance
to Palace Museum acquisitions. In 1958, Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976)
entrusted the CCP Central Office to transfer to the Palace Museum the
work of calligraphy On the Balcony by the great Tang poet Li
Bai (701-762), originally given as a gift by Zhang Boju (1897-1982,
formerly of the Palace Museum, later director of the Jilin Provincial
Museum). Among the works from the Qianlong emperor's "Hall of Three
Wishes" are: the only remaining authentic copy of the exemplary work
of Eastern Jin calligraphy, Baiyuan Letter by Wang Xun (350-401);
the only extant copy of Five Oxen by the Tang master painter
Han Huang (723-787); and the representative ink-and-wash painting The
Xiao and Xiang Rivers by Dong Yuan (d. 926), founder of the Jiangnan
School during the Five Dynasties period (907-960). All of these works
were bought back from Hong Kong at great expense to the State according
to the personal instructions of Premier Zhou Enlai (1898-1976). Throughout
the 1950s, the State Cultural Relics Bureau continually transferred
works -- amassed through inspections, sorting, and donation -- back
to the Palace Museum.
Patriotic collectors, both here and abroad, continued one after the
other in generously donating their own beloved collections, among these:
Lu Ji's (261-303) Recovery from Illness, the earliest extant
calligraphic model, handed down over a thousand years from the Western
Jin (265- 316); the figure painting Traveling by Hand-Carried Litter
by the Tang painter Yan Liben (d. 673), which depicts the Tang
emperor Taizong (r. 627-650) receiving the Tubo emissary Lu Dongzan;
the Yuan painter Zhao Mengfu's (1254-1322) figure-and-horse painting
masterpiece Horses Bathing; the large Ming dynasty freehand ink-and-wash
Flowers and Grasses of the Four Seasons by Xu Wei (1521-1593);
and other well-known works donated by (or by the families of) Zhang
Boju, the former Peking University professor Zheng Youmin (1892-1973),
and Liu Jiu'an (1915-1999) of the Palace Museum Department of Calligraphy
In the 1990s, the auctions that sprung up year after year also became
a new source for paintings in the Palace Museum collection. Such was
the case with the Song painter Zhang Xian's (990-1078) Ten Odes,
formerly of the old Qing imperial collection, regained by the Palace
Museum from the Hanhai Auction Company in 1995 for a final price of
It is precisely these limited measures that have allowed the Palace
Museum collection to become richer and more complete day by day. Currently,
the Palace Museum holdings of calligraphy and painting already surpasses
120,000 pieces. On the one hand, this exhibition displays the outstanding
achievements and accomplishments of the Palace Museum's efforts over
the last 50 years to collect calligraphy and painting. On the other
hand, it also clearly reveals and commemorates the donors from all walks
of society who have selflessly contributed to the development of the
See a selection of works from the concurrent Palace Museum exhibition,
"Grand Exhibition of Cultural Relics
Collected over the Last 50 Years."
Purchase the dual exhibition catalogue Selected
Gems of Cultural Relics--newly collected in the Palace Museum in the
last fifty years.
China Central Institute of Fine Arts
On the State of the Field
Scholarship in the History of Ancient Painting in the 1990s
by Xue Yongnian
New Discoveries of Calligraphy
and Painting from the Palace Museum's "List of Lost Works"
by Liu Jianlong
A Record-Breaking Purchase by the Palace Museum
Zhang Xian's Ten Odes
by Yang Lili
Zhang Xian's Ten Odes: Counterpoint
On the Inauthenticity of Ten
Odes by Zhang Xian of the Northern Song Dynasty
by Wu Gan
Select Bibliography on Chinese Painting
Palace Museum Exhibition
"Treasures of Painting
and Calligraphy Acquired by the Palace Museum over the Last 50 Years"
by Fu Dongguang
Palace Museum Exhibition
of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years"
Palace Museum Symposium
Academic Symposium Accompanying
Exhibition of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years" at the Palace
by Wang Qi
The Shanghai Museum
Holds A Symposium on Its Exhibition of Masterpieces
by Xue Yongnian
Liaoning Provincial Museum
An Assembly of Masterpieces,
Presented in Radiant Splendor: Record of the "Exhibition of Treasures from
the Ten Great Archaeological Discoveries in Liaoning"
by Ma Cheng
Results from the Liao Tomb Excavation at Jarud Qi
by Tala, Yang Jie, and Dong Linxin
Han Tombs with Wall Paintings at Otog
by Wang Dafang and Yang Zemeng
and Analysis of the Murals Unearthed from a Song Tomb at Wang Shang Village
in Dengfeng, Henan Province
by Zhang Songlin and Zhang Deshui
Breakthrough in the Interpretation of the 'Stone Carvings' at Junshan"
by Chen Xiangyuan
on the Excavation of Han Tomb No. 1 at Huxi Mountain, Yuanling"
by Guo Weimin
Designs and Chinese Script on the 'Five Stars of the East Favor the Central
by Li Ling
from China Archaeology and Art Digest 3:2/3 (January 2000): Painting
and Pictorial Arts
Ding Xiyuan on Quehua
Hao Junhong on Ma
Shan Guoqiang on "Haipai"
Yu Hui on Yuan court artists
Macao Art Museum
"The Efflorescence of a Prosperous Age: Fine Works of Qing Dynasty Painting
and Objects of the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong Reigns in the Collection
of the Palace Museum"
National Gallery, Washington, DC
Age of Chinese Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries from the People's Republic
by Andrew K. Y. Leung
Qingming shanghe Scroll and Qingming shanghe Studies
by Wang Qi
by Nie Chongzheng
Chai Zejun: Collected
Works on Ancient Architecture
Years of Archaeology in New China
Volume 1, Issue 1 (October 1999)