Sun, Dec 21, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Images from the past to the present

The National Palace Museum's latest show looks at antique collecting; while a photographic competition sponsored by FNAC focuses on life in the nation's cities


Handled ``Ho'' vessel with gold and silver inlay.


A casually dressed middle-aged man lounges in the artificial landscape in the courtyard of his stately house, while a whiskered scholar examines the array of copper-colored utensils laid out on the table nearby. The master of the house appears eager to hear the opinion of the scholar on his collection. This scene in Ming painter Tu Chin's Enjoying Antiquities represents a fashionable pastime among wealthy businessmen in the Ming and Ching dynasties.

Collecting antiques then, as now, was an important part of life for the upper class, who placed them in their houses to show off their cultural taste.

Through the Prism of the Past: Antiquarian Trends in Chinese Art of the 16th to 18th Century, (古色酖) Palace Museum's (故宮博物院) current exhibition, takes a look at the love of antiques among Chinese in this period, how they treated these objects and the large number of counterfeits produced to satisfy their taste for the ancient.

In a breakthrough in museum studies, the research staff at the Palace Museum spent two years sifting through its countless counterfeit items -- and gave them due credit for their aesthetic values and the artistic skills that helped produce them.

According to Wu Bi-yung (吳璧雍), associate researcher at the museum, in early the Ming period, when the Han Chinese secured political power from Mongols, the literati felt the need to find a cultural role model that was entirely Han. They looked to their ancestors from the Shang, Zhou and Han eras, launching a movement to emulate their styles, in both literature and arts, to reassert the cultural strength of the Han.

In their efforts to recreate the ancients, Ming craftsmen sometimes modeled their works not on illustrations of artifacts in old scripts but on their own imaginations about the distant past.

Exhibition notes

`Through the Prism of the Past: Antiquarian Trends in Chinese Art of the 16th to 18th Century' will run through March 7 at the Palace Museum.

Winning works in the Taipei category of the FNAC 24hr Digital Photo Marathon competition will be on show at Taipei's main FNAC, BI, 337 Nanjing E Rd, Sec 3 (台北市南京東路三段337號). Winning works in Taichung are on show at FNAC's Taichung branch , 9F, 111 Chunggang Rd (台中市台中港路二段111號9F). The Tainan part of the show is at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store Zhongshan branch (新光三越中山店), 10F, 162 Zhongshan Rd. (台南市中山路162號10F). All shows runs through Jan 15.

In the "Imitating Antiquity and Creating Anew" section, these works mingle the characteristics of many different ages. A handled "Ho" vessel, with gold and silver inlay, possibly 12th to 17th century, imitated the Shang and Shou gold inlay techniques and its solemn patterns with astonishing artistry.

There were also items intentionally made to fool their buyers. As "the older, the better" was a purchasing criteria for jade

collectors, the 17th-century artisans dyed pale or white jades a shade of solid brown.

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