Sun, Jan 23, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Traditional art in digital form

The National Palace Museum is putting up an interactive Web site and a series of e-learning DVDs to present its artifacts

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

A large table monitor, which uses a digital interactive question-and-answer game to provide information on calligraphy pieces from the Song Dynasty.


The National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) may have the most appealing collection of Chinese artifacts, but it also has the most unattractive display areas. The museum's exterior is impressive and when renovations are finished next year, it could become the best art venue in Taiwan.

Likewise, artifact exhibits themselves often need to be approached in a new way to appeal to younger generations. Last year the Palace Museum began the laborious challenge of updating its collection, which resulted in an interactive Web site and a series of e-learning DVDs, both of which are geared toward personal use at home or at school.

With the help of a team of graphic designers called TechArt (天工開物集團), the Palace Museum is bringing traditional art to public spaces, and for the next two months a digital display of landscape paintings and calligraphy is being showcased at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Museum in Taipei.

The small exhibition is a sample of what is now being accomplished in the art/tech field, said Tuan Li (李悅端), Techart Project Manager.

"We wanted to do something different from other interactive exhibits. It needed to be innovative," Li said.

The exhibition is divided into two rooms. The first is equipped with six computer monitors, each displaying a different version of the e-learning DVD. The second and more engaging room is designed in the image of a Song Dynasty garden. Antique dressing screens and plants are placed around the room to create a garden feel. All the artwork is in digital form. The explanation of how to use the equipment and the accompanying text to the art pieces are in both English and Chinese.

On one side is a large table monitor that uses a question-and- answer game to provide

information about calligraphy. The lesson focuses on Song Emperor Hui-tsong's (宋徽宗) calligraphy style known as slender gold. The monitor provides text information and excerpts from two of Song's works, Poem and The Cold Food Observance. At the end of the game, the painting Elegant Gathering in the Western Garden appears, and following the prompts text is provided introducing four famous calligraphers from the time period.

Moving to the other side of the room, the focus shifts to activities of the nobility during the Song Dynasty incorporating three famous garden paintings. To operate the device, visitors must hold a fan equipped with an infrared sensor to chase away butterflies when they stop on the screen.

While highlighting a painting the interactive board explores various themes in the work, such as the significance of mountains in the landscape painting of Su Han-chen (蘇漢臣), Children at Play in an Autumn Garden. This offers insight into the activities of children and other Imperial elite in the garden.

The technological features of the exhibition are innovative and the interactive aspect is entertaining. But in terms of its size, there is not a lot to look at. Likewise, if the purpose of the exhibition is to bring art to the people, then it would fare better somewhere more populated, not hidden away in a small room at the back of the CKS museum.

Exhibition notes:

What: National Palace Museum Digital Learning Exhibition

Where: Zhiqing Exhibition Room at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Museum, Museum (中正紀念堂-中正藝廊志清廳) located at 21, Zhongshan N Rd, Taipei (台北市中山南路21).

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