Museums in Taipei, Beijing mull holding joint exhibitions

STAFF WRITER, WITH AGENCIES

Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - Page 1

Taiwan and China’s national palace museums are planning a joint exhibition of artifacts from the period of Emperor Yongzheng (雍正), who reigned during the Qing Dynasty, at the Taipei National Palace Museum in October.

Museum director Chou Kung-hsin (周功鑫) said yesterday she would go to China on Saturday to hold talks with officials from the National Palace Museum in Beijing regarding cooperation and exchanges between the two institutions.

Chou said she would discuss the possibility of exhibiting a portrait of Emperor Yongzheng from Beijing’s museum during the visit.

However, the Taiwanese government said on Sunday it would only allow artifacts to be displayed in China if Beijing guarantees to return the treasures.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said China must sign the Law of Guaranteed Return, promising to return the treasures at the end of the exhibition.

“Premier Liu supports holding joint exhibitions, but he said the greatest concern was the safety of the treasures. We will therefore request that China sign the Law of Guaranteed Return before we can send any artifacts to China,” a government official said.

After losing the Civil War in 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government took the best artifacts from Beijing and a museum in Nanjing — a total of 650,000 pieces — and brought them to Taipei.

China considers the artwork to be part of Chinese heritage. Fearing that Beijing could seek to impound the museum’s artifacts through its diplomatic ties with foreign countries, Taiwan has only allowed the National Palace Museum to send treasures abroad on a few occasions.

Last February, the museum held an exhibition in Austria following two years of negotiations with Vienna to sign the Law of Guaranteed Return.

In response to speculation that China would not conduct the exchanges on a state-to-state basis, Chou said the museum did not hope Beijing would only establish laws regarding exchange with Taipei, but rather that it establish laws based on international cultural exchange standards.

The collections housed at the museum in Taipei belong to the country and the world, so an agreement between the two governments is a basic condition on lending artifacts for exhibition, she said.

With Beijing museum director Zheng Xinmiao (鄭欣淼) scheduled to visit Taiwan next month, Chou’s visit to Beijing will only be a preliminary exchange of ideas and not to sign contracts or memos, Chou said.