Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Ancient artifacts come under the spotlight once more

By Amber Wang  /  AFP

The National Palace Museum has recently come under the political spotlight amid charges that it is trying to minimize Chinese influence despite its backbone being arts from ancient China.

Critics said the move reflects the wishes of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to seek a "Taiwanese identity" by erasing cultural and historical links with China and push for independence.

The museum's director Lin Mun-lee (林曼麗) refutes the accusations.

"There is no need for the National Palace Museum to rid itself from its Chinese roots and I think this is a misunderstanding," she told a media briefing earlier this week.

"History and charter are two different things. History cannot be changed because facts are facts," she said, adding that the old charter dated back two decades and so no longer suited a modern museum.

The DPP faced similar charges in recent years when it decided to remove Chinese history and geography from tests for civil servants and unveiled plans to reduce Chinese classics lessons in high schools.

At the height of the war in 1948, the KMT began relocating the treasures from the former imperial palace in Beijing to Taiwan, and then fled there a year later.

Today the 81-year-old museum is a national landmark and one of Taiwan's major tourist attractions, with more than 655,000 ancient Chinese artefacts spanning some 7,000 years of history.

Lingering hostility between Beijing and Taipei has made Taiwan wary about exhibiting the museum's prized collections overseas because of concerns that China might lodge claims to the objects.

In recent years, the museum has only staged exhibitions in the US, France and Germany on condition that the host nations passed relevant legislation protecting Taiwan against any such claims from Beijing.

Next week, several Chinese scholars will come to Taipei to participate in a symposium on Northern Song dynasty arts and culture as part the museum's grand reopening festivities.

Their visit highlights the irony facing scholars of Chinese antiquities and dynastic arts, as they must to travel to Taiwan to glimpse the riches of China's past.

Nevertheless, director Lin has always stressed the legitimacy of Taiwan's claim to the priceless collection of artefacts.

"These treasures came to Taiwan decades ago under the special circumstances of that time," Lin said. "Taiwan has performed well its duties to preserve them from being destroyed by war."

"I don't think it is illegitimate for Taiwan [to keep the artefacts.] Some people have the wrong conception that the artefacts should return to China," she added.

also see story:

National Palace Museum is born again

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