A book commemorating anthropologist and museum director Chen Chi-lu (陳奇祿) has been published by the National Taiwan Museum and National Taiwan University’s anthropology department.
A Dexterous Drawing-hand: Dr. Chi-Lu Chen’s Ethnological Artwork (神手奇畫：陳奇祿院士民族學標本圖繪), explores the development of the study of modern Taiwanese culture, in which Chen played a “key, representative role,” the museum said.
Chen was born in 1923 in Tainan. He started senior-high school in Tokyo in 1943, and in 1948 graduated from St John’s University in Shanghai with a degree in political science and economics.
Photo courtesy of the National Taiwan Museum
After graduation Chen returned to Taiwan, where he became chief editor for Public Opinion Press, and in 1951 he created The Taiwan Folkways (台灣風物) magazine.
Chen earned a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico before returning to Taiwan in 1953 and taking up a post as lecturer in the university’s anthropology department.
He later earned a doctorate in sociology from Tokyo University in 1966.
From 1958 to 1963, Chen served as director of anthropology research at the Taiwan Provincial Museum (now the National Taiwan Museum), and in 1976 he became a research fellow at Academia Sinica.
In 1981 he entered government service, joining the newly established Council for Cultural Affairs in 1981 as its chairman.
During his time as director of the museum, Chen made more than 1,000 drawings of real-life images that were used as part of ethnological and anthropological studies, National Taiwan Museum Director Hung Shih-yu (洪世佑) said.
Many of the drawings were copied for publications and the originals discarded long ago, and only about 53 remain, he said.
Given the value of the 53 drawings, the museum asked Chen’s family to donate them for preservation and to allow it to share them with other anthropologists and the world, Hung said.
Researcher Lee Saa-lih (李莎莉), fror whom Chen was academic supervisor, was asked to be chief editor on the book, the university said.
Chen had a knack for capturing the original appearance of what he was drawing, Lee said.
While he was teaching at the university, Chen drew 279 of the cultural relics in the department’s collection, 190 of which were from its special collection, she said.
The book also includes personal accounts from close friends of Chen, the university said.
Chen died on Oct. 6, 2014, at the age of 91.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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