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Past exhibition

Permanent Exhibition
Our Beloved Treasures: Masterpieces in the National Palace Museum Collection
The National Palace Museum has long been renowned for its collection of painting masterpieces, marvelous calligraphic works, and spectacularly crafted artifacts. Over the years, the museum has endeavored to convey the beauty of these artifacts to visitors, by organizing exhibitions, making films, and developing new media installations. Since the opening of the southern branch of the museum in Chiayi, additional effort has been made to organize exhibitions of national treasures in the hope that the additional space allows more people to appreciate the history and splendor of these treasured works.
Each of these national treasures has its own unique value and beauty, stories about how they were made and collected, and deeper cultural significance. This exhibition, “Our Beloved Treasures: Masterpieces in the National Palace Museum Collection,” aims to bring you closer to the national treasures in the Museum collection. Many of the exhibited items, the Jadeite Cabbage, the Jade Duck, the Animal-shaped Zun Vessel, the Vase in the Shape of a Horned Fish, the Pillow in the Shape of a Recumbent Child, and the Bronze Bo Bell, have all made acclaimed appearances in highly popular films, “Adventures in the National Palace Museum” and “Maze of National Treasures.” In addition two rare Song dynasty calligraphic masterpieces, the Poetry of Han-shan and Recluse Pang by Huang Tingjian and the Letter to Bochong by Mi Fu, both highly esteemed in the history of Chinese calligraphy, are also displayed in this exhibition.
The exhilaration one experiences when standing before these masterpieces, the excitement of appreciating the delicacy of the ancient aesthetics, and cultural history transmitted through time and space by these beautiful works, are rare delights indeed. We hope that all our visitors will be able to enjoy this exhibition to the full. So come in and let us begin our exploration of the breathtaking world of ancient art.
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date Permanent Exhibition
  • Location 3F S302
Huang Tingjian (1045-1105), Northern Song Dynasty
Poetry of Hanshan and Recluse Pang
In March of the first year of the Yuanfu reign (1098), Huang Tingjian travelled from Qianzhou (now Pengshui in Sichuan) and arrived in June at his new place of demotion in Rongzhou (now Yibin in Sichuan). Along the way, he observed oarsmen working on the rivers. From this he gained a deep appreciation of the true essence of a ‘vigorous and fluent’ style of calligraphy that been discussed in ancient records. In October, Huang Tingjian moved into his new home and started work in his new study, known as Renyun Tang (Accepting Fate Hall). He created this work while trying out a new brush made by the master brushmaker Zhang Tong. The text originally consisted of poetry written by the Tang-era monk Hanshan and the recluse Pang, but only two-and-a-half poems written by Hanshan remain, as the latter half of the third poem and the poetry of Pang have since been lost. It is estimated that this work was created at some point during the second to third years of the Yuanfu reign (circa 1099-1100). Huang Tingjian’s life in Rongzhou was quite harsh, and his quarters were very simple and primitive. He also suffered poor heath; he was often plagued by arm pain, foot diseases, and gastrointestinal disorders. However, against the odds, Huang Tingjian maintained his profound interest in calligraphy, and his inspired understanding of calligraphic techniques made this an important transformative period in his style. Upon close examination, the ink color of this work appears full and rich, with strong and rounded lines, each stroke masterfully controlled. These qualities combine to make this a representative work of large-character running script calligraphy from Huang Tingjian’s later years.
Mi Fu (1051-1118), Northern Song Dynasty
This handscroll comprises nine letters written by Mi Fu, including On Verbal Orders, Letter to Bo Xiu, On Jin Paper, On Wang Lue, On a Jade Brush Rest, On Danyang, On This Stone, On a Gift of Tangerines, and Letter Playfully Submitted to the Remonstrator. Research shows that they were written between the first to fifth years of the Chongning reign (1102-1106), when the Emperor Huizhong was on the throne. In these works the characters are closely spaced, but the space between the columns are somewhat wider; the characters are somewhat elongated with a leftward slant that emphasizes the creation of force through imbalance. The firm and energetic brush strokes, myriad variations in the twists and turns of the brush, and flowing rhythm, together reflect the steady and mature calligraphic style of the artist during this period.
Li Kan (1245-1320), Yuan Dynasty
Peace Throughout the Four Seasons
Li Kan (1245-1320) was a native of present day Hebei province. He entered into service of the Yuan dynasty court as a minister at the same time as Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), becoming a highly-esteemed scholar official. At one point in his career, Li was dispatched as an envoy to the region of Jiaozhi (now in northern Vietnam), where he made detailed observations of the bamboo and their habitats. His studies during this period allowed him to surpass his predecessors in the art of painting bamboo, earning him great fame in his own time.
This painting depicts four stalks of bamboo shooting straight up from the earth on a small slope next to a decorative boulder. The rotund and vim-filled brushstrokes Li used to paint the bamboo are reminiscent of the calligraphic techniques for writing seal script (zhuanshu). The stalks and leaves of the two plants in the foreground were painted with heavy black in washes, while the pair in the background were painted with pale washes. The paleness of the bamboo in the rear gives the work a lush, jade-like purity that conveys the sense of bamboo leaves becoming moist in the cool, thin mists of early evening.
Tang Di (1287-1355), Yuan Dynasty
Fishermen Returning on a Frosty Bank
This work depicts a lakeside scene in late autumn, with fishermen carrying their nets and baskets upon their shoulders, chatting as they happily make their way home with the day’s catch. The trees in the foreground were all painted with “crab claw” branches, while the boulders and banks were painted with “curled cloud” brushstrokes. Both of these elements were inherited from the painter Guo Xi (1023-ca. 1085). The work’s overall composition is in the “level distance” style developed by Li Cheng (916-967). Tang Di served as an official in the Jiangsu-Zhejiang region, as well as southern Anhui province. He displayed his mastery by infusing the lonely, desolate aura of painting in the school of Guo Xi and Li Cheng with the vibrant energy of the everyday people. His style was deeply appreciated by the wealthy and powerful, making Tang Di an integral part of the Guo-Xi school’s development. The calligraphic inscription on the left side of the painting dates it to the Wuyin year during the Zhiyuan reign period (1338), when Tang was at the prime of his life. His vitality can be detected in the vigorous, sprightly brushwork that leads many to call this painting his greatest masterpiece.
Fang Congyi (ca. 1301-after 1378), Yuan Dynasty
A Pavilion High and Lofty
Fang Congyi (ca. 1301-after 1378), who used the sobriquet Square Kettle (Fanghu), was a Daoist priest at the Highest Purity Palace on Dragon-Tiger Mountain in Jiangxi during the latter years of the Yuan dynasty. In 1343 he embarked upon sojourns in northern China, during which time he crossed paths with numerous high-ranking ministers and scholars, in addition to drinking in the beautiful mountain scenery to be found all over the land. This period of wandering seemed to broaden Fang’s heart, allowing him to wield his brush in a way that was as clean and simple as it was bold and unencumbered. Fang’s style was entirely his own.
Fang Congyi painted this work at the request of his friend, Li Zigao. The name of the work may contain an allusion to Li’s sobriquet, which contains a character that means “high” or “lofty,” making it a forerunner in the fashion of making paintings that alluded to people’s cognomens. According to the colophon that Fang wrote on this painting, he painted it in a flourish in a state of inebriation. His uninhibited use of ink fills the work with the Daoist spirit.
Northern Song to Jin Dynasty (12th century)
Pillow in the Shape of a Recumbent Child
Crescent moon-shaped eyebrows, sparkling almond-shaped eyes, and a straight nose make up a fair and lovely visage. The slightly stuck-out tongue reveals a playful and whimsical character. The chubby cheeks invite you to give them a squeeze. The refined craftsmanship of the ceramicist makes this figure adorable and almost lifelike.

Only three examples of this design in Ding type ware are still extant. Research has shown that the Qianlong Emperor collected eleven of these figures, and frequently commissioned imperial craftsmen to make silk pads and wooden stands to accompany these works. He even wrote poems in praise of his pillows. Another one in the museum collection has one of these poems inscribed on the bottom. It describes how he viewed it as a ‘cautionary’ pillow because a small piece of clay inside would make noise when shaken. This reminded the Emperor to remain careful and conscientious, and maintain a diligent attitude toward governance and to maintain a love of the people.
Ming Dynasty (16th-17th century)
Dragon Fish Vase
 “Studying in obscurity for ten years, followed by instant fame once first place in the examination is attained,” was the aspiration of tens of thousands of scholars under the ancient imperial examination system. To achieve first place after going through the multiple levels of the examination was thought akin to a fish making a successful leap over the dragon’s gate, and thus being instantly transformed into a divine dragon soaring through the heavens. Those who achieved first place in the examination were allowed to stand on a relief carving of a dragon fish’s head on the palace steps to receive their results, the origin of a Chinese metaphor, “To solely occupy the head of the dragon.”

This dragon fish vase depicts the instant in which an ordinary river fish leaps from the waves and is being transformed into a divine dragon. The body remains that of a fish, but the head is already that of a dragon, with two round staring eyes, budding horns, slightly long sharp teeth, and lengthening dragon whiskers and ears. On the belly of the fish, a small dragon can be seen. This clever design is a hidden metaphor for being placed on the gold list of successful scholars who passed the imperial examinations. The entire work was made to symbolize the achievement of success and wealth after passing the imperial examination, but retains a strong artistic sense, and is truly a finely crafted masterpiece of profound creativity.  
Northern Song Dynasty (Early 12th century)
Bronze Bell with Inscription of Yize
When the Emperor Huizhong of Song (r. 1100-1135) first came to power he wanted to establish a system of rites and music akin to that of the three ancient pre-Qin dynasties Xia, Shang, and Zhou. Through this he wanted to regulate social order and to educate the people. He used the bronze bianzhong (set of bells) from the Spring and Autumn Period as a template to create a set of musical instruments known as the Dacheng bianzhong, and commissioned Dacheng new music for this new set of bells. An imperial music department known as the Dacheng fu was also established, and was charged with rewriting on a twelve-pitch scale the ancient ceremonial music of the Three Dynasties, which had been lost for centuries.

This work is part of the Dacheng bianzhong, and an inscription on one side reads, ‘yize’, a note on the twelve-pitch scale that corresponds to G-sharp in modern music. On the other side, the characters, ‘Dahe,’ have been inscribed, and this may be a sad reminder of the events of 1127 when in the third year of the Jingkang reign, the Jin army sacked the palace and looted the imperial instruments of the Song Court. They subsequently struck off the original Dacheng inscription and replaced them with Dahe. The gold-plated hook and jade ornaments adorning the suspension loop of the bell were added at a later time.
Mid-Warring States Period (4th-3th century BCE)
Animal Shaped Zun vessel
Zun is a general term for archaic Chinese wine vessels, and ox-shaped zun are commonly referred to as xi zun (animal-shaped wine vessels). Two lines of poetry from the Bi Gong (Closed Temple) poem, part of the Odes of Lu in the Book of Odes, described how animal-shaped zun wine vessels were arrayed in sacrificial rituals: “See the sacrificial red and white bulls; behold the grandness of the animal-shaped zun vessels.”

This work depicts a strong-bodied ox with two pricked up ears. From the natural curving lines and solid limbs, one can almost sense the underlying form and musculature. A lid on the back allows wine to be decanted into the vessel, which can then be poured from the ox’s mouth. From a distance, this work has a simple, neat appearance; but upon closer examination, the surface is actually richly adorned with inlaid metal wires and turquoise stones, demonstrative of the astonishing gold and silver filigree inlay craftsmanship of the Warring States period.
Song to Yuan Dynasty (960-1368)
Jade Duck
The scholar Su Dongpo (1037-1101) once wrote a poem describing the beauty of early spring: “Beyond the bamboo grove, a few branches of peach blossoms swing; the ducks are the first to know when the water warms with the coming of spring. Mugworts abound but the reeds are just sprouting, and the time has come for the pufferfish to swim upstream.” This jade work depicts a yellow duck with its head cocked slightly to one side looking around. The duck has a full, round body, a fluffy tail that is slightly raised, and two webbed feet that seem a bit small compared to the size of its body. This comical appearance, together with an expression of innocent curiosity, conveys a sense of joy at the return of spring and the stirring of new life. Parts of the head, as well as both of the webbed feet, have been lightly dyed. The whole piece has an alluring juvenile purity  and overall beauty that closely embodies the idea of retaining a childlike innocence highly valued by ancient literati.