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Past exhibition

Special Exhibition
Our Beloved Treasures: Masterpieces in the National Palace Museum Collection

In the long history of human civilization, each of the eras and regions showcases its own aesthetic values and standards. The resulting variety of skills and crafts we see is a testament to the richness and diversity of human culture. Passed through the test of time, artworks from previous generations reflect their contemporary aesthetics and inform the ways we understand ‘beauty’ today. Our own time also has works that emblematize our collective memory. For example, the fine craftsmanship of the Olive Stone Miniature Boat with the Ode to the Red Cliff Carved on the Bottom, the Jadeite Cabbage, and the Meat-shaped Stone – all from the Qing Dynasty – encapsulates our experience of reality and delivers something beyond imagination.

The National Palace Museum houses many masterpieces, among which several are our beloved treasures. In order to give people in the southern part of Taiwan more opportunities to be close to and appreciate these works in person, the Southern Branch of the NPM holds a special exhibition in Gallery S204, featuring three of the most famous and widely adored pieces of artistic brilliance in our collection: the Meat-shaped Stone (Qing), the Jadeite Cabbage (Qing), and the Olive Stone Miniature Boat with the Ode to the Red Cliff Carved on the Bottom (Qing). The former two are exemplary works of outstanding artistry in the Museum’s collection of jade carving while the last represents the culmination of fruit stone carving in Ancient China. This exhibition provides viewers with an invaluable proximity with these treasures.

Meat-shaped Stone

This succulent and savory artwork is in fact a delicately carved piece of hard jasper. The material’s original texture is transformed by the craftsmen into the gratuitous layer of fat and glistening sheen of a chunk of stewed pork belly. Dyeing the stone from top to bottom a gradation of the color brown, the craftsmen achieve the effect of the soy-sauce slow stew. What makes this piece of art extra special is that the craftsmen made countless small holes on the surface of the stone to render the pores, reminding one of the distinct mixture of softness and chewiness of the skin of Dongpo Pork when it is just cooked.

The Meat-shaped Stone is a perfect visual evocation of fragrance and taste. It crystallizes the essence of traditional culinary culture and brings to mind memories of delicious happiness!


Jadeite Cabbage

Made from jade, the Jadeite Cabbage is one of the most beloved pieces in the National Palace Museum collection. The craftsmen make the most use of the natural color of the material, with the dark green part as the layered, ruffled upper leaves and the white part, despite its cracks and impurities, as the fresh, water-saturated bottom leaves and the cabbage stalk. The bush cricket and the locust on the top of cabbage add to the whole work a sense of the pastoral.

The Jadeite Cabbage was originally a palatial curio item, planted in an enameled pot as a penjing (tray plant). There is also a wood stand carved in the shape of a reishi. With the value of jade, the metaphorical meaning of immortality and auspiciousness of reishi, plus the colourful enamelling, the Jadeite Cabbage is forever full of life!


Olive Stone Miniature Boat with the Ode to the Red Cliff Carved on the Bottom

The boat is a miniature carving of an olive pit by the renowned craftsman Chen Zhuzhang from the imperial Bureau of Manufacture in the second year of the Qianlong reign in the Qing Dynasty (1737). The olive pit forms the main body, the awning, and the two sides of the boat. There are windows that can be opened and closed. On the boat are eight people in total, including two boatmen, three boy attendants, and three passengers. On the bottom of the boat is the inscription, in semi-cursive (running) script, of the full text of Su Shi’s Ode to the Red Cliff, Part II and the engraving of Chen’s own signature. The details of the boat, its inside layout, and the expressions of the characters concretize the experience of the sailing under the moon depicted in Su’s literary masterpiece. As viewers hold their breath to open the boat’s small windows, they seem transferred to the seat alongside Su by the window on a journey to the ancient site of the Red Cliff battle, feeling in moonlight the pleasure, as Su described, of ‘Letting the tiny boat drift as a reed on its course | over an indistinct and diffuse vastness’.
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date 2019-09-03~2020-01-18
  • Location 2F S204