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Past exhibition

Permanent Exhibition
A Space for Brush and Ink: What Affection Is--Once Begun, Ever Deep
The Covid-19 pandemic has “affected” us greatly,
impermanence becoming the norm.
But upon looking back,
what still remains is our “affection.”

  Over the past few years, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact in every corner of the world, including lengthy quarantines, city lockdowns, and travel restrictions, causing disruption to many personal plans and international exchanges. According to the World Health Organization, Covid-19 has been contracted more than 700 million times, leading to the deaths of almost seven million people. Often living in fear and sometimes terror, together we have witnessed the pain of illness and death among loved ones, with perhaps the only bright spot being our new-found awareness of the preciousness of life.

  Sensing this new “norm” of impermanence in life, in which only affection for our fellow beings has remained true and steadfast, 26 works of painting, calligraphy, and embroidery have been selected for this exhibition to present the various manifestations of affections felt by and for people in Chinese art. In the changing co-dependency of our collective being at this time, we can witness and experience how the moment has been captured cherished in each and every work.

  At the same time, as we celebrate both the solar and lunar New Year as well as Valentine’s Day during the period of this exhibition, we have even more opportunities to share blessings of the joy and affection that we still have now.
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date Permanent Exhibition
  • Location 2F S203
Anonymous, Japanese
Eleven-headed Kannon
Kannon is the Japanese pronunciation of Guanyin, also known as “Guanshiyin,” who is versed in all of Buddha dharma and a bodhisattva responding to the cries of help from all who suffer or are in need. Out of sympathy and compassion, Guanyin can manifest in many different forms to save every living being, “Eleven-headed Guanyin” being one such manifestation. The special forms of multiple heads and two or four arms symbolize Guanyin’s hearing and saving all beings and the power to lead them on the path of the Buddha. Around the sixth century CE in India appeared the eleven-headed form of Guanyin, who is also known in Sanskrit as Avalokitesvara. The imagery of this deity spread to other lands, the arm and facial arrangements along with expressions evolving over time.

In this anonymous Japanese painting is a very solemn depiction of Kannon in male form. The work, donated to the National Palace Museum by Mr. Peng Kai-dong, is a masterpiece of meticulous Buddhist painting.
Zhuge Liang's Memorial on Sending Out Troops
Zhuge Liang (181-234) was a prime minister in the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. He devoted all of his efforts to assist the ruler in governing the land, for which later generations came to revere him as the model of a loyal minister.

Before leading troops to attack the state of Cao Wei, Zhuge Liang wrote this “Memorial on Sending Out Troops” as a petition to Liu Chan (207-271), the last ruler of Shu Han. In the text, Zhuge Liang not only reminds Liu Chan of his legacy as successor to the late emperor and his mission to revive the Han dynasty house, he also expresses heartfelt gratitude for having known the late emperor and resolve to regain the northern territories.

This album in semi-regular script is done in 51-and-a-half lines of characters generously spaced in a style that is strong with heroic brushwork. Thought before to have been done by Li Beihai (674/678-746/747) or another Tang dynasty calligrapher, it has now been reclassified as an anonymous work that awaits further research.
Zeng Yandong (1751-1830), Qing dynasty
Eight Panels on the 24 Paragons of Filial Piety
Zeng Yandong, a native of Jiaxiang in Shandong, was the 67th generation descendant of Zengzi, the philosopher and a disciple of Confucius. In 1792, Zeng Yandong became a Provincial Scholar (“juren”) but encountered difficulties in office, later being exiled to and passing away in Wenzhou.

In ancient times, images of filial sons and daughters were illustrated on bricks, stone, lacquer, and walls in order to cultivate piety in others. The eight hanging scrolls forming a set of panels here illustrate traditional stories of the “24 Paragons of Filial Piety.” Zeng Yandong’s use of brush and ink in portraying the figures is unbridled as his succinct painting style combines with the straightforward verse to describe how sons and daughters should return the favor of their parents toiling to raise them. The illustrations and texts are skillfully arranged, the calligraphy also forceful. The abbreviated strokes in the depictions are a predecessor for Chinese cartoon painting in modern times.
Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), Yuan dynasty/Guan Daosheng (1262-1319), Yuan dynasty
Letters "Nanhuan," "Zuimeng," and "Liangshu" to Abbot Zhongfeng/Letter "To Abbot Zhongfeng"
In the history of Chinese art, the marriage between Zhao Mengfu with his wife Guan Daosheng has been seen as an ideal union. In 1319, however, Guan’s death on her return back to the south came as a great and sudden shock to Zhao Mengfu. In the letters “Nanhuan,” “Zuimeng,” and “Liangshu” that Zhao wrote to Chan Buddhist Master Zhongfeng Mingben (1263-1323), he laments with considerable sorrow on the pain that he suffered from the passing of his beloved wife.
Guan Daosheng was devout Buddhists. Her letter “To Abbot Zhongfeng” provides further testimony to her gratitude shown to this important Chan Buddhist master.
Xuanzong (685-762), Tang dynasty
Ode on Pied Wagtails
The Tang dynasty emperor Xuanzong, personal name Li Longji, was a wise and talented ruler. And in calligraphy, he excelled at both clerical and running scripts.

The pied wagtail is a bird known for the habit of constantly flicking its tail, in flight or otherwise, hence its name. Said to also have a strong sense of close affiliation and to show care for each other, the wagtail became a symbol of devoted fraternal affection in China’s ancient Book of Poetry. So in 721, when Xuanzong witnessed thousands of pied wagtails gathered at a palace rooftop, he ordered a scholar to compose an ode that he later personally calligraphed into this handscroll. The lines here are plump yet strong, reflecting the atmosphere of confidence and vigor that characterized the Tang dynasty, this being the only surviving ink calligraphy from the hand of Xuanzong.

This handscroll was also selected by Bi Yuan (1730-1797) in the Qing dynasty during the Qianlong reign and engraved by Qian Yong (1759-1844) and Kong Qianqiu for inclusion in Calligraphy of the Jingxun Hall. The ink rubbing of its engraving here was donated to the National Palace Museum by Messrs. Tann Po-yu and Tann Chi-fu.
Fu Chuan-fu (1910-2007), Republican period
Lines of Poetry by Li Bai
Fu Chuan-fu, originally from Hangzhou in Zhejiang, crossed the strait to Taiwan in 1949 and came to have a major influence upon contemporary art circles.

This work is a transcription of an excerpt from Li Bai’s (701-762) seven-character archaic verse “Bring in the Wine”: “A piebald horse, furs of a thousand gold--call the boy and have them exchanged for fine wine! Together we will eliminate the worries of ten thousand ages!” The artist’s brush here followed the spirit and went where his heart desired, the strokes flowing forth like floating clouds and rushing waters in a painting. In fact, Fu Chuan-fu treated calligraphy as a kind of painting; he once wrote, “Painting methods are in calligraphy and might as well be like running cursive.” His “connected cursive” exhibits the momentum of a myriad warhorses, echoing the unbridled and uninhibited atmosphere of Li Bai’s lines of poetry here.
Jin Tingbiao (?-1767), Qing dynasty
Cao Dagu Teaching
Jin Tingbiao, a native of Wuxing in Zhejiang, excelled at painting both flower and landscape subjects, and he was also gifted at figures and portraits. He came to imperial notice after submitting works of painting to the Qianlong emperor on a southern inspection tour and was rewarded by being summoned to serve at the court.

The figures depicted by Jin Tingbiao are exceptionally refined with elegantly beautiful coloring. This painting depicts the Eastern Han lady of talent Ban Zhao (ca. 45-120) seated in front of a table holding a brush and giving instruction. Two ladies have brought sons to observe as other boys play raucously to the side, demonstrating the guidance and restraint of a fine teacher while reducing the serious atmosphere of this didactic scene. Ban Zhao, a lady of wide and considerable learning also known by her husband’s surname Cao, was the author of Lessons for Women. She was frequently summoned to the court of Emperor Hedi (88-106) to teach female members of the court and nobility, becoming known as “Dagu,” or “Venerable Madame.”
Dong Qichang (1555-1636), Ming dynasty
Bai Juyi's Song of the Pipa
During the Yuanhe reign (806-820), the Tang dynasty poet Bai Juyi (772-846) was exiled to Jiujiang, where he met a sing-song girl from Chang’an who excelled at playing the pipa instrument. Admiring her skills but pitying her outcast status in society, he composed “Song of the Pipa,” which also echoes the misfortunes that he endured during his career in office.

Dong Qichang, a native of Huating (modern Songjiang in Shanghai), was a Presented Scholar (“jinshi”) of 1588 who excelled at both the theory and practice of painting and calligraphy. He was likewise a gifted connoisseur who led art circles in the Jiangnan region during the late Ming dynasty.

Dong transcribed this piece of literature in running script, the dots and strokes all poised yet powerful and the characters elegantly formed with natural transitions to the hues and moistness of the ink. Along with Xing Tong (1551-1612), Mi Wanzhang (1570-1631), and Zhang Ruitu (1570-1641), Dong was ranked as one of the “Four Masters of Late Ming Calligraphy.”
Xuanzong (1399-1435), Ming dynasty
Cats Below Flowers
Emperor Xuanzong of the Ming dynasty had the personal name Zhu Zhanji and the reign name Xuande; the ten years of his rule were known as the “Reign of Ren and Xuan.” It was a time when court art reached a zenith, being comparable with another heyday of Chinese court art, the “Xuanhe Painting Academy” of Emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126) in the Song dynasty.

Xuanzong dabbled in poetry and painting, this work depicting a garden rock and wild chrysanthemums with two cats, one licking its paw at rest. The artist used the “boneless” method to portray the bodies of the cats using color washes and then texture lines to highlight their fluffy fur. Pets have uplifted the spirits and brought boundless joy to countless owners over the ages, and depictions of cats in the Song dynasty increased noticeably, testifying to their rise in popularity. This work done in 1426 is actually an imitation of the style of cat painting practiced by the Song dynasty artist Li Di (fl. 12th c.).