The New York Times takes a closer look at the ongoing rapprochment between the two Chinas through their art and art history. The much publicized meeting between the National Palace Museum in Taiwan and the Palace Museum in Beijing begin:
The director, Chou Kung-shin, will hold talks at the Palace Museum in Beijing, which holds most of the rest of the collection. Ms. Chou said in an interview that she would ask the Palace Museum in Beijing to lend 29 Qing dynasty artworks for a three-month exhibition that opens here in October and would seek cooperation in art conservation, publications and promotions. The Beijing authorities are taking a conciliatory stance on closer collaboration in art in the hope of improving their image on Taiwan, with the goal of dampening opposition to an eventual reunification on terms favorable to the mainland. [ . . . ]
(More of the condensed story after the jump.)
When the Nationalists boarded ships to Taiwan six decades ago, they took with them nearly 3,000 crates packed with some of the world’s rarest paintings and porcelain. The fate of the imperial collection, the world’s finest of Chinese art, still represents such a powerful political and emotional link with the mainland that the director of the Taiwan museum sits alongside ministers as a full member of the president’s cabinet. [ . . . ]
The division of China’s imperial collection is one of the great stories of Asian art. The Nationalists evacuated more than 13,000 crates of art from Beijing in early 1933 before the Japanese Army could capture the city. The crates were divided up and repeatedly moved around China until the end of World War II, sometimes barely ahead of Japanese bombing raids and ground assaults.
The collection was reunited after the war in Nanjing, an ancient capital of China. As it became apparent that the Communists would win the civil war, the Nationalists chose the best from the collection for shipment to Taiwan. They were particularly fond of Qing dynasty works, and these are heavily represented in the National Palace Museum’s collection.
The Communists subsequently shipped much of the remainder back to Beijing for reinstallation at the collection’s ancient home, the Forbidden City. But 2,221 crates have remained in storage at the Chaotian Palace in Nanjing as the municipal governments of Nanjing and Beijing have argued over their ownership.