Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei

Overview

Only two major exhibitions from the fabled Chinese Palace Museum collections have been seen in the West - the first in London in 1935-36 and the second in the United States in 1961-62. These two exhibitions provided an extraordinary stimulus to the study of Chinese culture, revolutionized Asian art studies in the West, and opened the eyes of the public to the artistic traditions of Chinese civilization. Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei is the publication that accompanies the ...
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Overview

Only two major exhibitions from the fabled Chinese Palace Museum collections have been seen in the West - the first in London in 1935-36 and the second in the United States in 1961-62. These two exhibitions provided an extraordinary stimulus to the study of Chinese culture, revolutionized Asian art studies in the West, and opened the eyes of the public to the artistic traditions of Chinese civilization. Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei is the publication that accompanies the third great exhibition of Chinese masterworks to travel to the West. Written by scholars of both Chinese and Western cultural backgrounds and conceived as a cultural history, the book tells the story of Chinese art from its foundations in the Bronze Age and the first empires through the rich diversity of art produced during the Sung, Yuan, Ming, and Ch'ing dynasties, contrasting China's absolutist political structure with the humanism of its artistic and moral philosophy. Synthesizing scholarship of the past three decades, the authors present not only the historical and cultural significance of individual works of art and analyses of their aesthetic content, but a reevaluation of the cultural dynamics of Chinese history, reflecting a fundamental shift in the study of Chinese art from a focus on documentation and connoisseurship to an emphasis on the cultural significance of the visual arts. National treasures passed down from dynasty to dynasty, the works of art that now form the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, originally constituted the personal collection of the Ch'ien-lung emperor, who ruled China from 1736 to 1795. Two centuries after Ch'ien-lung ascended the dragon throne, when the Japanese invaded China in 1937, the nearly 10,000 masterworks of painting and calligraphy and more than 600,000 objects and rare books and documents - which had earlier been moved from Peking to Nanking following the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
More than an exhibition catalogue, this breathtakingly beautiful volume, a major work of scholarship, offers a panoramic history of Chinese art and culture. Its 436 color plates and 190 halftones reproduce hundreds of masterpieces from the Chinese Palace Museum in Taiwanartworks that originally constituted the personal collection of 18th-century Emperor Ch'ien-lung, and were transported out of communist China to Taipei after WWII. Among the treasures are eighth-century calligraphic brush masterpieces, monumental landscape hanging scrolls of the Northern Sung (10th-11th centuries), elegant porcelain, naturalistic flower, bird and animal paintings, and life-size, robust imperial portraits. Essays by Chinese and Western art historians sweep from the Neolithic Age's magical and religious uses of jade (third millennium B.C.) to Bronze Age rituals, the paradoxical rejuvenation of art under the Mongol conquest, Buddhist and Taoist influences, Ming scholar-artists' revolt against orthodoxy and 17th-century Ch'ing emperors' use of the arts as tools for glorification of the state. The exhibition opened at New York's Metropolitan Museum and will tour nationally. Fong and Watt are curators at the Met. (June)
Library Journal
To those fortunate enough to see an exhibition, a catalog can serve as a guide or souvenir. But to those at some remove in time or distance, the catalog often represents their only contact with the exhibit and must stand as a marker of the scholarship invested in it and a visual testament of the objects displayed. To deal with these differing and conflicting roles, the exhibition of imperial treasures from China currently touring this country has two catalogs of differing length and scope. After introducing each historical period, Splendors of Imperial China highlights 107 of the 475 artworks in the exhibition and gives a short analysis of the works. Smaller ceramic and bronze pieces are shown in full, as are some painted works, but many large scrolls are shown only in detail. These details lose the larger perspective vital to understanding such wall-spanning scrolls as Huai-su's "Autobiographical Essay," a purely calligraphic portrait that progresses from small, tight characters to marvelous looping, flying ones as the painter drinks more and more wine. Possessing the Past is the inclusive scholarly text illustrating all 475 artworks. Clearly intended to have lasting value and to present in-depth information on thousands of years of Chinese art history, it lacks some of the graphic verve of Splendors. Both volumes are slightly marred by some poorly reproduced images. Splendors of Imperial China will suit general readers seeking a visual introduction to classical Chinese art, while Possessing the Past will anchor academic art history collections.David McClelland, formerly with Temple Univ., Philadelphia
School Library Journal
YA-An excellent resource for in-depth information on Chinese art. The authors provide introductory essays that give a clear background of Chinese dynastic history, the history of the Museum, and the history of the works of art. By presenting cross-cultural references, they give Western readers a wider understanding of cultural developments. For example, the authors present both the poetry and calligraphy of Su Shih, interpreting his work in terms of the context of his life. By understanding the world of the artist, students gain a knowledge of the importance of culture in the artist's life. Readers can trace the evolution of the styles through the chronological arrangement. Although this is an academic text, the vocabulary and writing style can be understood by high school students. Superb-quality full-color plates and black-and-white figures that directly relate to the narration appear throughout. An outstanding reference.-Donna Head, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Booknews
A major scholarly work, published in conjunction with the exhibition titled "Splendors of Imperial China: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei" (on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during 1996, and scheduled for several other American cities during 1996-1997). Written by scholars of both Chinese and Western cultural backgrounds and conceived as a cultural history, the book synthesizes scholarship of the past three decades to present the historical and cultural significance of individual works of art and analyses of their aesthetic content, as well as reevaluation of the cultural dynamics of Chinese history. Includes some 600 illustrations, 436 in color. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810964945
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/1996
  • Pages: 648
  • Product dimensions: 9.53 (w) x 12.39 (h) x 2.07 (d)

Table of Contents

Directors' Forewords
Acknowledgments
Chronology
Introductory Essays 1
The National Palace Museum: A History of the Collection 3
Chinese Art and Cross-Cultural Understanding 27
1 Jade 41
2 The Bronze Age and the First Empires 73
3 The Imperial Cult 99
4 Some Cultural Prototypes 107
5 Monumental Landscape Painting 121
6 Sung Imperial Portraits 141
7 The Scholar-Official as Artist 147
8 The Imperial Painting Academy 159
9 Some Buddhist Images 201
10 Antiquarianism and Naturalism 219
11 The Orthodox Lineage of Tao 257
12 Imperial Portraits of the Yuan Court 263
13 Reunification and Revival 269
14 The Artist as Hero 299
15 Imperial Portraiture of the Ming Dynasty 327
16 The Return of the Academy 335
17 The Literati Artists of the Ming Dynasty 369
18 The Expanding Literati Culture 399
19 Creating a Synthesis 419
20 Official Art and Commercial Art 427
21 The Orthodox School of Painting 473
22 The Individualist Masters 493
23 The Antique-Elegant 503
24 Imperial Patronage of the Arts Under the Ch'ing 555
Notes 56S
Bibliography 61S
List of Plates 62S
List of Maps 63S
Index 63S
Photograph Credits 64S
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