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

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Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996 - Art - 648 pages
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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 1931 - were packed in crates and evacuated to caves near the wartime capital, Chungking. It was not until after World War II that the crated treasures were moved to their present home in Taiwan, where today they represent a major portion of China's artistic and cultural legacy.
 

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Possessing the past: treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei

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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 ... Read full review

Contents

Chinese Art and CrossCultural Understanding
27
FOUNDATIONS OF CIVILIZATION 37
74
The Imperial Cult IVen C Pong
99
Some Cultural Prototypes IVen C Pong
107
Sung Imperial Portraits IVen C Pong
159
Some Buddhist Images IVaiIeam Ho and Mn C Pong
201
IO Antiquarianism and Naturalism James C Y IVatt
219
The Orthodox Lineage of Tao IVen C Pong
257
A NEW ORTHODOXY 21
420
22
422
24
423
Notes The Orthodox School of Painting lVeh C Pong The Individualist Masters lVeh C Pong The AntiqueElegant James C Y Watt Imperial Patronage...
565
Bibliography
610
List of Plates List of Maps
625
Index Photograph Credits 261 269
632
299
633

THE MONGOL CONQUEST
261
12
264
13
269
Imperial Portraits of theYuan Court lVeh C Pong and Maxwell K Hearh Reunification and Revival Maxwell K Hearh The Artist as Hero Maxwell K H...
281
EMPIRE OF RESTORATION 15
327
Imperial Portraiture of the Ming Dynasty lVeh C Pong The Return of the Academy Richard M Barhhart The Literati Artists of the Ming Dynasty lVe...
417
OflFicial Art and Commercial Art James C Y lVatt Creating a Synthesis
419
335
634
369
636
419
638
427
639
555
641
636
647
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About the author (1996)

Wen C. Fong is professor emeritus of Chinese art history at Princeton University, where he taught from 1954 to 1999, established the country's first PhD program in Chinese and Japanese art and archaeology, and served for many years as faculty curator of Asian art at the Princeton University Art Museum. He also served as consultative chairman of the Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for three decades before retiring in 2000. His many books include "Images of the Mind", "Beyond Representation", and "Possessing the Past".

Watt, Brooke Russell Astor Chairman, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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