The best collection of Chinese antiquities is found in Taiwan. This is of course no surprise to anyone familiar with 20th century Chinese history. The Cultural Revolution brought with it the destruction of much of the cultural artifacts in China, and the only major surviving collection was the art that was brought to Taiwan by the Kuomintang that fled Communism. The artwork that did survive in China, has of course been kept separate from the art in Taiwan. China has just agreed to lend 29 Qing dynasty pieces to Taiwan for the first time for an exhibition this year.
Those 29 pieces will join the 650,000 pieces of art already at the National Palace Museum in Taipei this summer after 60 years of separation.
There is discussion about the possibility of a joint exhibition in Shanghai later as well, but this prospect is difficult as there is some fear the Chinese government would not return the artworks to Taiwan after an exhibition. The interesting part of this proposed joint show is one Song dynasty painting in particular – Riverside Scene at the Pure Moon Festival, which would hang together for the first time since 1949 (part of it shown above). The Song Dynasty part of this piece has hung in Beijing and the Ming dynasty piece in Taipei all this time.
In addition to art, whole families were also split for almost as many years. Being parted from family for long periods of time is not anomalous for the Chinese people. My family was one of those families, and my father was separated from an older brother, sister and his grandparents that stayed in China. My dad did not see his older brother for 35 years. He was one of the lucky ones because he initiated a study-abroad program in the 1980’s which gave him the opportunity to visit his family before most overseas Chinese could even visit mainland China.
I think it’s difficult for most of us today to even imagine being separated from loved ones for that length of time. Many families were unfortunate and members passed away before a reunion was even possible. In a previous blog post I wrote I was worried about making sure my daughter got to meet and keep in touch with her family abroad and many of you correctly reminded me it’s certainly not as difficult in today’s Internet world, but it’s still problematic as many in China still do not have access to the Internet. I know things will improve, I just hope in time for me to keep in touch with my family for me and my daughter.