Founding of the National Palace Museum
The collection of cultural artifacts held inside the National Palace Museum consists an enormous treasure trove of objects from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Development of the Museum is closely connected to the social changes of modern China. Thirteen years after the founding of the Republic of China, the last Qing Emperor Puyi was exiled from the Forbidden City. The cultural artifacts left within the palaces were collectively itemized, and a National Palace Museum was born.
Aiming to preserve the imperial collections and palatial treasures from the various Chinese dynasties, the National Palace Museum was officially open on October 10, 1925, allowing members of the public and future generations to enter the Palace to admire this cultural inheritance. Yi Pei-Ji (1880~1937) was appointed the first Director of the Museum, and the period from 1925~1931 marked the beginning of the National Palace Museum in Beijing.
Cultural Artifacts' Move to the South
1931 marked the September 18 Crisis, when the Japanese army invaded Northorn China. In order to ensure the safety of the Museum's collections, the Executive Directors of the National Palace Museum gave orders to store important artifacts in crates so as to be ready for evacuation at any time. By January 1933 the situation in Northern China had reached a critical point when the Japanese army entered Shanhaiguan. On January 31, 1934, five groups of artifacts totaling 19,557 crates were relocated southwards, including the 6,066 crates of objects from the Exhibition Office of Ancient Artifacts, the Yiheyuan and the Hanlin Yuan Imperial Academy. In February 1934 the Nationalist Government promulgated the "National Palace Museum in Beijing Provisional Organization Statute", which appointed the Executive Yuan as the authority over the Museum, and appointed Ma-Heng (1881~1955) as Director of the Museum. During this period, the Museum began to separate items that were to be relocated to Shanghai and ones to remain in Beijing. In 1935 a group of treasured works from the Palace Museum's collection was sent to London for the "International Exhibition of Chinese Art". In December of 1936 the Nanjing Branch of the Palace Museum was inaugurated, and the objects in Shanghai were once again moved to the newly-constructed treasury within the Taoist monastery Chaotian Gong of Nanjing.
After the fall of Sung-hu front in 1937, the Executive Yuan ordered that artifacts from the Nanjing Branch to be moved westwards by water via southern, central and northern routes. The first group was comprised of 80 crates, mostly of which had been exhibited at the "International Exhibition of Chinese Art" in London; these had traveled by the so-called southern route of Wuhan, Changsha, Guiyang, Anshun to Baxian in Sichuan; the central route was comprised of 9,331 crates, traveling from Hankou, Yichang, Chongqing, Yibin finally to Anguxiang Lusoshan in Sichuan. The third group had traveled north via the Jinpu Railway to Xuzhou, then via the Longhai Railway to Baoji, and from there trucks carried the precious 7,287 crates of cargo through Hanzhong to Chengdu, finally arriving in Emei, Sichuan.
The primary duties of the National Palace Museum during wartime were to protect and preserve the collection, although it still managed to organize a number of exhibitions. In July 1937 the National Palace Museum selected 10 Shang and Zhou Period bronze artifacts, 40 jade artifacts, 48 paintings and calligraphy works, one silk tapestry from the Song and Yuan Dynasties respectively, and sent the total of one hundred selected pieces to Moscow and Leningrad for the "Exhibition of Chinese Art". When this group of artifacts was returned in December 1942, they were sent to the "Third National Art Exhibition" held in Chongqing before being returned to the Anshun Treasury. The Anshun collection was also displayed in the painting and calligraphy exhibition held by the Chongqing Central Library, as well as the Guizhou Art Gallery Exhibition in Guiyang in December 1943.
Another source of the National Palace Museum collection was the artifacts displayed at the Exhibition Office of Ancient Artifacts in Beijing. A "Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum" was set up in Nanjing in 1933 to preserve this collection, and when the situation in Nanjing became dangerous in November 1937, crates of cultural relics from the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum were shipped westwards to Chongqing via a river route. They were then shipped to Kunming and Loshan in 1939, until finally arriving in Nan-xi in Szechuan. When Japan surrendered in August 1945, all of the Chinese cultural relics that were relocated could finally be shipped back to Nanjing.
Crossing the Seas to Taiwan
In autumn 1948 fighting between the Nationalist and Communist armies took an adverse turn, and the Central Government made the decision to send the most precious objects in the collections of the Palace Museum and the Preparatory Office to Taiwan. Also making the move were documents and files from the collections of the National Central Library, Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education. The first group of crates were carried by the navy from Nanjing, arriving in Keelung at the end of 1948; the second and third groups of crates also arrived the following year. A total of 2,972 crates were shipped; while these accounted for only 22% of the items originally transported south from Beijing and 852 crates of the items from the Preparatory Office, these pieces represented the cream of the collections.
After arriving in Taichung, the government created the "Joint Managerial Office of the National Central Museum", which oversaw the artifacts and staff from the National Palace Museum, Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum, and National Central Library. The Ministry of Education was appointed the competent authority over the Joint Managerial Office, and Minister Han Li-wu (1902~1991) also acted as the Chief Commissioner. The Office then began building a vault in Beikou in the township of Wufeng, Taichung County, to store the collection, and an inventory of the collections and comprehensive cataloging work were undertaken. "The Collection of Chinese Artifacts" series was published. In 1957 the Exhibition Office at Beikou was officially open to the public, and in May 1961 the Office was invited to organize a major exhibition on the theme of "Chinese Art Treasures" that circulated in Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco in the United States for a year; 50 choice pieces were also selected to participate in the New York World Expo.
In 1965 a new museum was built in the Taipei suburb of Waishuanxi, and "Regulations for the Provisional Board of Directors of the National Palace Museum" were promulgated by the Executive Yuan, which appointed Mr. Wang Yun-wu (1888~1979) as the Chief Commissioner and Dr. Chiang Fu-tsung (1898~1990) as the Director. The new museum site was christened the "Chung-Shan Museum" in honor of the founding father of the nation, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and first opened to the public on the centenary of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's birthday.
Expansions of the Museum
In addition to richness in collection, it is even more important for a museum to offer an excellent preservation environment and methods of maintenance, as well as research staff to organize educational exhibitions. For these reasons the National Palace Museum underwent several reorganizations and expansions of staff since its reopening at Waishuanxi, along with five structural expansions, before reaching its current scale.
There were many tasks to accomplish when the Museum reopened in 1965. The Museum offered 16 display rooms and 8 galleries, exhibiting calligraphy works, renowned paintings, bronze relics, porcelains, jade artifacts, curios, tapestries, rare books and documents. Large numbers of visitors passed through these display rooms every day. The "National Palace Museum Bulletin" and "National Palace Museum Quarterly" began circulating in 1966; in January 1967 a new memorial arch entitled "One World for All" and a chronology of China and occidental events were added to the central walkway; the extensions to the left and right wings of the new museum were also completed at the end of the year (Stage I Extensions). As the Museum began its operations, the original organizational scale and staff were both inadequate. In order to better accommodate its functions, the Museum issued new organizational regulations, expanding its existing Antiquities, Paintings and Calligraphies departments into 3 professional departments: Antiquities, Paintings and Calligraphies, and Rare Books and Documents in 1968, with three separate administrative sections of Exhibitions, Publications and Registration, to re-itemize, reorganize and archive the cultural artifacts, as well as undertaking exchanges with other academic institutions. The Library of the Museum was also opened to the public on the same year. A Scientific Preservation Technology Office was subsequently established in 1970, which completed a large portion in the organization of the Museum. In 1971 the second stage of expansions was completed, extending two wings of the new museum further to the front.
Dr. Chiang Fu-tsung was Director of the National Palace Museum for 18 years, leading the Museum through two expansions, reorganizations and additions of staff, firmly establishing the National Palace Museum to reach a scale appropriate for a modern museum. All museum-related works were carried out, and many journals, specialty books, catalogues, painting scrolls, and hand scrolls were published as time progressed. The Museum actively selected suitable personnel for overseas training, study trips and international symposiums, participating in the "International Expo" held in Osaka in 1970 and holding the "Chinese Ancient Paintings Symposium", which were not only well-received but also enhanced the international reputation of the National Palace Museum. In order to nurture a new generation of researchers and pass on the rich cultural experience and tradition of the existing staff, a number of the professional staff at the Museum assisted the National Taiwan University in opening a division on Chinese art history in its Graduate School of History in 1971, establishing a basis for research of Taiwanese art history. In order to fulfill its mission of writing a history of the dynasties, the Museum collaborated with the Academia Historica in editing and annotating the "Draft History of the Qing Dynasty" in 1978; "Annotations to the Draft History of the Qing Dynasty" was published by the Academia Historica twelve years later (1980).
Moving into the International Arena
In 1983 Dr. Chiang Fu-tsung resigned due to illness, and Dr. Chin Hsiao-yi (1921~2007) took over as the new Director of the Museum. Having been a member of the National Palace Museum Managerial Committee for many years, Dr. Chin was very familiar with Museum affairs, and implemented many proactive initiatives as soon as he took office, including: publishing of the "National Palace Museum Monthly", "National Palace Museum Academic Quarterly", collaborating with the Taiwan Commercial Publications in publishing Wen Yuan Ge's "Si Ku Quan Shu", accepting the donation of Zu Xi-shu's "Yi Xi Ci" by Mr. Lin Zhong-yi (a Japanese-Chinese, 1923~2007), accepting the donation of "Mo-jeh Ching-she", and establishing the system of "limited access and limited exhibition" regulations. The third stage of the expansions with construction of the Administrative Building was completed in 1984, which greatly improved the storage space and environment for the artifacts, as well as greatly expanded the exhibition space. Temperature and humidity controls were installed, along with measures to counter fire and earthquakes, as well as a 24-hour security and monitoring system.
In 1985 the narrative display unit "Relationship between Chinese and World Cultures" was opened, increasing the knowledge of visitors to oriental and occidental cultures; new technologies were introduced, along with a multimedia display room; a series of academic events were held to celebrate the Museum's 60th anniversary. Dr. Chin also placed great importance on the social educational function of the National Palace Museum. Besides giving guided tours to 500 primary and secondary school students in Greater Taipei every day, the Exhibition Section at the time had also organized the "Events and Creativity" children's classes and "Cultural Artifact Seminars". Dr. Chin also demanded greater novelty and refinement: the "San-Xi Hall" was established to merge art with everyday life; the construction of the Garden of Perfected Benevolence, in imitation of Song and Ming gardens, was completed below the western wing of the Main Hall; "Zhide Garden" was built by the pathway below the eastern wing; "Ho Le Yuan" was constructed on an odd lot of land by the right side of the Main Hall; and landscapes were added to the patio at the Main Hall to create an indoor garden and resting place for visitors.
In 1987 the "National Palace Museum Organization Statute" was promulgated by order of the President, and the Director of the Museum was specially appointed by the Executive Yuan. Another overall inventory of the cultural artifacts took place from July 1978 and was completed in May 1991. In the same year the Executive Yuan appointed a "Guidance Commissioner" to replace the original "Managerial Committee", and the fourth stage of expansion was completed in 1995 with construction of the Library Building. By this time the Museum boasted a bright and spacious modern library, as well as an exhibition hall of almost 400 pings (Chinese measurement of size in two-dimensions) that enabled active planning of exhibits on loan. On the day that the Library Building was inaugurated, 71 famous landscape paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries from the Musee du Louvre were exhibited, attracting innumerous enthusiastic visitors. The Museum further collaborated with Taiwanese jade collectors to offer the "Jade Exhibition" at the end of the same year, also introducing guided tours with Chinese, English and Japanese audios. These were followed by "Sculpture Exhibition" (1997), "Legendary Beauty: Western Paintings and Sculptures", "The World of Picasso" (1998), "Legend of San-Xing-Dui" and "Art and Culture of the Han Dynasty" (1999). The Museum not only invited loans of artifacts from Taiwanese collectors and from China, exhibitions were also moved into the international arena. At the invitation of the Metropolitan Museum in the U.S., the "Splendors of Imperial China" exhibition, comprising of 452 selected pieces from the National Palace Museum's collection, toured four major U.S. cities in March 1996. In October 1998 a selection of 344 pieces were exhibited at the Grand Palais Museum of Paris under the title "Memories of an Empire: Treasures from the National Palace Museum". In January 1999 a number of excellent reproductions of National Palace Museum artifacts toured Central America, at the invitation of seven friendly nations of Taiwan in Central America.
Emphasis on Local Culture, Fashion and Innovations
Mr. Tu Cheng-sheng assumed director position of the Museum in May 2000, managing the Museum under visions of emphasizing local culture and enhancing Taiwan awareness. Under his leadership the exhibition "Ilha Formosa: The Emergence of Taiwan on the World Scene in the 17th Century" was presented in 1993, and attracted widespread public discussions. As a researcher of historical studies, he asked that the exhibition staff break free from past tradition of exhibiting by material type, but instead present the exhibits chronologically. Using the opportunity of overall re-organization of the Main Hall display route (the fifth expansion project), the relics and artifacts of the Museum were organized to form 8,000 years of historical timeline, leading to the chronologically-linked exhibitions of "The Neolithic Age: The Beginning of Civilization", "Classical Civilization: The Bronze Age", "From Classic to Tradition: Qing and Han Dynasties", "Transitions and Convergences", "Prototypes of Modern Styles", "The New Era or Ornamentation", "The Contest of Craft: Ming Dynasty's Chia-ching to Chung-chen", "Treasures from an Age of Prosperity: The Reigns of Emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong", and "Toward Modernity: Late Qing Dynasty".
Dr. Du introduced business management concepts and work systems, issued the "Regulations on Management and Use of Income and Expenses of the Cultural Relics and Art Development Fund", and introduced the "Friends of NPM" and National Palace Museum Affinity Cards. In line with the Government's policy for a balance of cultural establishments in northern and southern Taiwan, in 2003 the Executive Yuan approved the designation of a 70-acre site at Taipao City, Chiayi County owned by Taiwan Sugar Corporation as the site for construction of the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum.
In 2005 Director Dr. Shi Shou-chien took over as the new director, after 4 years as the deputy director assisting Dr. Du in promoting academic researches and holding regular small conferences. Dr. Shi was the founder of the NTU Graduate Institute of Art History, specializing in research of paintings. He personally led the organization of the "Age of the Great Khan Pluralism in Chinese Art and Culture under the Mongols" Exhibition, which required collaboration between different sections of the Museum, and hosted an "Academic Symposium on the Mongols" in line with the Exhibition. Two years later he also planned the "Emperor Qianlong's Cultural Enterprise" Exhibition. The "Grand View: Painting and Calligraphy and Ju Ware from the Northern Song Dynasty" and "Song Dynasty Rare Books" Exhibitions were held in commemoration of the National Palace Museum's 80th anniversary, as well as an international symposium on "Founding Paradigms: The Art and Culture of the Northern Song", which had been a major event for the National Palace Museum and the Chinese art history academia. In light of the fact that all top international museums boasted of a first-class restaurant, Dr. Shi decisively contracted for BOT construction of "Silks Palace at the National Palace Museum" on the site of the old employees' canteen. Silks Palace opened for business to the public in June 2008.
In 2006, with the reorganization of the Executive Yuan, Ms. Lin Mun-lee took office as the new director of the National Palace Museum, and immediately undertook the conceptual reform of "Old is New at the NPM". Under this cultural creativity theme, NPM branded products and brand licensing were promoted. The Museum also collaborated with renowned local and international brands, such as Sanrio of Japan, Alessi of Italy, Franz Porcelain and I-Mei Foods of Taiwan in development of new products.
Returning to Professionalism and Creating New Possibilities
On May 20, 2008 a change of political parties took place in Taiwan, and Professor Chou Kung-Shin took office as the new director of the National Palace Museum. Director Chou had previously worked at the Museum for 27 years, having been secretaries to former directors Chiang and Chin, and then the head of the Exhibition Department for 16 years. She is an experienced museum expert who founded the Graduate Institute of Museum Studies of Fu Jen Catholic University after leaving the National Palace Museum. Since taking office, she has guided the Museum staff in enhancing the standards of archiving, researching, exhibitions, education, preservation and other fundamental but essential functions of the Museum, as well as re-introducing professional management to the Museum through organizational and staff-restructuring. Her vision is to create "new vivacity of the collection and new values for the National Palace Museum".
During the past year the Museum has undertaken large-scale solicitation, maintenance and itemizing its collection, promoted international and cross-strait exchanges so to encourage tourism, planned a cultural and creative industrial park, held series of cultural and creative events, nurtured lovers of cultural artifacts from different levels and age groups, improved the exhibition environment and spatial efficiency, as well as actively planning and constructing the Southern Branch. All of these efforts are beginning to show their results. Dr. Chou has also implemented business management, marketing and inter-industry affiliation concepts in integrating resources in and out to make the National Palace Museum an even more pluralistic and lively exhibition environment.
In December 2008 the Executive Yuan approved "Cross-Strait Palace Museums" as one of its major policies. In line with the Government's promotion of normalization of relationships between China and Taiwan, the National Palace Museum has conducted active exchanges with various major museums in China, including the Beijing Palace Museum, Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Museum and Shenyang Museums. A number of understandings about exchanges have been established, and regular collaboration mechanisms are now in place to enable even more in-depth exchanges in the future.
Following the trend for cultural creativity leading the knowledge of economy, the National Palace Museum has actively planned the building of the NPM Cultural Creativity Industrial Park, in the hopes of using the cultural wealth and international fame of the Museum to turn the National Palace Museum into a creative focus of local and international cultures Through series of cultural creativity events, design teams with creative potential are invited to participate in offering cultural and creative seminars, so as to enable the public to experience products with modern designs that are inherently refined and incorporate elements of the Museum.
Through brand licensing, the Museum has also enabled suppliers to create innovative derivative products for globalized marketing, so that the NPM Cultural and Creative Industrial Park will become a center of the global cultural creativity industry. Presently the Museum has already acquired neighboring land from the Health Services Management School of the National Security Bureau, and in line with implementation of the plans for the Park, the first "Cultural and Creative Development Camp" was held in 2009. Researches, development and design teams for Museum-derivative product suppliers were selected to plan and offer aesthetics, cultural creativity, National Palace Museum collections, and digital value-adding application events and interactive programs, in the hopes of providing a platform for Museum resources and educational training, as well as introduce systems and quality management for the development of Museum products. It is hoped that these long-term training programs will also enhance the quality and content of Museum-related industries, and establish a model for collaboration and marketing between the National Palace Museum and the cultural and creative industry.
In terms of educational function of the Museum, different educational activities are designed for different age groups and different visitor type. For example: for the general public, regular guided tours and seminars on Museum artifacts are offered, the Children's Gallery is established, seed teacher programs are held, collaboration between the Museum and schools is established, volunteers are trained; the Saturday Nights at NPM programs are designed to suit young visitors, tours of artifact duplications are arranged for cities, counties and off-island areas farther away; "Night Feasts at the NPM" that combine fascinating exhibitions with educational activities are held at San-Xi Hall; and traditional theater under the theme of "New Melody at the NPM", combining appreciation of artifacts with performance arts, are held at the Audience Hall. In addition, computerized technology and the U-Museum project have also enabled the National Palace Museum to break free from its physical boundaries, and bring the wondrous collections and educational resources of the Museum into the daily lives of the public.
Since taking office, Dr. Chou has been actively promoting the plans for construction of the Southern Branch. However, the project has met a number of barriers, including inappropriate promotional strategy under the original plans, termination of management consultancy, landscaping consultancy and architectural consultancy contracts, as well as damages suffered due to Typhoon Morakot. The Executive Yuan has put together several meetings to discuss and to solve these problems, finally reaching an agreement on December 17, 2009 that subsequent construction will take place in two stages, with the Construction and Planning Agency of the Ministry of Interior to be responsible for construction of the main buildings and related work under Stage I.
In 2009 more than 2.5 million visitors had come to the National Palace Museum. In order to provide visitors with more comfortable exhibition and reception areas and a pleasant environment and experience, the Museum is currently planning an organic integration with the neighboring site for the National Palace Museum Cultural Creativity Industry Park and evaluating the feasibility of "Stage 6 Expansion". It is hoped that the National Palace Museum will continue to keep up with the times, find new life in old traditions, and create new possibilities through professional expertise.
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