Based on the definition given by the ROC's Ministry of Culture in its "Cultural Heritage Preservation Act," the works of painting and calligraphy in the collection of the National Palace Museum belong to the category of "Historic Artifacts (Antiquities)." It means they are art objects with cultural importance that represent the work of particular groups of people from certain periods of time over the course of history. These objects are further divided and classified into three groups, from the most important artistically of "National Treasures" to that of "Significant Historic Artifacts (Significant Antiquities)" and finally "General Historic Artifacts (General Antiquities)."
The task of ranking artifacts begins with the departments of public institutions in charge of their care. By the end of 2005, the National Palace Museum had already completed the initial classification of artifacts in its large collection. Afterwards, beginning in 2008, members of the Review Committee for Historic Artifacts at the Council for Cultural Affairs (forerunner of the Ministry of Culture) worked in conjunction with the painting and calligraphy exhibitions at the National Palace Museum to conduct inspections and written reviews. Confirming the works ranked as "National Treasures" and "Significant Historic Artifacts," the results were thereafter made public. As of August 2018, a total of 193 "National Treasures" (including 344 individual objects) and 361 "Significant Historic Artifacts" (including 1,701 individual objects) in the category of painting and calligraphy have now been approved and declared.
To allow audiences to understand the classification system of artifacts and to see the results of this effort, the National Palace Museum organized in 2017 a special exhibit on "The Making of a National Treasure: Select Masterpieces of Painting and Calligraphy in the Museum Collection." Due to popular demand, the Museum in 2018 is once again holding this exhibit at its northern branch with a completely new rotation of works under the title of "Another Look at National Treasures: Select Masterpieces of Painting and Calligraphy in the Museum Collection." On display in Gallery 210, this year's exhibit includes a total of 26 works of painting and calligraphy in the "National Treasure" category by such masters as Wang Xizhi (303-361) of the Eastern Jin dynasty; Yan Liben (?-673), Emperor Xuanzong (Li Longji, 685-762), and Xu Hao (703-782) of the Tang; Fan Kuan (ca. 950-ca. 1031), Yi Yuanji (latter half of the 11th c.), Su Shi (1037-1101), Mi Fu (1051-1107), Emperor Gaozong (Zhao Gou, 1107-1187), Xiao Zhao (12th c.), Xia Gui (fl. 1195-1224), and Ma Lin (fl. 1195-1264) of the Song; Wu Yuanzhi (fl. 1149-1189) of the Jin; and Xianyu Shu (1246-1302) and Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322) of the Yuan. Each work holds a unique place in the history of Chinese art, making this exhibition again a highlight for the national and museum celebrations at this time of the year.
The exhibit runs from October 4 to December 25, 2018, and includes works further classified by the National Palace Museum as "restricted," meaning they can only be displayed for a brief period of time. These "restricted" works have therefore been further divided into two rotations, the first one from October 4 to November 14 and the second from November 15 to December 25. Such a major presentation of masterpieces is an event not to be missed, offering audiences a rare opportunity to appreciate the beauty and significance of national treasures of Chinese art in greater detail.
NPM Publications: Another Look at National Treasure: Select Masterpiece of Painting and Calligraphy in National Museum Palace