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Boundless – A Maritime Perspective of East-West Cultural Exchange in the 16th Century

  • #Painting
  • #Ceramics
  • #Jades
  • #Bronzes
  • #Curio
  • #Rare Books & Documents
  • #Antiquities


Onde a terra acaba e o mar começa.

“Where the land ends and the sea begins,” said the Portuguese poet, Luís Vaz de Camões (?-1580). These two lines described how the edge of the land was precisely the starting point of the sea. The context of his words bore witness to the desire for venturing overseas, which pervaded Europe during the 16th century, while encapsulating the encounters among people from different parts of the world.

It was a time when being attached to one place no longer sufficed, be it the land or the sea. Sailing afar time and again into uncharted waters, seafarers searched for opportunities and resources. It was a time when the first circumnavigation of Earth was completed, which gradually weaved through Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas into a maritime perspective of the silhouette of the world. Unprecedented discoveries emerged near and far, germinating slowly and blossoming into ideas diverging from the past. It was a time of amazements and filled with profound changes, as French historian Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) called it, “the long 16th century.

This exhibition unfolds with a maritime beginning, where precious artworks from the National Palace Museum as well as major institutions both domestic and abroad converge to recount the stories of cultural encounters and fusion through voyages of the 16th century. Divided into three sections, the exhibition opens with The Maritime Era, in which objects such as nautical maps, silver coins and porcelains recovered from shipwrecks lay out a backdrop across the sea where Europe and Asia crossed paths and inspirations were roused. The Chance Encounter tracks the movement, interaction and rivalry among peoples from all corners of the world through literature, archives, goods and plant species. Taiwan, as a hub of convergence, also started making her presence on the world map at this time. Lastly, Emerging Intercultural Expression highlights items such as paintings, objects and maps as an exploration of the ample exchanges in art, knowledge and culture, while also delving into the new concept of being “global.”

Publication: Boundless: A Maritime Perspective of East-West Cultural Exchange in the 16th Century

Exhibit List:「Boundless: A Maritime Perspective of East-West Cultural Exchange in the 16th Century」