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Particular Tastes on Flower, Incense, Painting, and Tea
The NPM Special Exhibition Reveals the ‘Sense of Rituals’ that Ignited the Enthusiasm of the Song People

Release date:2022-09-16
News Room

As the season steps into Autumn, waving farewell to the summery heat; now is the perfect time for exhibition visits. The National Palace Museum Northern Branch launches the special exhibition “Four Leisure Activities- Arranging Flowers, Burning Incense, Hanging Paintings, Tasting Tea” from the 16th of September to the 18th of December, collaborating with the National Central Library, the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka and the Ryoko-in Sanctuary in the Daitoku-ji Temple from Kyoto. Together we join forces to showcase the 102 sets of artworks in total. Furthermore, two outstanding loans of Japanese National Treasure from the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka are granting their first foreign debut; this rare opportunity allows the public to appreciate exquisite art from Japan without travelling aboard.

The NPM stated that this exhibition focuses on disclosing how the people around the 12th century devoted their efforts to flower arranging, incense burning, painting hanging and tea tasting. The flower arrangement from the Song period was incredibly particular about coordinating chosen blossoms and vessels. The scent of incense was not merely for pleasure, and they further pursued the bespoke scent of exclusiveness. The hanging paintings served beyond just adorning the residential environment; more importantly, creating an elegant space to indulge oneself in. The friendly gathering with more attendants was greeted by a tea ceremony led by the performance of ‘diancha (whisking tea)’. At the same time, fewer members or drinking alone will be more suitable to do a more traditional ‘jiancha (brewing tea)’ to demonstrate gracefulness, as the ‘sense of rituals’ that is highly sought after by modern people to enrich ordinary life.

The Alluring Duo of Black-glazed Tea bowl from Taiwan and Japan: The Celestial Glamour vs. The Ethereal Tranquillity.

The focal point of the exhibition is the joint appearance of a black-glazed tea bowl from Taiwan and Japan. The National Treasure “Tea Bowl with Silvery Spots against Tenmoku glaze, Jian ware, Southern Song” collected by the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka has made its first foreign debut! The surface is entirely adorned with sparkling spots in gold, silver and cobalt blue colours, just as the magnificent stars and galaxies from the universe had landed on the glaze; this is the ultimate representation of the extant tea bowl in oil-spot Tenmoku glaze.

The “Bowl with Leaf Pattern on a Black Ground, Jizhou ware, Southern Song” collected by the NPM achieved its splendour by placing a mulberry leaf dipped with yellow glaze onto the bowl covered in black, and fired in the kiln at once. As the leaf vanished from the high heat, then the yellowish-brown pattern of a leaf remained on the bowl; the impeccable natural excellence demonstrates the serene aesthetic that includes the quality of Zen. Even though the two tea bowls are both in colour black, they each exemplifies the two distinct aesthetics of ‘celestial glamour’ and ‘ethereal tranquillity’ in contrary difference; the event manifests the engagement of two extreme beauties!

The Song People Are Also Fond of the ‘Baby Fragrance’? The Grand Disclosure of Secret Formula

The following highlight is the grand disclosure of infant scent's secret formula! The fragrance of incense mesmerized the Song people; The renowned calligrapher in the Northern Song dynasty Huang Tingjian claimed that he had an ‘obsession with scents’ and was an honest ‘addict of fragrance’. The “Baby Fragrance Formula, written by Huang Tiingjian, Song dynasty”, from the collection of the NPM, documented the production of the infant scent. The process began with grinding the mixed spices of jiaochen (the prime agarwood from Hainan in southern China), clove, borneol, and musk, blending with honey and boiling in high heat; finally completed after cooling in the shade for one month. The “New Edition of the Incense Catalogue (Xinzuan Xiangpu)” by Chen Jing from the Southern Song dynasty, in the collection of the National Central Library, also stated this ‘baby fragrance’ formula. However, the spice ingredients are slightly different from the version of Huang Tingjian. Nevertheless, it is believed that the fragrance shares similarity to the smell of infants, hinted with the elegant scent of plum blossoms; the musk in the formula provides the purpose of lifting spirits and clearing thoughts.

Moreover, The Song people were keen on creating serendipity in daily life. The exhibition showcases the Japanese National Treasure that travels aboard for the first time- the “Bottle with Iron Brown Spots against Celadon Glaza, Longquan ware, Yuan dynasty" collected by the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka and the “Long-necked Vase with Incised Lotus Decoration in White Glaze, Ding ware, Northern Song” from the NPM's collection. The two exhibits encourage the audience to imagine a few seasonal flowers in the lustrous porcelain vases, adorning the tidy studio with gracefulness. To echo the fondness for plum blossoms of the Song people, the National Treasure of the NPM- “Chimonanthus and Birds, Song Huizong” steps into the spotlight. The painting has a limited display period of 42 days, and the image depicts a pair of Chinese bulbuls resting on the plum branch; the poem and inscription in the ‘slender-gold script’ written by Huizong sit on the lower section of the painting. The effortless composition demonstrates a poetic elegance, which gilds this painting as a masterpiece that excels in poetry, calligraphy, and painting.

The NPM anticipates your visit in this Autumn season, learning the ‘sense of rituals’ from the Song people as we step into the ancient world of arranging flowers, burning incense, hanging paintings, and tasting tea, hoping to enrich your common days with a moment of happiness.


Special exhibition information

“Four Leisure Activities- Arranging Flowers, Burning Incense, Hanging Paintings, Tasting Tea”
Location:National Palace Museum Northern Branch, Main Exhibition Hall, Galleries 105


National Palace Museum PR contact:
Emily Wang 02-2881-2021#68991
Wanyu Yang 02-2881-2021#68900

Last Updated:2022-09-16