Damage to Ceramics in the National Palace Museum Collection: The Museum Did Not Cover-Up Matters
During the Legislature's State of Affairs Forum on this 28th day of October, a member of the Legislature raised "The National Palace Museum broke a National Treasure, the Dragon-patterned Bowl; Senior Staff Ordered Silence" for discussion.
The National Palace Museum's explanation of the three damaged ceramic collection pieces is as follows:
- When members of the National Palace Museum Department of Antiquities Ceramics Division were putting some pieces from the collection in order on February 3, 2021 and April 7, 2022, they found that the Ming Dynasty Yellow and Green Bicolor Dragon-Patterned Bowl (from the reign of Hongzhi) and the Qing Dynasty Yellow Bowl with Dark Dragons on White Lining (from the reign of Kangxi) to have been damaged upon opening the objects' containers. On May 19, 2022, due to a lapse in care when working with the objects, a member of the Ceramics Division accidentally dropped and broke the Qing Dynasty Blue and White Floral Porcelain Plate (from the reign of Qianlong). All aforementioned museum staff immediately reported the incidents to the Museum Director, as per official procedure.
- Upon receiving notice of the incident pertaining to these three pieces, the Museum Director and Deputy Director (who was the acting director on the day of May 19, 2022) immediately charged the Civil Service Ethics Office with initiating an investigation into whether misconduct was involved. The Civil Service Ethics Office's investigations concluded that the damages discovered on February 3, 2021 and April 7, 2022 were not a result of negligence; whereas the incident from May 19, 2022 was clearly the result of a staff member's oversight. The entire matter has already been handed over to the performance appraisal committee; the penalization process is underway at the moment.
- Regarding the claim made by the legislator stating, "The Director of the National Palace Museum gave orders that the objects in question must not be handed over, that no record shall be left of the incident, that no inspection report shall be made prior to repairing the damaged pieces, specifically instructing the concerned parties to remain silent, that all documentation regarding the matter shall be handled with the highest level of confidentiality to prevent any evidence from surfacing…" – The National Palace Museum clarifies that absolutely no such concealment took place. Treating the investigation papers as classified documents was not malpractice; all documents were handled strictly according to prescribed procedure and, as such, there was no such need "to prevent any evidence from surfacing." Quite the contrary, it was precisely due to the need to preserve evidence of the incidents that during the investigation and objects' repair period, it was only a matter of course that general staff nor involved parties were permitted to arbitrarily pull, inspect, or relocate any one of the three pieces in question. Such procedures are not contingent upon the Director's orders, for the National Palace Museum follows established procedures when such matters arise.
- In accordance with the stipulations set forth in the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act, the three ceramics from this incident have been temporarily classified as general antiquities [as opposed to National Treasures]. The object that was damaged first, the Ming Dynasty Yellow and Green Bicolor Dragon-Patterned Bowl, is currently in the process of being repaired. The second piece that was damaged, the Qing Dynasty Yellow Bowl with Dark Dragons on White Lining, is awaiting repair by the restorer. The third piece, the Qing Dynasty Blue and White Floral Porcelain Plate, will be submitted to the repair process once investigations clarify who must be held responsible for its damage and the subsequent penalization process has concluded.