Move to Main Content
Mobile Menu Button

National Palace Museum launches “Splendors of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and Rare Books from the Ming and Qing Imperial Libraries” – a special exhibition of treasured collections from East and West

Release date:2023-03-10
News Room

From March 11 through July 16, 2023, “Splendors of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and Rare Books from the Ming and Qing Imperial Libraries” will be on view at the National Palace Museum. This special exhibition marks the Museum’s long-anticipated resumption of large-scale international loan exhibits as national borders reopen and international exchanges renew; it is the first time that a joint display of antiquarian texts from the collections of China’s imperial palace and the Holy See will present the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of human civilizations while showcasing treasured manuscripts as artistic creations.

volving contemporaneously, the respective holdings of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the Ming and Qing imperial libraries are considerable in quantity as well as quality. Established in the mid-15th century, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is the library of the popes and has held prestige as “Memory of Mankind,” and “Attic of Civilization.” The Ming and Qing courts amassed important documents and manuscripts, culminating in an unprecedented era of prosperity in the history of China’s imperial libraries. This special exhibition is a venue for magnificent Eastern and Western treasures to mirror each other, providing visitors with the opportunity to compare and contrast the collection cultures of the Holy See and China’s imperial court.

“Splendors of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana”: a universal library that includes literature, history, art, science, and other disciplines

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is a comprehensive archive with holdings that span over 2,500 years and include rare manuscripts, ancient and modern prints, 16th and 17th century books, coins, and commemorative medals. According to the Lending Rules of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, typically three to five items may be loaned for external exhibition. The 42 original artifacts loaned to the National Palace Museum on this occasion, along with 31 image reproductions, represent a gracious and most commendable gesture.

Among the precious exhibits are: a 15th century transcript of Ab Urbe Condita (History of Rome) by the Roman historian Titus Livius—this elegant volume features intricate depictions of allegorical characters, the supernatural virtues Faith, Hope, and Love (Charity) personified, and floral decorations; a 15th century Latin translation of Geographia (Geography) by Claudius Ptolemaeus that demonstrates the Renaissance era’s rediscovery of Ptolemy’s work using mathematical methods to characterize the known world; a finely illustrated 15th century bilingual transcript of Homer’s The Iliad in the original Greek and Latin—not to be missed by literary aficionados.

“Rare Books from the Ming and Qing Imperial Libraries”: cultural enterprises in ancient China to construct knowledge systems

Exploring scholarly resources and promoting cultural construction are among the governing priorities and political accomplishments of successful emperors throughout China’s history. For this special exhibition, the National Palace Museum selected the most prized representatives from its Ming and Qing imperial collections of books and documents, arranged into four categories: “Scholarly Orthodoxies” introduces the officially sanctioned mainstream academic structures forming the foundations of the Ming and Qing cultural enterprises; “Treasures from the Imperial Libraries” focuses on the Qing emperors’ approaches as well as contributions both to collecting and preserving ancient books; “The Splendor of Court Editions” provides a comprehensive overview of the abundant achievements by the Ming and Qing in compiling and producing numerous types of books and publications; “Spiritual Reflection” presents samples of the National Palace Museum’s highly distinctive collection of religious texts.

“Splendors of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and Rare Books from the Ming and Qing Imperial Libraries” Special Exhibition
Dates: March 11 - July 16, 2023
Venue: Galleries 103, 104, Main Building, National Palace Museum

For press-related issues please contact:

Emily Wang 02-2881-2021#68991
Yang Wanyu 02-2881-2021#68900
Last Updated:2023-03-10