The title of this special exhibition comes from the Chinese term "wei haowu," which can be translated as "spurious finery" and derives originally from the great Northern Song artist and collector Mi Fu (1052-1107) in his critique of a calligraphic work entitled "Classic of the Yellow Court" attributed to Zhong You (151-230). At the time, Mi believed that, even though the work was a tracing copy from the Tang dynasty (618-907), the imitation was of such exceptional quality as to merit the use of "spurious finery" to describe and affirm its high artistic value.
With this in mind, the exhibition here uses "fineries of forgery" to discuss fake but fine works of painting and calligraphy produced in the sixteenth to eighteenth century and related to Suzhou styles as well as their influence. These forgeries that had been provided with the names of famous masters from the Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties are, regardless of quality, traditionally lumped together under the label of "Suzhou pian," or "Suzhou fakes." Thus relegated to the category of forgeries, many of these works now in public and private collections have been subsequently neglected for quite some time.
Nevertheless, the large numbers of and wide range of subjects in "Suzhou fakes" serve as apt reminders of the "craze for antiquities" that spread in the late Ming and early Qing period along with the rise of painting and calligraphy as consumer items. The "fineries of forgery" from the late Ming and early Qing in the collection of the National Palace Museum demonstrate how commercial workshops at the time proceeded to reproduce works in the name of ancient masters and to employ the styles of such renowned Suzhou artists as Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), Tang Yin (1470-1524), and Qiu Ying (ca. 1494-1552) to meet the demands of consumers for this fashion. As such, these works fed into the vivid imagination of a public seeking famous literary allusions and popular auspicious themes in art, resulting in numerous "hot" products, such as "Up the River During Qingming" and "Shanglin Park," appearing on the market.
"Suzhou fakes," though originally made in commercial workshops, had the advantages of mass production and wide circulation, features that should not be overlooked. As a result, they actually are a vital medium for studying the dissemination of information, imagining of antiquity, and construction of knowledge starting from the middle Ming dynasty. "Suzhou fakes" even later managed to successfully enter the imperial collection of the following Qing dynasty. Having a direct impact on the formation of the Qing court academic style, these "fineries of forgery" came to play an important role in the development of later Chinese painting that has previously gone mostly unnoticed.
In this special exhibition catalogue, a "pull-down page" design is adopted to showcase a Yuan dynasty artist's Hunting in the Imperial Forest as well as Qiu Ying's One Hundred Beauties and The Shang-lin Imperial Park, allowing readers to embrace the charm of "Suzhou fakes."