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National Palace Museum

The Dao of Book Protection: Special Exhibition on the Art of Traditional Chinese Book Binding and Decoration (in Chinese)

  • Chief Editor: Sung, Chao-lin and Lu,Sheue-Yann
  • ISBN: 978-957-562-702-1
  • Price: NT$1000
  • Binding: softcover
The term "book binding" in this exhibition refers to the mounting of paintings and calligraphies as well as the assembling of books from folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other materials. Before paper became the dominant carrier of texts and pictures at the end of the first century, books were inscribed on slips of bamboo or strips of wood, and executed on silk, the same medium on which paintings were rendered. Thus, not much difference was observed between book binding and picture-mounting, and both came mostly in rolled or folded forms. It was not until paper was used as the main writing medium that the appearance of books began to evolve. Assembling methods aimed to facilitate the ease of reading such as "nianye (pasted-leaves) binding," "fengkui (inner stitched) binding," "xuanfeng (whirlwind) binding," and "fanjia (Sanskrit) binding" emerged as required by the times. By the ninth century, the square-block woodcut printing technique had matured and was extensively applied in the production of books. Binding books from folded leaves then became the mainstream approach. Books and paintings have since grown to be more different in their physical appearance. The "hudie (butterfly) binding" commonly used during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties, the "baobei (wrapped-back) binding" embraced by the Ming (1368-1644) imperial court, and the "xian (stitched) binding" technique highly popular during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) had all derived from the unfurled, flat-sheet format.

The National Palace Museum is home to a collection of more than 210,000 volumes of rare and antiquarian books, of which about 140,000 were inherited from the Qing imperial court, and approximately 70,000 have been acquired over the past several decades since the founding of the Museum in the 1920s. In terms of binding and decorative styles, a substantial number of the Museum's antiquarian books were put together in bright-colored covers, made with fine materials, and produced with superb craftsmanship, manifesting the characteristics of books intended for Qing imperial libraries. Amongst the antiquarian books not originated from the Qing court, the Chinese titles exhibit an understated, archaic style, one that was appreciated by the scholar-literati circle. Those from foreign lands as Japan, Korea, and South Asia, on the other hand, were produced in a way that was illustrative of their respective traditional decorative features. As books in the Museum's collection were produced between the late tenth and the early twentieth centuries, a variety of book binding and decorative styles can be discerned, sufficing a display of the development of the art over the last ten millennia.

This exhibition is divided into four sections, which are "Binding, Mounting and Decorating," "Book Binding in Historical China," "Attaining the Uttermost Elegance," and "Keeping It Plain but Majestic." "Binding, Mounting and Decorating" gives an account of book binding and its derivative meanings in different times; "Book Binding in Historical China" explains the development of the various forms of book binding and decoration, beginning with the age of bamboo and wooden slips; "Attaining the Uttermost Elegance" presents bound-books of the Qing Imperial Libraries to showcase the delicate and sophisticated book-binding styles; and "Keeping It Plain but Majestic" introduces the private bibliophiles and their ideal of book binding, revealing the dao of book protection.
The Dao of Book Protection: Special Exhibition on the Art of Traditional Chinese Book Binding and Decoration
The Dao of Book Protection: Special Exhibition on the Art of Traditional Chinese Book Binding and Decoration