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Brief Chronology

The National Palace Museum (NPM) houses a collection of ancient Chinese artifacts, some of which came from The Palace Museum and the preparatory department of the Nanjing Museum (previously the "National Central Museum"); those that came from The Palace Museum originated from the Qing Court, and those that came from the preparatory department of the Nanjing Museum primarily originated from the Institute for Exhibiting Antiquities, which was previously owned by the Jehol and Shenyang temporary palaces. This signifies that the NPM's current artifact collection contains Qing court artifacts from The Palace Museum, the Jehol temporary palace, and the Shenyang temporary palace.

The World as One Community and the Building of the National Palace Museum

The NPM's artifact collection comprised that inherited from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing courts. The development of the NPM was closely tied with modern Chinese history: in late Oct. 1924, General Feng Yuxiang (1882–1948) launched the Beijing coup. On Nov. 4, regent Prime Minister Huang Fu passed the "Revision to the Conditions of Special Treatment of the Qing Royal Family" in a cabinet meeting, requesting that Emperor Puyi (1906–1967) eternally abolish the appellation of an emperor and that the Qing royal family leave the palace in one day. On the next day, Commissioner of Police Zhangbi and National Representative Li Yuying (1881–1973), accompanied by Gyeonggi Guard Commander Lu Zhonglin (1884–1966), visited the emperor's bedroom at the back of the Forbidden City and urged that the emperor abolish his appellation, surrender the Heirloom Seal of the Realm, and leave his palace. On Nov. 6, the Council of State established the Committee for the Disposition of the Qing Imperial Possessions, appointing Li Yuying as the chairman to check all Qing court artifacts with the assistance from Qing court-related professionals. To satisfy the public's wish to witness the magnificence of the NPM, the Committee for the Disposition of the Qing Imperial Possessions announced the "Provisional Guidelines for Visiting the National Palace Museum" on Apr. 12, 1925, opening the Imperial Garden, the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, the Hall of Union, the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Palace of Great Virtue, the Palace of Brightness and Benevolence, the South Study Room, and the Upper Study Room (now the Central Road of the Shenyang Palace Museum) to the public to visit between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. On Sept. 29, the Committee for the Disposition of the Qing Imperial Possessions reached the resolution to emulate French and German royal museums by founding the NPM. The opening ceremony was held in the afternoon of Oct. 10, the National Day of the Republic of China.

On Oct. 10, 1925, the NPM was officially founded. Five visiting routes were opened to the public, enabling precious artifacts originally made for royal families to view to be shared with the public. Initial construction of the NPM was challenged by constant domestic political instability and military regime changes. Fortunately, culturalists such as Zhuang Yunkuan (1866–1932), Jiang Han (1857–1935), and Chen Yuan (1880–1971) organized a vigilance committee to mediate between various warlords to prevent the Beiyang Army from interfering the museum's operations, enabling the NPM to undergo subsequent developments. In June 1928, the Nationalist government successfully completed the Northern Expedition and gained management control of the NPM. The NPM subsequently announced the National Palace Museum Organization Act, stipulating that the NPM be a subsidiary of the Nationalist government. Yi Peiji (1880-1937) was appointed the director of the NPM. During Director Yi's time in office, he effectively developed the NPM in the areas of organizational structure, artifact conservation, artifact organization, building renovation, exhibition display, and publication, leading to the zenith of NPM operation.

Protection and Spread of National Treasures

In 1931, the Japanese Kwantung Army launched the Mukden Incident; the said army successfully invaded northeastern China, posing serious threat to the Pingjin region. The NPM took serious precautions by carefully selecting a collection of the most precious artifacts and placing them in various containers to prepare for possible artifact relocation. In early 1933, the Japanese army advanced towards Yuguan and seriously threatened the city of Beiping. The NPM Council thus held an emergency meeting and subsequently decided to move the artifacts southward to Hushang (modern-day Shanghai). On Feb. 6, NPM artifacts, packed in 13,427 containers and 64 packages, were divided into five batches and shipped to Hushang as scheduled. All of the artifacts arrived the destination on May 23. During the artifact relocation process, artifacts from other organizations such as the Institute for Exhibiting Antiquities, the Academia Sinica, the Summer Palace, the Ministry of the Interior, the Guozijian, and the Temple of Agriculture, which totaled 6,194 containers and eight packages, were shipped together with NPM's artifacts. In Feb. 1934, the Nationalist government announced the "Interim National Beiping Palace Museum Organization Regulations," designating NPM and the NPM Council as subsidiaries of the Executive Yuan. In May of the same year, Ma Heng (1881–1955) was appointed the director of the NPM, who subsequently began checking and conserving NPM artifacts. In 1935, the NPM received an invitation from the International Exhibition of Chinese Art held in London, U.K., which the NPM accepted to showcase its treasured artifacts; the event garnered enthusiastic responses. In Dec. 1936, the Chaotian Palace and the NPM Branch library were built; artifacts were thus moved from Shanghai back to Nanjing and stored at the palace.

In 1937, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident took place, forcing the NPM to once again relocate its artifacts in three batches to three separate locations away from the battle areas; the first batch (shipped via a southern route) consisted of 80 containers of artifacts that passed through the regions of Hankou, Wuchang, Changsha, Guilin, Guiyang, and Baxian (Sichuan); the second batch (shipped via a central route) included 9,331 containers of artifacts that travelled through the regions of Hankou, Yichang, Chongqing, Yibin and Leshan; the third batch (shipped via a northern rote) comprised 7,287 containers of artifacts that journeyed over Xuzhou, gueZhengzhou,  Xi'an, Baoji, Hanzhong, Chengdu, and Emei. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the NPM vigorously protected its artifacts while participating in a number of domestic and international exhibitions. In early 1940, the NPM selected a hundred artifacts from the "first batch" (those that were shipped via the southern route; the artifacts comprised paintings, silk tapestries, jades, and bronzes) to participate in the Chinese Art Exhibition held in Moscow and Leningrad, USSR. In late 1942, the NPM participated in the 3rd National Art Exhibition held at the Chongqing Branch of the National Central Library. To encourage public morale during the war, NPM Director Ma Heng hosted the National Beiping Palace Museum Painting Exhibition at the Chongqing Branch of the National Central Library and the Guizhou Provincial Museum of Art from Dec. 1943 to Apr. 1944, displaying painting and calligraphy masterpieces selected from the first batch.

After winning the war, the NPM artifacts previously relocated to the west were shipped back in the following order: first batch, third batch, and second batch. The three batches were gathered first in Chongqing before they were returned back to Beijing by means of sea transport. The artifacts were returned back in full in by yearend 1947. To thank the people for their kind assistance in conserving the cultural artifacts during this period, the NPM hosted an exhibition at the Chung Cheng Park Civil Education Museum in Chengdu in yearend 1946, displaying ancient painting and calligraphy masterpieces housed in the Leshan Office; the exhibition was referred to as "one of the major events in Taiwan's cultural history after the Second Sino-Japanese War."

Similarly, the Preparatory Department of the National Central Museum (hereafter referred to as the "Preparatory Department") was also relocated to Basu (more commonly known as Sichuan) to avoid the Japanese attack during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Concerning the National Central Museum, it was founded by the Ministry of Education in Nanjing in 1933 upon the approval of the Executive Yuan. Fu Sinian (1896-1950), director of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, was appointed the head of the Preparatory Department. The Preparatory Department's artifact collection primarily comprised artifacts allocated to the Institute for Exhibiting Antiquities (of the Ministry of the Interior) following the resolution made by the Central Political Council during its 377th meeting. In yearend 1937, the Preparatory Department was ordered to relocate westward together with the NPM's "second batch" of artifacts (i.e., those that were shipped via a central route), in which the Preparatory Department first arrived Hankou by means of sea transport; the said department was once again relocated during the following year and a new office was set in the new city. Concurrently, the Preparatory Department borrowed land from the Chongqing University to build a temporary warehouse with the Academia Sinica in Shapingba. In May 1939, the Preparatory Department received an approval to relocate its office to Kunming; thus, it accompanied the NPM's second batch of artifacts to Leshan, Sichuan. In the summer of 1940, the Preparatory Department received an order to move farther away from the battle zones, in which it relocated once again to Lizhuang, Nanxi, Sichuan together with the Institute of History and Philology and the Academia Sinica.

When Japan announced its unconditional surrender in Aug. 1945, the Preparatory Department immediately prepared its demobilization. Operations to ship artifacts stored in Lizhuang and Leshan subsequently began; they were completed in Dec. 1947. In May 1948, the Preparatory Department hosted a grand joint exhibition with the NPM to celebrate the completion of the Humanities Building.

Treasures Shipped to Taiwan, Museums Built and Renovated

In fall 1948, the Communist Party of China began gaining an upper hand in the Chinese Communist Revolution. On Nov. 10, 1948, NPM's Executive Director Chu Chia-hua (1893–1963), Wang Shi-jie (1891–1981), Fu Sinian, Xu Hong-bao (1881–1971), Li Ji (1896–1979), and Hang Li-wu (1903–1991) gathered at the home of Director Weng Wen-hao (1889–1971), advocating that artifact masterpieces be shipped to Taiwan. Executive Director Chu also suggested that rare books in the collection of the National Central Library be transported to Taiwan, whereas Fu Sinian proposed that archaeological artifacts in the collection of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica be sent to Taiwan. In early Dec., 1948, the National Central Museum Council passed a meeting, stipulating that the most precious artifact be transported to Taiwan and the remaining artifacts be shipped to Taiwan whenever possible. On Dec. 21, 1948, the NPM and Preparatory Department artifacts, stored in 320 and 212 containers, respectively, were transported to Keelung via a naval ship. Other cargos found on the naval ships included artifacts, books, and treaties (packed in 240 containers) of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, the National Central Library, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On Jan. 6, 1949, the second group or artifacts, which included NPM artifacts (1,680 containers), Preparatory Department artifacts (486 containers), and artifacts, books, and maps of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, the National Central Library, and the Beiping Library (1,336 containers), were sent by a merchant ship. On Jan. 30, 1949, the third group of artifacts, which contained NPM artifacts (972 containers), Preparatory Department artifacts (154 containers), and National Central Library artifacts (122 containers), were shipped by a naval ship.

After the containers arrived Taiwan, all the artifacts, except for those from the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, were stored at the warehouse of the Taichung Sugar Factory, the Taiwan Sugar Corporation; artifacts of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica were kept in Yangmei. In Aug. 1949, the Executive Yuan temporarily combined the NPM, the Preparatory Department, and the National Central Library into one unit in response to the war environment at the time; the unit was named the National Central Museum Library Joint Management Office (hereafter referred to as the "Joint Management Office"), which was supervised by the Ministry of Education. In Apr. 1950, the artifact storehouse designed by the Joint Management Office in Beigou, Wufeng, Taichung was completed and all of the artifacts transported to Taiwan were moved to the said location. In May 1950, the Executive Yuan reorganized the NPM and the Preparatory Department Council to form a Mutual Council; the said council was responsible for managing the two units. In Mar. 1953, the Joint Management Office constructed a small cave in a mountain near the Beigou Storehouse so that the most precious artifacts could be immediately stored at times of an emergency. In Sept. 1954, the inspection and inventorization of all the artifacts sent to Taiwan were completed. Although the artifacts were delivered at a time of war and via various means of transport (i.e., by sea and on land), they sustained only minimal damages. In Dec. 1956, the Beigou Gallery was completed and opened for visit in Mar. 1957. Concurrently, the Joint Management Office began issuing various publications including general and picture catalogues, which remain important reference materials in the study of Chinese art history today.

In May, 1961, the Joint Management Office was invited to the Chinese Art Treasures exhibition held in the United States. The Joint Management Office accepted the said invitation and held the exhibition for more than a year, winning the acclaim and admiration of the American public. Realizing that the location of Beigou was too isolated to draw domestic and foreign visitors, the Taiwanese government soon decided to build a new museum at Waishuanghsi, a suburb in Taipei. In Aug. 1965, construction of the NPM building was completed; the Executive Yuan began moving Preparatory Department artifacts into the NPM and announced the "Provisional Organization Regulations of the National Palace Museum Management Committee," designating the management committee as a subsidiary of the Executive Yuan. Wang Yun-wu (1888–1979) was appointed as the chairman of the first management committee, whereas Jiang Fucong (1898–1990) was appointed as the NPM director. On Nov. 12, 1965, the new NPM in Taipei opened internally, in which 1,573 artifacts including calligraphy, famous paintings, bronzes, tapestries, porcelains, jades, curios, rare books, and historical documents were exhibited in six separate galleries and eight different art galleries. On Nov. 13, 1965, the NPM was officially opened to the public.

Inheriting the Past and Ushering in the Future, Bringing the National Palace Museum to the International Stage

When the Joint Management Office was located in Taichung, the NPM and the Preparatory Department engaged, for the most part, only in cataloguing and conserving artifacts due to limited buildings, personnel, and funding as well as poor museum business. The completion of the new NPM building in Waishuanghsi, Taipei and the merger of the NPM and the Preparatory Department facilitated the expansion of museum buildings and increased funding for personnel expenses, enabling the NPM the organize and curate exhibitions. The NPM thus gradually improved and developed.

Under Director Jiang Fucong's guidance, the NPM engaged in the following activities in an attempt to become a more complete museum: (1) underwent repeated building and staff expansions to increase exhibition areas and strengthen organizational structure; (2) accepted lent or donated artifacts from domestic and foreign collectors including antiquities, paintings and calligraphy, and rare books to make the NPM collection more complete; (3) catalogued artifacts into different categories and numbered them using a unified system to facilitate artifact collection management and artifact display; (4) renovated artifact storage space to engender favorable storage environment; (5) conducted research and research-related verifications before hosting systematic, regular themed exhibitions; (6) provided tour-based professional training to museum personnel to ensure that they fully understood the origin, history, and related anecdotes of various artifacts in order to facilitate the spread of national culture; (7) arranged free visits for elementary and junior high school students to allow cultural art-oriented knowledge to grow in the students' mind; (8) planned and curated refined artifact traveling exhibitions around Taiwan to fulfill the duties of museums in providing social education; (9) sent museum personnel abroad for advanced studies to develop professional museum workers; (10) worked with universities to perform systematic appraisals of NPM artifacts using scientific methods; (11) promoted international museum and academic exchanges and pushed museum personnel to organize their research results; and (12) published various periodicals and catalogues to facilitate the spread of artifact information. In summary, the NPM engaged in expansion and development efforts in a variety of areas, which enabled it to evolve into a modern museum.

In 1983, Qin Xiao-yi (1921–2007) was appointed as the director of the NPM. To enable the NPM to develop and expand, the NPM engaged the following endeavors: (1) changed from a provisional institution to a subsidiary of the Executive Yuan to create an organizational system that better met its development needs; (2) upgraded hardware systems to create exhibition and display areas featuring constant temperature and humidity; (3) updated scientific equipment to produce the most advanced equipment for preserving historical artifacts; (4) compiled annual budgets for artifact purchases and collected artifacts from various sectors to allow the NPM to possess other artifacts in addition to those passed down from the imperial courts; (5) promoted professional research and examined artifact origins to strengthen Chinese art research; (6) realized the museum's function as a social education center by holding regular artifact-learning seminars and considering the needs of young children as well as low to mid-level elementary school students; (7) recruited domestic and foreign volunteers and provided training to the volunteers in the area of artifact touring-related professional services; (8) built and renovated gardens to accord with the concept of traditional gardens to provide the public with the optimal location for leisure activities; (9) engaged in the second artifact inventorization after NPM's relocation to Taiwan to ensure and display the integrity of NPM's artifact collection; (10) underwent the fourth museum expansion, allowing the NPM Library Building to become both a research center and a diversified exhibition gallery; (11) vigorously engaged in international art exchanges to overcome obstacles in international cultural cooperation after Taiwan's departure from the United Nations (e.g., the NPM curated exhibitions in France and the United States, setting great examples for international loan exhibitions to follow); (12) cohosted exhibitions with private Taiwanese artifact collectors to encourage the public to collect ancient art; (13) imported unearthed artifacts from China as well as those from the West to expand the horizons of Taiwanese people; (14) held out-of-NPM artifact exhibitions to provide people living in remote areas an opportunity to see NPM artifacts; and (15) employed digital technologies, developed artifact collection management systems, and issued e-multimedia publications to disseminate artifact and exhibition information through the Internet.

Under the guidance of NPM Directors Tu Cheng-sheng (1944–), Shih Shou-chien (1951–), and Lin Mun-lee from May 2000 to 2008, the NPM made further progress, which is listed as follows: (1) raised local consciousness, in which exhibitions were introduced to the public through various education and public outreach activities; (2) made improvements in NPM Main Building public space, exhibition flow, and surrounding environments as well as completed NPM Main Building seismic resistance and reinforcement projects; (3) selected artifact masterpieces to be used in loan exhibitions held in Germany and Austria to promote Chinese culture and the beauty of Chinese art; (4) planned the building of the NPM Southern Branch to facilitate a balance in cultural artifacts in Northern and Southern Taiwan; (5) began collecting Asian artifacts and working with foreign research institutions to promote cultural studies of various Asian countries, forming the foundation of artifact collection and display for the NPM Southern Branch; (6) engaged in NPM artifact image brand licensing-related operations to encourage the domestic and foreign design industries to combine traditional art elements to NPM artifacts to create cultural and creative merchandise; and (7) helped promote cultural creativity-related developments to give artifacts fashionable looks and new cultural values.

In May 2008, Chou Kung-shin (1947–), director of the Graduate Institute of Museum Studies of Fu Jen Catholic University, was appointed as the director of the NPM. Chou introduced the concepts of "forming new vitality for the collection, creating new value for the museum" as NPM's development directions. Under her leadership, the NPM made the following achievements: (1) underwent organizational transformation to facilitate NPM development and meet relevant functional requirements as a museum; (2) engaged in cross-strait museum collaborations, in which consensuses were reached, exchanges were made, and regular contacts were established between the NPM and Chinese museums; (3) underwent the third artifact inventorization after NPM's relocation to Taiwan to ensure the integrity of NPM's artifact collection; (4) organized a series of development and training-oriented study camps to expand Taiwan's cultural and creative industry, in which art and artifacts were combined with the elements of aesthetics, lifestyle, and design and innovation; (5) overcame obstacles to facilitate the construction of the NPM Southern Branch; (6) designed educational activities for visitors of all groups and ages according to their knowledge and learning abilities; (7) hosted various cultural education events and art performances using NPM facilities; and (8) planned the Grand National Palace Museum Expansion Project and cultural and creative industry parks in an effort to upgrade NPM software and hardware facilities and fulfill the functions of the NPM (i.e., artifact collection, research, preservation, exhibition, education, and entertainment) as a modern museum. In September 2012, Fung Ming-chu (1950–) succeeded Chou Kung-shin as the director of the NPM. Director Fung continued the efforts of Ex-Director Chou and made the following accomplishments: (1) utilized digital archiving technologies to enhance artifact display and educational promotion; (2) developed artifact appreciation and application software by combining mobile communication with Internet technologies, bringing NPM artifacts into people's lives; (3) strengthened the interactions and exchanges between museums across the straits, facilitating cooperative exhibitions and publications; (4) hosted travelling exhibitions in Japan to showcase the elegance and ancient styles of Chinese art and culture; (5) extended museum opening hours and improved visitor reception areas, resulting in NPM being praised by international media as one of the most popular museums in the world; (6) opened the NPM Southern Branch and curated 10 opening exhibitions; and (7) continued to plan and organize various Asian art and culture exhibitions using NPM's artifacts supplemented by artifacts from international museums around the world.

The NPM houses a wealth of artifacts made throughout Chinese history. They not only serve the purpose of verifying the legitimacy of Chinese history, but are also a treasure to the art and cultural histories of mankind. Bearing the responsibility of preserving and transmitting 7,000 years of Chinese artifacts and culture, the NPM continues to improve and upgrade its operations so that they can be successfully transmitted to future generations. In addition, the NPM is devoted to promoting the origin of Chinese traditions and elevating the art literacy of the public so that Chinese history and culture can be spread around the world.
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