02/08/2007, 00.00
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National Museum reopens, spanning 7,000 years of Chinese history

The new premises have been restructured. The museum possesses more than 650,000 selected works of art that were collected by emperors and brought to Taiwan by the nationalists in 1948-49. Videos and computers help visitors understand the exhibits better.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The National Palace Museum of Taiwan reopens today after being closed for three years for reconstruction. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Chinese history and art. The new premises boast more exhibition space and caffés and restaurants in the traditional Chinese style.

Museum director Lin Mun-lee said the museum was closed in 2003 for reconstruction works that cost around 21,190 US dollars, to make it more accessible to visitors. Written and computer generated explanations now allow for a better understanding of exhibited works. Animation videos and automatic teller machines hold the interest of younger viewers: the famous “jadeite cabbage”, a white and green jade block carved into the shape of Chinese cabbage, becomes an animated creature that captures the attention of teenagers. Even the famous mao-kung ting bronze vase of the Zhou Dynasty (872 BC) becomes a cartoon character. The Museum also has a website  (http://www.npm.gov.tw/en/home.htm) with information about some 650,000 items of the collection while the site (www.npmeshop.com) allows people to buy online reproductions and products inspired by the works of art.

Beijing had protested back in January when a collection of artifacts from “ancient China” was entitled artifacts "at home and abroad". Lin said this had nothing to do with changing the past but was just intended to give the museum a more modern character. The collection was brought to Taiwan between 1948 and 1949 by the nationalists of Kuomintang to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Communists. Taiwan has long feared that Beijing may reclaim the collection, perhaps by taking the matter to an international court. But Lin believes it was a blessing that the collection was brought to Taiwan during the civil war. “It allowed it to be free from being vandalised during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s," she said. There is a project to set up a new branch in the southern part of the island and Lin rejected accusations that this was another attempt to deny the Chinese identity of the collection. “"We have a collection of more than 650,000 artefacts, but only around 3,000 are able to be put on display. The rest have to be placed in storage," she said. "This is why we want to set up the southern branch to display the Asian-themed works."

Most of the collection was gathered by Chinese emperors who used to keep the treasures for their pleasure alone. The Museum was set up in China in 1925 after Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, was chased out of the Forbidden City in 1924. The collection spans 7,000 years of history, from the Neolithic period to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). It was moved to Shanghai in 1931 and to Nanjing in 1936 for fear of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. During the second world war, the collection was moved to Sichuan from where it returned to Nanjing in 1946. The nationalists took 654,500 selected pieces to Taiwan in 1949. The collection was exhibited in 1957 but the National Museum was opened later in 1965.

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