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Beijing, Taipei museums host joint exhibition

Artifacts from Beijing's Palace Museum and Taipei's "National Palace Museum" are on course to be displayed together after nearly six decades of separation.


The 43-year-old Taipei museum, which has 650,000 pieces of antiques moved from the Palace Museum in 1948 and 1949, and the Palace Museum in Beijing - better known as the Forbidden City - which houses over 1 million items - have never exchanged collections for exhibition.


But with cross-Straits ties getting warmer, some describe the planned joint exhibition as a meeting of long-lost twins.


Hsu Hsiao-te, head of the Cultural Arts Fund at Taiwan's "National Palace Museum" said his museum is planning to stage a joint exhibition of top antiques in conjunction with the Forbidden City in three to five years.


"I surely hope a joint exhibition of the twin museums takes place as soon as possible," said Hsu, who was attending a four-day cultural industry expo in Beijing on Friday.


"It has been an aspiration of generations of our museum directors," he said, adding such an exhibition can be held after certain legal procedures have been completed.

A joint display could bring treasures, such as a rare set of three calligraphy works, together for the first time since 1949. Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911) had collected the set of three but they are no longer together: Two are in Beijing while the third is in Taipei.


Museum officials from both sides met behind the high walls of the Forbidden City last Wednesday to discuss the joint exhibition, and agreed that the display will be under the title "The Palace Museum".


In a gesture of friendship, Li Wenru, vice-curator of the 83-year-old Beijing museum, agreed to lend Taipei 500 pages of a rare Buddhism lection that it was missing, along with some antique items.


The last time there was any sharing across the Straits was in 1996 when the two museums jointly published a catalogue of their top collections.


Taipei is reluctant to transfer antiques to Beijing because the mainland's laws do not have a "free of capture and seizure" clause for antiques. This means the mainland may seize Chinese antiques from elsewhere while these are on display on the mainland.


But Liang Jinsheng, the 60-year-old director of the collections management department of the Palace Museum in Beijing, dismissed the concerns. "We will not capture any antiques from Taipei. Both of us together make the whole Palace Museum."


"The twins are like two peas in one pod and are complementary," said Liang.


(China Daily December 22, 2008)