‘The Miraculous History of China’s Two Palace Museums’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

In late 1948 and early 1949, toward the end of the Chinese civil war, Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek transported across the Taiwan Strait hundreds of thousands of valuable Chinese artifacts which are now stored in Taipei’s National Palace Museum. Along with its Palace Museum counterpart in Beijing – more famous as the Forbidden City – the museums serve as one of the most poignant reminders of the division of China.

Beijing’s Palace Museum, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in October, was established shortly after the last Chinese emperor, Pu Yi, was forced from his palace, where he had been allowed to stay even after the Chinese republic was founded in 1911.

Intellectuals at the time wanted to set up a Chinese museum along the lines of the great museums in Europe.

Today, millions visit both museums each year, crowding around artifacts such as the Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-Shaped Stone in Taipei.

Among the visitors are huge tour groups of mainland Chinese tourists, as the Taipei government continues to liberalize travel policies for its neighbor amid a broader detente.

This week, a branch of the National Palace Museum housing exhibits from around Asia was inaugurated in the southern Taiwanese city of Chiayi.

In his book “The Miraculous History of China’s Two Palace Museums,” Hong Kong-based writer Mark O’Neill details the treacherous history of how some of China’s most precious artifacts were rescued from the invading Japanese imperial army in the 1930s and later transported to Taiwan, and the powerful symbolism of the museums.

Source: Writing China: Mark O’Neill, ‘The Miraculous History of China’s Two Palace Museums’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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