Almost as a new sequence shot for ‘Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain’, two mountains from ancient China have literally moved towards each other. From June 1st till September 25th, a historic reunion is taking place at Taipei’s Palace Museum. A 14th century Yuan Dynasty painting, ‘Dwelling In The Fuchun Mountains’ by the famed painter Huang Gongwang, torn into two in a fire in 1650, has come together for the first time after 360 years.
Created in 1350, this painting of unusual length, regarded as one of the greatest achievements of traditional Chinese landscape painting technique, vividly depicts an early autumn scene on the banks of the Fuchun River in Hangzhou. The right part, 51.4 cm long, is kept in the mainland’s Zhejiang Museum, while the left part, 636.9 cm long, is held in Taipei’s Palace Museum. Since the fateful fire, the two sections of this Chinese masterpiece were kept apart by greed, civil war and geopolitical gamesmanship.
Expert has ranked ‘Dwelling In The Fuchun Mountains’ among the 10 most important Chinese paintings. This impressionistic ink rendering has spawned numerous copies and forgeries. On most days, as many as 10,000 people line up to view the reunited scrolls in the Taipei Palace Museum.
Chen Hao, curator of Zhejiang Provincial Museum, said, “The two parts have been separated by the Taiwan Strait for six decades. The joint exhibition is not only a cultural exchange event, it is embedded with people’s good will and common expectation of a reunion.”
The painting’s reunification last month is a metaphor for the reconciliation that Chinese leaders have long imagined. “If the painting can be brought together, so can our people,” Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said last year. And Chen Hao in Hangzhou added, “I think our museum should have the right to display the whole painting as well”.
The exhibition, titled ‘Landscape Reunited’, is just one of the notable firsts that followed the 2008 election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who seeks closer ties with the mainland. A raft of accords have yielded a pair of pandas for the Taipei Zoo; the opening of direct shipping, postal and air links; and permission for 1.2 million mainland tourists to visit the island. Soon Chinese tourists will be allowed to roam Taiwan unsupervised.
Naturally some Taiwanese are concerned if ‘Beijing will gain more control over both the economy and politics of Taiwan.’ Afterall, nearly the entire contents of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, of porcelain, calligraphy, carved jade and pottery, were brought from China by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces at the end of the civil war. Yet the role of disputed antiquities cannot be overstated. Mainland officials have toned down their demands for the return of what they call stolen goods.
Taipei’s museum officials are according more importance to these treasures. “Cultural relics have symbolised legitimacy and sovereignty for the Chinese,” said Ho Chuan-hsing, a curator at the National Palace Museum. “If you possessed these treasures, you had the right to rule.”
An action movie named after this painting is reported to start filming this September with Andy Lau and Lin Chi-ling as leads. You may want to plan a trip to the Taipei Palace Museum and not wait for the movie. It may be a heist movie with a fantastic plot to steal this painting. There is no word if the crew is allowed to shoot in the museum.