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Opus Authenticity at Issue
An ancient calligraphy opus bought by the Palace Museum in Beijing for 22 million yuan (US$2.7 million) on Thursday is at the centre of a public debate over its authenticity.

"Troop Dispatching Ode" is the only remaining opus of Suo Jing, a calligraphy master in Western Jin Dynasty (265-316) in existence.

Apart from Suo Jing's calligraphy, it also bears the handwriting of Song Emperor Gaozong (1107-1187) and the Qing Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799).

But a calligraphy aficionado, called Zhang Jigang, an office worker at an investment company, wrote to the Beijing Culture Relics Bureau and other relevant authorities, saying the opus was a forgery, reported Southern Weekend, a Guangzhou-based newspaper.

Citing the suspicions of several calligraphy experts in Shanghai, the paper cast doubt on the authenticity of the opus.

It is reported that after six years in limbo, the text of "Troop Dispatching Ode" was to be auctioned at the 2003 China Guardian Spring Auction Fair on Sunday. But under China's law on relics protection, The Palace Museum used its priority rights and bought the text for 22 million yuan (US$2.7 million) ahead of the auction.

Ta Xiaotang, head of the Calligraphy and Painting Section of China Guardians Auction Co, which put the item up for sale, insists that "Troop Dispatching Ode" is genuine. Ta said everything from the age of the paper to the style of handwriting proves it is not a forgery.

It is reported that the Palace Museum said the purchase was made after careful study by a national committee which assesses cultural relics, but the museum was not available for comment on Friday.

Legend has it that the opus was acquired by the Taiping Princess in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and stored by Wang Shimao, a famous royal collector, in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

(China Daily July 12, 2003)

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