Museum Inherits a Unique Collection

A remarkable collection of Chinese paintings and calligraphy bequeathed to Shanghai Museum by the estate of the late Filipino industrialist Ching Banlee will be placed on display from June 21 through October 15.

"This is an unprecedented and very generous deed on behalf of the Ching family," says Chen Xiejun, Shanghai Museum's deputy curator.

As a connoisseur of Chinese paintings and calligraphy, Ching was disturbed to see these ancient Chinese treasures scattered far and wide throughout the world. He began collecting in the 1930s, and over the course of a few decades was able to procure a considerable number of scrolls. Ching, who died in 1965, stored most of his collection in his studio, Liangtuxuan, meaning "Double Fooly Pavilion." Double fooly was the sobriquet Ching chose for himself, warning himself of his own two shortcomings: insufficient formal education and poor judgment in friendship.

Carrying out his will, Ching's son Alfredo Ching, and his daughter Rita C. Tan donated the entire collection from Liangtuxuan to the Shanghai Museum under the Ching Banlee Cultural Foundation.

"My father was a man of lofty ideals and principles," says Alfredo Ching, "He always regarded his collection as belonging to humanity, as part of the vast Chinese culture rather than his personal possession. Today, I am honored to return them to their land of origin."

Rita C. Tan, daughter of Ching Banlee said that it took her nearly eight years to travel around the world checking out the museums to look for the best resort for his father's collection.

"To be frank, I originally thought of donating them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But I changed my mind when I visited the Shanghai Museum," she admitted. "Especially when the deputy curator introduced me to the underground storage vaults which were each equipped with computer."

The 233 pieces in the collection feature traditional ink-wash paintings and calligraphy that span a period of more than 800 years, from the Song (960-1279) to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The earliest work on display is a Song painting, "Solitary Temple on a Mountain in Autumn," in the style of Fan Kuan, a great master of the period. "These works are extremely well-preserved," adds Chen.

Among the outstanding paintings is a set of four scrolls, "18 Scholars," attributed to Du Jin of the early Ming period. The collection also features a splendid group of calligraphy pieces by acclaimed calligraphers like Dong Qichang and Wang Duo.

A permanent exhibition hall, also named as Ching's studio -- Liangtuxuan, will be established at the Shanghai Museum to commemorate the generous donation.

(Eastday.com June 21, 2002)

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