Ancient Chinese paintings only seen in school textbooks and original calligraphy by the most notable contemporary artists as well as by emperors - all of this have been displayed to visitors to the Shanghai Museum since December 1.
This large-scale exhibition of 72 antique Chinese paintings and calligraphy works is dated between the Jin and Yuan dynasties (AD 265-1368), an important period when Chinese art took shape and flourished.
Ancient Chinese paintings are extremely valuable, not only for art's sake, but because of their extreme rarity. Most of the works were done on silk or rice paper, both very fragile and delicate materials.
Experts claim that paintings and calligraphy works of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties are easy to recognize, but for the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and earlier, it is very hard to know whether an art work is the original piece or a careful duplication by a faithful admirer.
Even among these 72 treasure pieces collected by the three leading museums in China - the Shanghai Museum, the Palace Museum of Beijing, and the Liaoning Museum - there are pieces whose provenance is questioned by experts of art history.
A painting by Gu Hongzhong entitled "Han Xizai Yeyan Tu" (Picture of Evening Banquet at Han Xizai's) was supposed to be an original, created between AD 907-960 AD. But a visiting scholar expressed his doubt - noting that painting on the folding screen in the work displayed styles that first appeared in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
The exhibition also includes "Riverside Scene at Qingming", a long handscroll that depicted prosperous urban scene of the Song Dynasty, "Palace Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdress" by Zhou Fang of the Tang Dynasty, and precious original calligraphy pieces.
201 Renmin Dadao
Tel: 6372-3500 ext 555
Daily visitors restricted to 2,000
(Shanghai Star December 6, 2002)