National Palace Museum to make first loan of Chinese artifacts to Japan


Taiwan is set to loan hundreds of artifacts from the National Palace Museum to Japan for the first time, including a jade cabbage, its most treasured masterpiece.

The Taipei-based museum said it will lend 231 pieces and sets ranging from Chinese paintings and calligraphy to bronze, china, jade and embroidery, to the Tokyo National Museum and Kyushu National Museum from June to November 2014.

The loan will include the museum’s most prized items — the jade cabbage and a stone, dating to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), that is shaped like a piece of meat. The two pieces have never been displayed overseas.

The loan will be the first made by the National Palace Museum to an Asian country. It has previously loaned items for exhibitions in the United States, France, Germany and Austria.

The Taipei museum has more than 600,000 Chinese artifacts spanning 7,000 years from the prehistoric Neolithic period to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, making it one of the biggest repositories of Chinese artifacts in the world.

Many were removed from the Beijing museum in the 1930s by China’s Nationalist government to prevent them from being destroyed or falling into the hands of invading Japanese troops.

The jade cabbage was brought to the island by nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek when he fled communist rule.

The carving, about the size of a hand, is a replica of bok choy with two insects resting upon its leaves. Thought to be an allegory for female virtue — with the white stalk symbolizing purity and the insects a metaphor for children, it is said to have been a present for Emperor Guangxu’s consort.

The National Palace Museum had refused to loan out any pieces out of fear that Beijing would try to claim them, until the Japanese government passed a law to prevent such seizures in 2011.