TAIPEI – Acting under pressure from Taiwan, the Japanese organizers of an exhibition of ancient Chinese artifacts on loan from the Taiwan National Palace Museum said Sunday that they have taken steps to remove promotional materials that dropped the word “national” in referring to the government-operated institution.
Officials of the Tokyo National Museum said they hope to hold the opening ceremony for the special exhibition on Monday as scheduled, if approved by the Taiwan National Palace Museum.
The controversy surfaced Friday after the Taiwan Presidential Office issued a statement of protest, warning that the exhibition would be canceled unless organizers in Japan took steps to call the Taiwan museum by its official name.
Taiwan’s first lady, Chow Mei-ching, who was scheduled to attend the opening ceremony, has postponed her visit to Japan.
More than 200 of the museum’s rare cultural relics have been selected for the 12-week exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum, which will be followed by an eight-week exhibition at the Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The items were loaned on condition that Japan refers to the Taiwan museum by its official title on all occasions. The Japanese side also had to send an official request and pass a law addressing Taiwan’s concerns about the return of the loaned objects.
The National Palace Museum in Taipei houses a large collection of the finest Chinese antiquities collected by various Chinese emperors over the last thousand years.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s Nationalist Party took more than 650,000 artifacts to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists in 1949.
Since then, Taiwan and China have been governed separately, but China views Taiwan as part of its territory and claims the treasures housed in the National Palace Museum.
Due to a rapid thawing of cross-strait tensions since 2008, Taiwan’s National Palace Museum has exhibited Chinese relics on loan from Chinese museums.
However, the loaning of objects has so far been one-way, with Taiwan still balking at lending treasures to China, citing a lack of international standards for the care and safe return of loaned objects.