The artworks and objects on display at the Tokyo National Museum's latest show, "Treasured Masterpieces from the National Palace Museum, Taipei," have had something of checkered history. A large part of this was due to the efforts of the Japanese Imperial Army to get their hands on the collection, which moved from Beijing to several other cities, as it advanced following the invasion of China in 1937.

Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, the collection was stored in Nanjing on the orders of Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalists, from where the best items were ultimately sent to Taiwan in 1948 when the Communists won the Chinese Civil War. The remainder of the collection returned to Beijing to form the National Palace Museum.

So, you could say that the Japanese have been trying to get their hands on these works for a long time. Two years ago, an excellent exhibition sourced from Beijing's Palace Museum was held at the same venue, but the present show has been more anticipated, despite a mix-up over the museum's name on promotion material. The controversy was caused by dropping the word "National" from the museum's title, a serious sticking point for Taiwan, an island state that has seen its right to nationality increasingly undermined by the inexorable rise of China, which claims it as part of its territory.