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Exhibition of precious Chinese paintings and calligraphy on display at Hong Kong Museum of Art

     Thirty-eight precious paintings from the Song to Ming periods selected from the collection of the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts will be on display at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (November 30) to January 9. The exhibition provides a rare opportunity for visitors to experience the art of Chinese painting during this period, as well the chance to learn more about Japanese views of ancient Chinese culture and Sino-Japanese relations over the past millennium.

     Entitled "Chinese Painting and Calligraphy of Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties from the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts", this exhibition features works that have been designated as Important Cultural Property by the Government of Japan, including "Fu Sheng Expounding the Classic", attributed to Wang Wei (701-761); "Court Lady Ming Fei Leaving the Country" by Gong Suran (active in the early 12th century) of the Jin dynasty; and "Illustration of the Panguxu" by Dong Qichang (1555-1636) of the Ming dynasty. Other masterpieces on display include "Landscape with Pavilions" by Yan Wengui (active in the late 10th to early 11th century) of the Northern Song dynasty; "Bright Clouds around Distant Peaks" by Mi Youren (1074-1151) of the Southern Song dynasty; "Fleet Steed" by Gong Kai (1222–ca1307) and "Orchid" by Zheng Sixiao (1239–1316) of the Yuan dynasty; and "Illustration of the Pipaxing" by Wen Jia (1501–1583) of the Ming dynasty.

     Presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and co-presented by the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibition is organised by the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

     An opening ceremony for the exhibition was held today (November 29). Officiating guests included the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; Director of the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Mr Masahiro Shino; Chairman of the Art Museum Advisory Panel, Mr Vincent Lo; and Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Miss Eve Tam.

     China and Japan have maintained close contact and frequent cultural exchange for more than 2,000 years, and cultural relations reached their golden age during the Sui and Tang dynasties. Influenced by pre-eminent sinologists Uzan Nagao and Konan Naito in the early 20th century, a number of Japanese collectors dedicated themselves to the collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy and built up a number of impressive collections in the Kansai area. Fusajiro Abe was one of the most prominent collectors.

     Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mrs Fung said, "Since the 1920s, Fusajiro Abe had been actively acquiring Chinese painting and calligraphy, and in 1943 his family observed his last wish and donated his collection to the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. With its rich collection, the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts plays an important and unique role in the preservation and study of Chinese painting and calligraphy.

     "We are honoured to have the opportunity to showcase, for the first time in Hong Kong, some of the world's most precious artworks of Chinese painting and calligraphy created during the period between the Song and Ming dynasties."

     Mrs Fung also noted that the Government of the HKSAR is committed to promoting cultural exchange through collaboration with its overseas counterparts. In January this year, the Hong Kong Museum of Art co-organised with the Kyoto National Museum of Japan the "Modern Chinese Painting and Japan" exhibition, taking to Kyoto its collection of Lingnan paintings which offer an insight into the development of Chinese art in contemporary times. It is expected that further collaboration with cultural institutions in Japan will take place to foster the promotion of Chinese art.

     During the Sui and Tang dynasties "kentôshi" (Japanese missions) were sent to China, laying the foundation for Japanese cultural development in the Nara and Heian periods. During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, contemporary with the Southern Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties of China, the samurai class rose to power and a "bakufu" (or "shogun") administrative system was established. Although communications between the two countries were periodically interrupted, it did not hinder Japan from acquiring the cultural essence of China, from the religious concepts of Confucianism and Buddhism to the cultural arts of tea drinking, calligraphy and painting, architecture, artisanal craftsmanship and more. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, in spite of the "sakoku" (seclusion) policy introduced under the bakufu system, commercial activities and exchanges between the countries never entirely ceased. In the late Ming and early Qing periods many Confucian followers, eminent monks and loyalists of the Ming moved to Japan, exerting an influence on the development of modern Japanese scholarship and the arts. In the late 19th century, after the Meiji Restoration, some Chinese intellectuals went to Japan to study, taking the Japanese experience of Westernisation back to China and influencing the country's modern political and cultural reforms.

     Japanese cities such as Nagasaki, Osaka and Kyoto in the Kansai area have a long history of close ties with China and a great passion for Chinese art and culture. In the early 20th century, Japanese collectors in the Kansai area of Japan including Fusajiro Abe, Teijiro Yamamoto, Koshichi Kurokawa, Zensuke Fujii and Kanichi Sumitomo contributed to the creation of impressive private and public collections on ancient Chinese painting and calligraphy.

     Since his thirties Fusajiro Abe was dedicated to collecting art. During the late Qing dynasty and early years of the Republic of China, a huge number of Chinese cultural relics were either destroyed or scattered overseas due to social unrest. Abe realised, from his intensive travelling throughout Europe and America studying art museums in the West, the importance of collecting and preserving East Asian arts and started to collect ancient painting and calligraphy. His collection comprised precious works from the imperial collection, nobles and high-ranking officials of the Qing dynasty, including artworks of the Tang, Five Dynasties, Song as well as literati paintings of the Yuan, Ming and Qing. These authentic works continue to inspire the people of Japan in learning anew about Chinese painting and calligraphy. His family donated his entire collection to the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts after he passed away. The works on display at the exhibition are mostly from Abe's collection.

     To tie in with the exhibition, a series of academic lectures will be organised during the exhibition period. Speakers will include Takayuki Yumino of the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Professor Masaaki Itakura of the University of Tokyo, Maromitsu Tsukamoto of the Tokyo National Museum, Professor Shih Shou-chien of Academia Sinica in Taiwan, Chen Yun-ru of the Palace Museum in Taipei and Dr Clarissa von Spee of the British Museum. The lectures, in Japanese with Cantonese interpretation, Putonghua and English respectively, will be free of charge and 140 seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

     The Hong Kong Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It is open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and from 10am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The museum will close at 5pm on Christmas Eve. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

     For further information, call 2721 0116 or visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art's website at

Ends/Thursday, November 29, 2012


Pictured is "Five Planets and Twenty-eight Constellations (section)". During the Tang dynasty, Esoteric Buddhism was introduced into China from Tibet. Images of Esoteric Buddhism deity merged with those of Taoism and the constellations were represented in the personified form of immortals or monsters rendered in a genre of theomorphic painting. According to scholars, this work originally consisted of two scrolls. The remaining scroll depicts five planets and 12 constellations out of the 28, implying that it would be the first scroll. This painting was considered one of Zhang Sengyou's (active in the early 6th century) works. However, based on the painting style and the inscriptions, scholars in recent years have deduced that this scroll was the work of Liang Lingzan, an artist and astronomer of the Tang dynasty, or possibly a later copy by a Song artist.


Pictured is "Fu Sheng Expounding the Classic" which portrays the story of Fu Sheng, a famous Confucian scholar of the early Han dynasty, expounding the "Classic". When the first emperor of the Qin dynasty ordained the decree of book burning, Fu hid copies of Confucian works in the walls to protect them from destruction. In the early Han dynasty, Emperor Xiaowen sent Chao Cuo, a court official, to Fu to study the "Book of History" which was thereby handed down. Fu was then regarded as the successor of Confucianism. The Tang court honoured Fu as one of the Confucian icons, and this portrait depicts him attaining the status of a saint. This work is attributed to Wang Wei (701-761), though contemporary scholars have suggested that it may be a copy by a Song painter.


Pictured is "Court Lady Ming Leaving the Country" by Gong Suran (active in the 12th century) of the Jin dynasty. It depicts the tale of Wang Zhaojun, a court lady of the Han dynasty, who was sent far from home as part of a marital peace treaty. In the painting, Wang is shown fearlessly riding with the leading horse team during a sandstorm. Wang's more traditional image of a sad and pitiable lady as portrayed by Chinese literati is thus transformed into a courageous heroine, leaving home with pride and dignity. During the Jin dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong was forced to send a princess to Mongolia in a marital peace treaty in 1214. As a painter of the age, it is likely that Gong Suran used the historical tale of Wang to reflect on this topical event.


Gong Kai(1222-ca1307), born in the latter years of the Southern Song, was an assistant of the military office in Huainan and Huaibei. Following the Mongol conquest of the Song, he became a hermit and made a modest living selling his paintings. His resentment of the Mongolian regime and its occupation was expressed indirectly through his paintings. This "Emaciated Horse" was one of his masterpieces, depicting a steed as thin as a lath, walking slowly in the twilight, with head bowed and mane fluttering in the wind. The painting conveys a sense of forlornness. Gong's horse was a metaphor for himself, and the tragic fate of this once noble and lively animal reflected his grief for a lost way of life and country.


The opening ceremony of the exhibition "Chinese Painting and Calligraphy of Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties from the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts" was held today (November 29) at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Officiating guests were (from left) the Chairman of the Art Museum Advisory Panel, Mr Vincent Lo; Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; Director of the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Mr Masahiro Shino; and Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Miss Eve Tam.




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