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Exhibition showcases achievements of Professor Jao Tsung-i

An exhibition of the work of Professor Jao Tsung-i, an internationally renowned scholar and artist, will be held at the Exhibition Hall of the Hong Kong Central Library from December 14 to January 4, 2007. The exhibition, “A passage to Jao Tsung-i — Fusion of Art and Scholarship”, showcases Professor Jao’s brilliant achievements in various academic fields, literature and art.

The exhibition is jointly presented by the Hong Kong Public Libraries of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole of the University of Hong Kong. It is part of a series of activities to celebrate the 90th birthday of Professor Jao. Admission is free.

As a renowned contemporary sinologist and world-acclaimed artist, Professor Jao has spent over 70 years in academic research and artistic creation. A versatile scholar, poet, calligrapher and painter, he contributes to every field of humanities including archaeology, literature, ancient history, paleography, philosophy, fine arts and musicology. Even at 90, Professor Jao is still energetic and active in art creation and academic research.

The exhibition features over 200 valuable items in three categories: “Painting and Calligraphy”, “The Wisdom Path” and “His Academic Research and Daily Life”. Precious materials like his scholarly works, paintings, calligraphy, poetry, manuscripts, letters, photos, rare book collections and qin collections will be on display.

Professor Jao is an erudite scholar, who has created his own style of painting and calligraphy. His calligraphy exhibits a unique quality with reference to inscriptions on tombstones of the Han, Northern Wei and Tang Dynasty as well as manuscripts of Song and Late Ming Dynasty.

In the area of painting, he draws on the brush and ink techniques of the great masters. He travels extensively to sketch from nature. His figure painting is inspired by the Dunhuang caves while his flower and bird painting evolves distinctively with a flavour of his own.

About 50 exquisite pieces are included in the “Painting and Calligraphy” section. Works include “Landscape in Rain”, “Avalokitesvara under Purple Bamboo”, “Lotus on Silver Water”, “Buddha in Gold-line Sketch Style”, “Sixth Patriarch” and “Four-character Couplet in Seal Script”.

One of Professor Jao’s masterpieces is his calligraphic work, “Heart Sutra”. Set in the form of a figure eight, symbolising infinity, a copy of the professor’s “Heart Sutra” will be presented together in the exhibition with photographs of the impression of the “Heart Sutra” by a French photographer Paul Maurer.

Born in Chaozhou in 1917 in a literati family, he started his academic studies at an early age and is well versed in a diversity of academic disciplines. At the age of 16, he completed his father’s academic work, “A History of Literature and Arts of Chaozou”, and was appointed as the editor of the Centre of Local History of Guangdong Province of Zhongshan University where he was engaged in the investigative studies of ancient history and geography. His work, “The Geography of Chuci”, in 1946 made him famous.

He devoted a great deal of time and effort to teaching at the University of Hong Kong (1952-1968), the National University of Singapore (1968-1973) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1973-1978). Simultaneously, he was involved in various fields of academic research with inspiring achievements in oracle bone inscriptions, Dunhuang studies, Confucian classics studies, musicology, religious studies, Chuci, historiography, history of East and West cultural exchange and others.

Upon retirement in 1979, Professor Jao continued his academic and research endeavours with remarkable achievements in various areas. In 2003, the University of Hong Kong established Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole with the objective of continuing the spirit of Jao. His major works including “The Xubaizhai Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy”, “Introduction to Short Phrases Written on Oracle Bone Scripts” and “Collected works of Jao Tsung-i” were being published after his retirement.

Professor Jao cherishes his academic and cultural exchange with other countries. He is closely connected to many scholars and has been lecturing in Japan, India, France and the US.

His brilliant achievements and extraordinary contributions have brought him numerous academic honours, namely the “Prix Stanislas Julien” from College de France, the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and Officier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture, France; the Award of Special Contributions to the Protection and Research on Dunhuang Relics from the Gansu Provincial People’s Government and the National Bureau of Relics, China as well as the Grand Cercis Chinensis Medal by the Hong Kong SAR Government.

Other than the prominent published works of different periods, the daily life of Professor Jao is revealed in his collection of literature, creation of arts and poetry, and manipulation of Qin, which will be showcased in the exhibition.

A pamphlet on Professor Jao and his works will be available. Two talks on his achievements, conducted in Cantonese, will be held on December 22 at 6.30pm and December 23 at 3pm at the Lecture Theatre of the Hong Kong Central Library.

For programme information, call 2921 0285 (Hong Kong Public Libraries) or 2241 5598 (Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole, the University of Hong Kong).

Ends/Thursday, December 7, 2006

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