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Chinese national treasures go on show from tomorrow

An unprecedented exhibition, "The Pride of China: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy of the Jin, Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties from the Palace Museum", will be held at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (June 29). It is one of the signature events to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of HKSAR.

The exhibition was officially opened today (June 28) by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang. Other officiating guests were the Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, Mr Gao Siren, the Vice-Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR, Mr Xie Xiaoyan, the Vice-Minister of Culture of the People's Republic of China and the Director of the Palace Museum, Mr Zheng Xinmiao, the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow, the Executive Director of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Mr Peter Wong, and the Chairman of The Friends of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Mrs Nancy Lee.

The exhibition is jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Palace Museum and is jointly organised by the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Palace Museum. It is co-sponsored by HSBC and the Friends of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, with Dragonair as the official carrier.

Thirty-two world-acclaimed masterpieces of Chinese painting and calligraphy specially selected from the Palace Museum will be put on display in two phases. The first phase will feature 16 exhibits which will be displayed from tomorrow (June 29) to July 22. Highlights include Zhang Zeduan's "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" of the Northern Song dynasty, Wang Shen's "Light Snow over a Fishing Village" of the Northern Song dynasty, Zhao Ji (Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty)'s "Auspicious Dragon Rock" of the Northern Song dynasty, Feng Chengsu's "Copy after Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Gathering" of the Tang dynasty, Qian Xuan's "Secluded Dwelling" of the Yuan dynasty, Yan Zhenqing's "Letter on the Flood in Huzhou" of the Tang dynasty, Xianyu Shu's "Poem by Du Fu on Visiting Zhaoling Mausoleum" of the Yuan dynasty and Ni Zan's "Ink Bamboo" of the Yuan dynasty.

The second phase of the exhibition will run from July 23 to August 11. Highlights include Qiu Ying's "Copy after Along the River During the Qingming Festival" of the Ming dynasty, Wang Xun's "Letter to Boyuan" of the Jin dynasty, Yan Liben's "Emperor Taizong Receiving the Tibetan Envoy" of the Tang dynasty, Dong Yuan's "The Xiao and Xiang Rivers" of the Five Dynasties, Su Shi's "Letter on the Consignation of Author's Graveyard" of the Northern Song dynasty, Mi Fu's "Poem of the Tiao River" of the Northern Song dynasty, Liu Songnian's "Landscapes of the Four Seasons" of the Southern Song dynasty, and Li Song's "Puppet Play of a Skeleton" of the Southern Song dynasty.

The artistic jewel "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" by the Northern Song painter Zhang Zeduan offers glimpses of the institutions, economy, culture and customs in the Song capital Bianjing, then the most prosperous metropolis in the world, that preceded us by a millennium. Comprising 814 figures, 28 boats, some 170 trees, 20 carts and eight sedan chairs by scholars' count, the five-metre painting is strewn with all kinds of businesses including restaurants, guesthouses, incense and herbs shops, pharmacies and street stalls and with a wide variety of architectural structures including the rainbow bridge, city gate, shops and residences. It provides important pictorial references of the social and cultural encyclopedia of the Song dynasty.

Ever since Zhang Zeduan had produced the scroll, there have been dozens of Ming and Qing imitations. Among these copies, the one by Qiu Ying is the best. The painting is largely a replica of the original scroll except for the Jinming Pond which is added. The architecture, gardens, transport vehicles, businesses, figures and costumes, however, are those of the Ming dynasty, especially Suzhou. The most obvious departure is having the disproportionately large stone arch bridge typical of Suzhou in place of the rainbow bridge in the original. It is not only of special significance as an object of art but also a visual record of its time.

Apart from these two scrolls, other works featured at the exhibition are regarded as gems of Chinese art. Some of the works date back more than 1,000 years. They not only withstand the test of time, but also attest to unquestionable artistic and academic value.

To tie in with the exhibition, an international academic lecture series will be held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June 29 to August 5. Speakers include more than 20 scholars from overseas, Mainland China and Hong Kong. The lectures will be conducted in English, Putonghua or Cantonese. Admission is free and 150 tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis one hour before each lecture is started. A fully illustrated catalogue and a booklet will be published for sale at the Gift Shop of the Museum of Art.

The exhibition is expected to draw big crowds. To enable more people to see the extraordinary exhibition without hassle, the Museum of Art will introduce a number of measures, including regulating the admission to the special gallery displaying the "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" by hourly sessions, and extending the opening hours of the exhibition to 9pm. During the normal closure of the museum on Thursdays, visits will be arranged for pre-booking school groups and non-profit making organisations. The Museum of Art has also arranged, for the first time, advance sale of tickets, which are now available at URTBIX outlets. Booking services on Internet are also available.

The exhibition will open from 9am to 9pm daily and be closed on Thursdays. Due to the 10th anniversary Celebration Fireworks Display, it will close at 6pm on Sunday (July 1). Admission to this exhibition will be $30. A half-price concession is available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, full-time students and people with disabilities. "Free Admission on Wednesdays" and the department Weekly Pass are not applicable to this exhibition.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. For details of the exhibition, visit the Museum of Art's website at . For enquiries, call 2721 0116.

Ends/Thursday, June 28, 2007
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