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National Palace Museum
221 Chih-shan Road,
Sec. 2; Shih-lin,
Taipei, 11143, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 2881 2021     
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Founding of the National Palace Museum
The collection of cultural artifacts held by the National Palace Museum is composed of an enormous treasure trove of objects inherited from the previous Sung, Yüan, Ming and Ch'ing dynasties.  When the Republic of China was first founded, these imperial treasures had remained within the Forbidden City with the last Ch'ing Emperor Pu Yi, but countless works of art were lost either because they were granted by Pu Yi as presents, because they were borrowed by his past noblemen, or because they were pledged to pawnbrokers or stolen.

In 1914 the Republic of China Government relocated the cultural artifacts preserved at the Rehe Imperial Summer Retreat and the Shenyang Former Palace to the outer court of the Forbidden City, and made them available for public viewing at an Exhibition Office of Ancient Artifacts.  In 1924 Pu Yi moved out of the Forbidden City, and the Government formed a "Committee for the Disposition of Ch'ing Imperial Possessions" to reorganize the invaluable artifacts stored within the Palace.  On October 10, 1925 on National Day, the National Palace Museum was officially inaugurated to preserve the imperial collections and palatial treasures from the various Chinese dynasties, so that all members of the public and future generations will henceforth be able to freely enter the Palace to admire this cultural inheritance of humankind.

During the first years of the National Palace Museum, a board of directors was set up as the decision-making and supervisory organ, which supervised over a subordinate board of executive directors, the two separate departments of Antiquities and Books, as well as the General Affairs Office.  Over the years dramatic political changes ensued, and the National Palace Museum was in turn governed by the Maintenance Officer, Preservation Committee, Maintenance Committee and a Management Committee.

In June of 1928, the Nationalist army entered Peking, and the government placed I P'ei-chi in charge of the Museum.  In October, a law regulating the organization of the Palace Museum was promulgated, formally transforming it into a government institution. The law governed the Museum and its architecture, as well as the preservation, public access and distribution of the ancient artifacts, books and documents.  It stipulated that the Museum was to be made up of three departments: Antiquities, Books, and Documents, as well as a Secretariat and General Affairs Office.  A "National Palace Museum Board of Executive Directors Statute" was also promulgated.  In February 1929, I P'ei-chi was appointed the Director of the Museum, and inventory and cataloging of the collection continued.  The number of exhibitions increased, existing contents were expanded, and the Director emphasized the distribution of publications.

Cultural Artifacts Move to the South
In July 1932 the Japanese army invaded Jehe, with the intention of taking over northern China.  In order to ensure the safety of the Museum's collection, the Executive Directors of the National Palace Museum instructed that significant artifacts of the collection be stored in crates in readiness for evacuation at any time.  By February 1933 the situation in northern China had reached a crisis point, and the first group of works were relocated south to Shanghai.  By May 1933 five groups with a total of 19,557 crates were relocated, including the 6,066 crates of objects from the Exhibition Office of Ancient Artifacts, the I-ho-yüan summer palace and the Han-lin-yüan imperial academy.  In February 1934 the Nationalist government promulgated the "National Palace Museum in Bei-ping Provisional Organization Statute", which appointed the Executive Yuan as the authority over the Museum, and appointed Ma Heng as Director of the Museum.  During this period, the Museum began to prepare an inventory of the items relocated to Shanghai or remaining in Beijing.  In 1935 a group of more than 1,000 treasured works from the Palace Museum's collection was sent to London for the "International Exhibition of Chinese Art".

In December of 1936, the objects in Shanghai were moved again to the Taoist monastery Ch'ao-t'ien-kung in Nanking.  In January of the following year, the Nanking Branch of the Palace Museum was inaugurated.  In August the Japanese army invaded Shanghai and Nanking was also no longer safe; Zhuang Shan-yen and others then relocated the first group of 80 crates west to Ch'ang-sha, and then to Kwei-yang and An-shun (and later to Pa-hsien in Szechwan when Kwei-yang fell in autumn 1944).  After the fall of Sung-hu front in November 1937, the Nationalist government decided to relocate to Chungking, and the second group of artifacts from the Nanking Branch was moved west by water via Changkiang, Han-k'ou, I-ch'ang, Chungking and to Lo-shan.  The third group traveled north overland via the Lung-hai Railway to Pao-chi, and from there trucks carried the precious cargo through Han-chung to Chengdu, finally arriving in O-mei, Szechwan.  The national treasures could finally take a breather at this time, and in spite of the difficulties, in 1940~1941 one hundred selected pieces were even sent to Moscow and Leningrad for the "Exhibition of Chinese Art".

During the political upheaval, the artifacts displayed at the Exhibition Office of Ancient Artifacts in Bei-ping were also moved south along with other items in the Palace Museum's collection.  A "Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum" was set up in Nanking in 1933, and when the situation in Nanking became dangerous, crates of cultural relics from the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum were also shipped westward to Nan-xi in Szechwan. During the war, the staff of professionals in the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum still continued to carry out a series of studies on the peoples of Szechwan and Hsi-k'ang as well as their traditional handicrafts, the history and geography of the northwestern region, and Han dynasty tombs and burial grounds in the P'eng-shan area.  After relocation of the Nationalist government to Taiwan, the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum and the National Palace Museum finally merged to become the National Palace Museum we know today.

When Japan was defeated in August 1945, the Nationalist government returned the various Japanese-ruled cultural and educational institutions to their original authorities, and the Palace Museum also began reassembling its collection from storage sites in Pa-hsien, O-mei, and Lo-shan, sending it to Chungking.  In June 1947 the staff began shipping the collection of the Palace Museum back to Nanking, until the full collection was restored in December.

Crossing the Seas to Taiwan
In 1948 fighting worsened between the Nationalist and Communist armies, and the Executive Directors of the Palace Museum made the resolution to send the most precious objects in the Museum's collection to Taiwan.  The total of 2,972 crates were shipped in three groups and arrived in Taiwan in February of the same year, while select items from the collections of the National Central Library, Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica, and the National Central Museum also accompanied these shipments.  By then the Communist army had taken over the National Palace Museum in Bei-ping, so that not all of the Museum's collection could be sent out.  While the 2,972 crates of artifacts moved to Taiwan accounted for only a quarter of the items originally transported south from Peking, the pieces represented the cream of the collection.

In 1949 the government created the "Joint Managerial Office of the National Central Museum", which oversaw the artifacts and staff from the National Palace Museum, Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum, and National Central Library.  The Ministry of Education was appointed the competent authority over the Joint Managerial Office, and Minister Han Li-wu also acted as the Chief Commissioner.  The Office then began building a vault in Pei-kou in the township of Wu-feng, Taichung County, to store the collection.  The Pei-kou Vault was completed in April 1950 and the precious artifacts were immediately moved there to ensure their safety.  During this period, an inventory of the collections and comprehensive cataloging work were undertaken, and "The Collection of Chinese Artifacts" series was published.

In 1955 the Joint Managerial Office was reorganized as the "Joint Managerial Office for Cultural Artifacts in Taiwan", with subordinate departments of the Palace Museum, Central Museum, Electronic Education and General Affairs, but the Electronic Education Department was immediately removed.  The Office was reorganized once again as the "Joint Managerial office for the National Palace and Central Museums".  In 1957 the Exhibition Office at Pei-kou was officially open to the public, and in May 1961 the Office was invited to organize a major exhibition that circulated in Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco in the United States for a year.

New Home in Suburban Taipei
In 1965 regulations for the Provisional Board of Directors of the National Palace Museum were promulgated by the government, which appointed Mr. Wang Yun-wu as the Chief Commissioner and Dr. Chiang Fu-ts'ung as the director.  A new museum was then built in the Taipei suburb, christened the "Chung-shan Museum" in honor of the founding father of the nation, Dr. Sun Yat-sen.  It first opened to the public on the centenary of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's birthday.  The National Palace Museum Newsletter and National Palace Museum Quarterly also began circulating in 1966, and in the following year two new wings to the Museum were completed during the first stage of expansions.

In order to better accommodate its functions, the reorganized its existing Antiquities and Painting and Calligraphy departments into 3 professional departments: Antiquities, Painting and Calligraphy, and Rare Books and Documents in 1968, with two separate administrative sections of Exhibitions and Registration, to re-inventory, reorganize and archive the cultural artifacts and undertake exchanges with other academic institutions.  Subsequently a Scientific Preservation Technology Office was also established.  In 1971 a number of the professional staff at the Museum assisted the National Taiwan University in opening a division on Chinese art history in its Graduate School of History in 1971, which eventually became the Graduate School of Art History.  In the same year the second stage of expansions was completed, extending two wings of the new museum further to the front.

In 1983 Dr. Ch'in Hsiao-yi took over as the new Director of the Museum, and created the Chang Dai-chien Memorial Museum at the Master Chang's former residence, the "Mo-jeh Ching-she", in October of the same year.  Under his administration, the third stage of the expansions with construction of the Administrative Building was completed in 1984, and the Display Office at the Main Building was expanded.  Temperature and humidity controls were installed in both the storage and exhibition areas along with measures to counter fires and earthquakes, as well as a 24-hour security and monitoring system.  In 1987, the Museum became a ministerial-level institution in the government hierarchy.  The "San-Xi Hall" in imitation of Chien-long's western study was established in the Main Building, and in 1985, the construction of the Garden of Perfected Benevolence, in imitation of Sung and Ming gardens, was completed and opened to the public.

In 1987 the "National Palace Museum Organization Statute" was promulgated by order of the President, and the Director of the Museum was specially appointed by the Executive Yuan, supervising three departments, three sections and six offices.  Dr. Ch'ing continued to proactively improve the display spaces for the artifacts, increase academic research and promote museum education; he also completed overall inventory of the cultural artifacts in 1989~2000.  In 1991 the Executive Yuan appointed a "Guidance Commissioner" to replace the original "Managerial Committee" and to provide guidance and consultation regarding important matters in the Museum's development.  The fourth stage of expansion was completed in 1995 with construction of the Library Building, and the Chide Garden was also completed in the same year.  At the invitation of the Metropolitan Museum in the U.S., the "Splendors of Imperial China" exhibition toured four major U.S. cities in 1996.

National Palace Museum in the New Century
Mr. Tu Cheng-sheng assumed the directorship of the Museum in 2000. During his period of service, he pushed through the "National Palace Museum in the New Century" Construction Project, further emphasized academic research and studies, hosted conferences and symposiums, and called for a pluralistic cultural vista that encompasses Taiwanese, Chinese and world vantage points.

In an effort to resolve the vexing issues of confusing tour routes and congested traffic, the fifth stage of expansions to the Main Building of the Museum was undertaken, and establishment of a Southern Branch of the Museum was also proposed.  In 2001 the Museum proposed to the Executive Yuan a "The National Palace Museum in the New Century" Construction Project, which was a blueprint for development of the National Palace Museum in the 21st Century, and comprehensively dealt with the display spaces, external traffic, preservation of artifacts and development of Museum Branches.  The "Museum Southern Branch Construction Project" was officially included in the "Increase of Tourism Project" under the "Challenge 2008: Important National Development Projects" in 2002; budgets for improvement of public spaces, tour routes and surrounding environments of the Main Building, and constructions to make the Main Building earthquake-proof were also approved as of 2002.

In May 2004, Deputy Director Dr. Shi Shou-chien took over as the new director, and he actively promoted cultural exchanges with overseas museums.  A greater number of loan exhibitions was organized with international museums, expansions to the Main Building continued, and construction of the new Southern Branch was also underway.  His vision was to make the National Palace Museum the treasure trove of cultural assets for all people.

From May to August 2004 the Museum held the special exhibition of "A Century of German Genius"; in October "The Casting of Religion: An Exhibition of Mr. Peng Kai-Dong's Donation"; and in October 2005 the "Genghis Khan and his Heirs: The Mongolian Empire" Exhibition at the Staatlichen Museum für Völkerkunde München.  Greater interaction with the public was also organized; the premiere of the movie "House of Flying Daggers" at the Front Plaza of the Museum in July 2004 had attracted a large number of movie fans, and had brought the general public much closer to the Museum.  A charity sale was also held during the premiere event, and all of the funds received was donated to victims of the July 2 Flood, serving as a successful example of collaboration between the Taiwanese museum industry and the general public.

In addition, in order to create the National Palace Museum brand, increase sales channels and value of the cultural artifacts, the first brand licensing project was put to public tender, with the signing of the licensing contract taking place in May 2005 for sale of NPM branded products via domestic and overseas channels.  In June 2005 the Museum had also collaborated with the Taiwan Business Bank in issuing the first museum co-branded card around the world, the "Friends of NPM Platinum Visa Card", and holders of the Card are able to visit the ten major museums around the world free of charge.  It is the first step towards international recognition for the "Friends of NPM Platinum Visa Card".  In October a press conference was also held on the theme of "Old is New at the NPM" with accompanying activities and events that effectively promoted the new, modern image of the National Palace Museum.

In January 2006, the deputy director Ms. Lin Mun-lee was promoted as the new director, and immediately undertook conceptual reforms and strengthened the contents of exhibition proposals and display methods.  It is her wish to gradually shift away from the traditional preconception of a museum being focusing only on the archiving, preservation and study of cultural artifacts, but instead creating a user-friendly environment and displays that will also take into account the "human" element and promote interactions with the artifacts themselves.

For example, one of the primary goals for operation of the National Palace Museum is currently the promotion of international exchanges, in preparation for grand opening of the Southern Branch of the Museum – the Asia Museum – in 2011.  In June 2006 Ms. Lin had represented the National Palace Museum in attending the opening ceremony of the Musée du Quai Branly in France, a museum principally devoted to the collection and display of aboriginal art from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania.  The mission of the Musée du Quai Branly is to highlight the importance of multicultural dialogues, which also happens to be the mission of the Asia Museum currently being constructed by the National Palace Museum.

Besides reciprocal visits and building of cross-industrial alliances, the National Palace Museum is also expanding the contents of its exhibitions through reciprocal loans.  For example, the "Grand Era of the Ch'ing Palace" exhibition held by the Musée Guimet, France in April 2006 had included renowned paintings "Honoring the Silkworm: Ch'ing Palace Edition" and "Landscape Painting" by Giuseppe Castiglione in the National Palace Museum's collection.  The Grand View Series held in December of the same year, consisting of "Painting and Calligraphy of the Northern Sung", "Ju Ware of the Northern Sung", and "Books of the Sung Dynasty" exhibitions, had included not only items within the National Palace Museum's collection but also loans from museums in the United States, Japan and Great Britain.  In February 2007 the Museum had even collaborated with the British Museum in holding the "Treasures of the World's Cultures: the British Museum after 250 Years" Exhibition, so that people in Taiwan had the opportunity to admire those cultural treasures from around the world without having to travel overseas.

After the great success of the British Museum loan exhibition, the National Palace Museum further presented the "Splendor of the Baroque and Beyond" Exhibition on October 20 of the same year, displaying the most important part of the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna – the Great Habsburg Collectors Masterpieces.  These included famous works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Velazquez.  These treasures of art previously owned by emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungary Empire marked the climax of a year full of appreciation of European art and culture for the Taiwan public, and also set a model for eastern and western exchanges in the future.

The National Palace Museum is also actively and successfully carrying out a number of event series to bring the public closer to the Museum, and to present a diversified and new Museum to Taiwanese and overseas visitors.  For example, since July 2007 the Museum has been open to the public on Saturday evenings for the first time since its inauguration, and musical concerts and artistic festivities have also been organized to coincide with these evenings.  The "Creative Workshop", "Mid Autumn Festival at the NPM" and the "Italian Art Festival" have also introduced a completely new atmosphere at the National Palace Museum.

A modern museum must be a cultural institution that is able to respond to the times, flexibly use its research, archive and exhibition resources, and focus on ever improving the services provided to its visitors.  Since the new facilities of the Museum in suburban Taipei were first opened to the public in 1965, there have been five stages of expansions, with the most recent being renovations to the Main Building concluding in February 2007.  New exhibitions were presented, and visitors can clearly experience a more considerate, user-friendly and modern National Palace Museum.  With time the Museum will continue to reinforce its new, modernized image and further affirm its key position amongst the world's top museums.

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