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Feb 17

Letter: Who owns the Chinese imperial treasures?

Written by guest on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 11:12 am
Filed under:-mini-posts, culture, News | Tags:, , ,
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When Chiang Kai-Shek retreated with the Nationalists to Taiwan, he brought with him over 600,000 pieces of artefacts removed from Chinese imperial palaces during wartime. These artefacts are now stored at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both China and Taiwan have claimed title to these Chinese imperial treasures.

Last week, the director of the National Palace Museum visited the Forbidden City Museum in Beijing. As part of the visit, the Forbidden City Museum has agreed to loan around thirty artefacts to the National Palace Museum. The National Palace Museum would only agree to loan artworks to the Forbidden City Museum if Beijing signs a letter of guarantee promising that it would return the artefacts to Taiwan.

As with all things China/Taiwan, the title of these artefacts has become politically charged. Apparently most Taiwanese believe that they are the rightful owner of these artefacts, including, ironically, the Democratic Progressive Party, which has been the most ardent proponent of the de-sinicization movement in Taiwan.

As an American of Chinese descent, there is no question in my mind that these treasures must eventually be returned to their home, where they came and where they belong: the Forbidden City Palace in Beijing. The title of these treasures is not about politics, not about reunification or independence. It’s about who we are as a people. They belong to all Chinese people and should be exhibited at a place where they would be accessible to most Chinese people. When I visited the National Palace Museum in Taipei, I was deeply saddened that most Chinese people will never be able to see those art works because of Taiwan’s visa restrictions on Mainland Chinese. They will never be able to see and appreciate their own cultural heritage, to find out where they came from, what makes them Chinese.

What do you think? Who owns the Chinese imperial treasures?


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145 Responses to “Letter: Who owns the Chinese imperial treasures?”

  1. A-gu Says:

    De-sinicization is an absurd phrase invented by the blue media (though I’m still trying to find first citation). What the DPP insists on is emphasizing the de facto sovereignty Taiwan enjoys, and actually paying attention to local history and culture, instead of pretending the ROC controls all of China and introducing Taiwan in textbooks only after 1945, as was the case for the KMT education.

    I sometimes think Taiwan should sell the artifacts back to China, or possibly threaten to just give them away to other museums, but then common sense gets the best of me and I agree to the idea of just giving them back.

    But I say that as someone who believes the artifacts are CHINESE, and Taiwan is NOT Chinese, so they should be returned. But for people who insist that Taiwan is part of China, what is the reason the artifacts should go from Taipei to Beijing? I see no rational argument whatsoever, especially since the Chinese can’t even decide if the artifacts belong just to Beijing or Nanjing. Two fifths of the collection is still in the old southern capital.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/arts/design/17palace.html?ref=world

    So I believe this is one of those instances where the pro-unification people in China can present no rational argument for their nearly unanimous position.

  2. Raj Says:

    So I believe this is one of those instances where the pro-unification people in China can present no rational argument for their nearly unanimous position.

    A-gu, good point – they can’t have it both ways. If Taiwan is part of China then, given there is no clear position as to where they should be stored, having them on the island shouldn’t be a problem. Chinese tourists can visit as they would if they didn’t live in Beijing or Nanjing.

    If they must be returned then that is acknowledging Taiwan is separate from China.

    Personally I don’t mind either way, provided the reasoning behind the decision is logical and follows one of the two scenarios above.

    Also agree on “de-sinicization” – just pan-blue drivel. God forbid Taiwanese politicians want to put the focus on Taiwanese education, rather than indulge in day-dreaming about the ROC being in charge of China again.

  3. Banlas Says:

    The best solution is to return some of the artifacts back to China so that both China and Taiwan can share and appreciate the treasure simulatenously. Nobody lose anything – definitely not Taiwan of course.

  4. pug_ster Says:

    Maybe they can do something like many of the Art Museums are doing. Perhaps some kind of agreement where both countries can do some kind of exchange of exhibits for a few months.

  5. TonyP4 Says:

    On a similar topic, China tried to stop the auction of Chinese treasures that had been looted by the west.

    http://www.cbc.ca/arts/artdesign/story/2009/02/12/auction-stlaurent-chinaloot.html

    It sets up a precedent to all future sales of Chinese treasures esp. those treasures that had been looted during the Opium War, so it could be important. Had these treasures if not looted been destroyed during Cultural Revolution is another topic.

    ——

    First some history.
    The Britain’s evil parliament approved to send warships to enforce the opium trade to China. What do you call a country pushing opium?

    The settlement asked China to compensate all the opium burned by the Chinese and army expenses, open the seaports for opium trade, release the Chinese prisoners who helped the British, cede Hong Kong… Imagine Cambodia asks US to pay for the opium burned during US raids and their army expenses, open more seaports for opium trade, release all the traitors who helped Cambodia during the war, and cede Hawaii to Cambodia. How outrageous?

    Cambodia can be replaced by another opium export country.

    The alliance of foreign countries burned China’s summer palace, looted all the treasures (most are done by Franco-British army co-operation)… Imagine foreigners loot all the treasures from Buckingham Palace and burn it down.

    The ruin should be a required tourist site for all European foreigners. All the museums in Europe should classify whether the Chinese treasures are loots and posted the info if necessary.

    If it is stolen, it should be returned to the owner. From stolen jewelry from your house to mummy from Egypt.

    No matter how many times it is legally traded and as long as it is stolen it is still loot.

    More info.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_war
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Summer_Palace#Destruction_of_the_Summer_Palace

  6. TonyP4 Says:

    Taiwan has so many treasures from China that they have to rotate the display items.

  7. FOARP Says:

    As for whether the palace museum should give the collection to Beijing, well, I do have to say that, having visited the museum in Taipei and been bored half to death by the seemingly unending and undifferentiated collection of bronzes there (and I am someone who enjoys toddling around museums like the Nanjing Museum or, indeed, the British Museum), so I’d be happy enough to leave it where it is. The palace as it stands is far more interesting than the articles which it used to contain – although when I visited it in 2005 it was still obviously not well look after, with long grass growing from the roofs of some of the buildings and other signs of poor maintenance.

    As for the Taiwan question, I’m happy enough to let the Taiwanese people decide it. To be frank, I find something faintly ridiculous about non-Taiwanese being so sure of the rightness of either side of the debate. Taiwan has laws which make naturalisation a practical impossibility, and it is deeply unlikely that any of people commenting on this site will ever qualify for it – so why do you care when according to the government of Taiwan you are not allowed to vote on it? A quite different issue is that of the rightness of Beijing’s bullying and intimidation of the island – something that has an obvious relevance for all the people of the world who wish to enjoy full and open relations with both Taiwan and mainland China – and something which we should do our best to oppose.

    @TonyP4 – However, much of what has in the past been labelled ‘loot’ by the PRC was in fact bought by 19th century curio collectors, and then donated to the museum. It is only those artefacts which taken directly from the palace which were looted.

    Nor do I plan on visiting the ruins of the Yuan Ming Yuan simply so I can survey yet another propaganda article like the Nanjing massacre memorial. Any display or presentation which depicts events in a way allowing only one conclusion – that being that evil foreigners are plotting against China and that ‘Only a strong socialist motherland’ can protect China against them has nothing to do with historical accuracy or putting the past in context, but everything to do with brainwashing. The burning of the Yuan Ming Yuan was an act of vandalism, but it was one which happened more than 150 years ago, and insisting that all ‘European Foreigners’ visit it is simply ridiculous nationalism.

  8. DJ Says:

    FOARP,

    Re: another propaganda article like the Nanjing massacre memorial

    What’s wrong with Nanjing Massacre Memorial?

  9. TonyP4 Says:

    When we’re in a tour of Europe, one US citizen of German origin did not allow the tour to visit a concentration camp. Not agreed but understandable.

    There is something wrong with Hiroshima Memorial. They did not write down why and the no. of innocent folks killed by the Japanese.

    Did the a bomb save a lot of more lives? Yes.

    Were these Japanese soliders war criminals in committing rapes and killing innocent citizens? Yes.

    We never learn from history.

  10. Ted Says:

    Along with the increased flights, this should be viewed as a positive step toward improving the relationship between the mainland and Taiwan. I think the Palace Museum has every right to ask for a letter guaranteeing the return of the pieces, and the return of the items following exhibition in Beijing would go a long way to establishing trust between people on either side.

    Palace treasures aside, I’ve heard that the Chinese government was one of the biggest exporters of its own national treasures during the 60′s and 70′s. I also read recently that China was pressing foreign countries not to allow the import of anything made in China pre-1949 (recently expanded from pre-1911?). As such, their demand seems a bit underhanded to me and it’s pretty frustrating that most of my students seem to think that anything Chinese outside of China must have been stolen. Counterarguments are shot down by comments like China was forced to sell its treasures under duress caused by foreign invasion etc… etc… Talk to Pu Yi’s eunuchs I say.

    This seems like a step in the right direction but I think ‘who owns the artifacts’ and ‘where do they belong’ are separate questions. It also reminded me of the Forbes Faberge collection that recently returned to Russia, as wealth in China increases the artifacts will make their way home. Last year China overtook France as the world’s third largest auction market.

  11. Steve Says:

    I’ve been to the National Palace Museum a few times and though like FOARP, I’m not much into bronzes, I loved the landscape paintings and Song/Ming pottery and ceramics. I’m glad that Chinese citizens are now allowed to visit Taiwan and see some of these historical treasures.

    As far as who owns the imperial treasures, if we’re going to be consistent we’d have to say that right now, Taiwan owns them since they’re in Taiwan. Should they remain in Taiwan? That’s the real question that Jane has brought up. It all boils down to the entire China/Taiwan question that we so love to discuss. :)

    As far as I know, the ROC and PRC are technically still at war, so that question needs to be resolved. There are over 1000 missiles pointed at Taiwan, which doesn’t lend itself to negotiations about art treasures. Until the political questions are resolved, the artwork will continue to remain in Taiwan.

    I thought A-gu brought up a good point; if Taiwan is a part of China, then they are currently in China. If not, then there goes the unification theory. Since both PRC and KMT buy into eventual unification then as Raj said, there really isn’t a problem right now. I think the CCP isn’t pushing for a return of the art since they don’t want to establish any precedent involving a separation of the two. I think they’d like to keep it as exchanges. From Taiwan’s side, there’s a trust issue that won’t go away until the missiles are removed and the threat of attack is ended.

    @TonyP4: I also visited the Hiroshima Memorial and was amazed at the propaganda. It went something like this… “Japan was liberating China from the evil western powers to incorporate them into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere when for no apparent reason, the Americans dropped this atomic bomb that turned people into shadows, melted clothing to the bodies of children, destroyed so many innocent lives while we were just minding our own business.” There is no mention of starting a war, nothing about Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, biological weapons, bubonic plague bombs.. just how nasty The Bomb was.

    As Tony said, dropping those two bombs saved an estimated one million American lives, five million Japanese lives, if the war had continued the Russians would have invaded from the north so Japan would eventually have been split with Tokyo as probably another Berlin with the south free and the north under the USSR. That would have made it impossible for the UN to reinforce South Korea when North Korea attacked. The entire history of Asia would have changed dramatically.

    I’ve heard many Taiwanese say that if the treasures weren’t in Taiwan, many if not most would have been destroyed in the Cultural Revolution, so China should thank Taiwan for their safety.

    DJ, I think what FOARP was driving at concerning the Nanjing Memorial was similar to what Tony and I saw in Hiroshima, the use of a disaster as a propaganda tool for the present government. He wasn’t objecting to the memorial per se, just to the added on government propaganda spiel.

    My mom is a retired elementary school Title IX teacher and back when she taught, one of her duties was ESL (English as a Second Language) for the kids whose parents were from other countries. In that part of New Jersey, there are a lot of corporate headquarters for Asian businesses. She happened to teach the son and daughter of a Japanese physician doing medical research there, and got to know the parents. The doctor once asked her, “You Americans will never forgive us for Pearl Harbor, will you?” and my mother said, “Nope”.

    People just don’t forget certain things, especially when the perpetrators won’t acknowledge what they did was wrong. Japan still teaches in their schools that they were forced to attack Pearl Harbor because the USA stopped selling them raw materials. In reality, they started planning to attack Pearl Harbor after they lost the Battle of Khalkhyn Gol to Zhukov and the Russians in 1939, long before that restriction took place.

    Tony, if I was on that bus, you would have visited the concentration camp. :P

  12. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Interesting topic. I think A-gu said it best. As far as the PRC is concerned, those artifacts never left “one China”. So it’s just a matter of where to display said artifacts within this “one China”. I think a temporary loan of these artifacts for display in an alternate location is a good solution. I believe this is not an unusual arrangement between museums.

    As for “ownership”, I don’t think they belong to either the PRC or the ROC. They belong to Chinese people (from a heritage and not citizenship standpoint).

  13. DJ Says:

    Steve,

    That’s what I figured FOARP meant as well. But I wonder if he would tell Jewish people that Holocaust memorials are just propaganda tools.

  14. Steve Says:

    @ DJ: I haven’t actually been to the Nanjing Memorial and I don’t know if that’s the story there, so we both had the same idea. I guess FOARP can fill us in.

    For me, a Holocaust Memorial would be a propaganda tool if the plaques were full of statements about the present government and not the actual tragedy that took place during the war. I haven’t been to any of the concentration camps in Germany and eastern Europe so I don’t know if that’s the case.

    My wife’s cousin was in elementary school in Taiwan during the war. The Japanese teachers kept telling them they were winning the war, but the kids watched Japanese planes being shot down by American pilots so they knew the teachers were lying. To this day her cousin will not buy anything made in Japan, not because of what they did but because they won’t admit or apologize. His youngest son was getting serious with a girl from Japan so he told him that if he married the girl, he’d be disowned. A friend of mine who was the former facilities manager at Motorola in Arizona was part of the force that liberated Shanghai in 1945. He saw the hospital where the Japanese doctors did the medical experiments on living Chinese people and to this day will not buy anything made in Japan, again for the same reason. Some memories never die.

  15. Think Ming Says:

    Basically agree with A-gu too. . .

    Pretty much everything has been said already (Taiwan helping prevent the stuff getting destroyed in CR, Chinese having flogged much of the ‘stolen’ stuff themselves, and so on), but. . .

    I don’t find the display in Taipei bad. It was looking quite nice last time I stopped by, and some of the pieces are seriously amazing (that jade cabbage thing, the piece of pork, the paintings). I’ve been to museums all over China and the National Palace Museum in Taipei is one of the best. In fact on my most recent visit I decided it was the best, but perhaps I was just happy to have escaped the PRC and be back in the glorious ROC. Some of the Tang Dynasty displays in the museums in and around Xi’an are pretty amazing too.

  16. pug_ster Says:

    I went to the Holocaust Museum a few years back when it just opened. it portrays how badly the Jews are treated, maybe that itself is propaganda as an excuse of how Israel became of existence.

  17. Steve Says:

    @ pug_ster: I’m curious~ which Holocaust Museum did you visit? I believe there are a few of them.

    Did the museum go into the creation of Israel after the war? Or did they just talk about the mistreatment of the Jews before and during the war? I’d think the first would be more propangandish but the second perfectly reasonable. To understand the concentration camps, you’d have to explain the events that led up to them.

    Oops, we did it again. We start with Imperial treasures and now we’re talking about the Nazis. :P

  18. TonyP4 Says:

    I went to Holocaust Museum in Wash DC more than 10 years ago. My daughter won a prize from her middle school to diaplay a plate on world peace together with many children from around the world. Now she is over 30 years old.

    The Jews have too many propaganda in our daily life in US. We have a small one in Boston to remember Holocaust victims. Is the Congress owned by the Jews? It is good to chase after the war criminals, so it will not happen again. But, it is bad when Israel drags us to the Middle East wars.

  19. Steve Says:

    @ Think Ming #15: I also like the National Palace Museum. I think it’s the best one I’ve visited for Chinese art, and the displays seemed fine to me the last time I was there, which was 2002. I also like the size; not so big where you get burned out from too much to look at, and every time you return there are new items to see.

    I also liked the Shanghai History Museum over at People’s Plaza. I haven’t been to Xi’an yet but I’ve seen all the major museums in Beijing. I always felt the Forbidden City interiors seemed cold and barren and just figured it was because most of what was inside was taken to Taiwan.

    The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, right inside Golden Gate Park, houses the Avery Brundage Collection (he headed the Olympics for decades) and it’s the nicest collection I’ve seen outside China. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the area. It was my first exposure to Chinese art and made an indelible impression on me when I was 21.

    It’s funny~ I’d rather live in my house than any castle or ancient royal dwelling. Modern life is great! :D

  20. DJ Says:

    Steve,

    I have no idea what the Nanjing Memorial is like because I have not been there. My impression of the “propagandist message” from CCP in the context of Rape of Nanjing is focused on KMT’s unwillingness or inability to defend against the Japanese. As for the description of Japanese as brutal and evil, I don’t consider that propaganda.

  21. TonyP4 Says:

    Steve, same here. I like the Taiwan museum. Being on a tour, I do not remember any museum in Xian except the show on Tang dances and of course the major attraction and the Bell Tower. I like the SH museum and there is one for modern art exhibit that encourage participation.

    I believe the one in Golden Gate park is deYoung Museum. 2 years ago we went to SF and we missed this one plus the one in downtown as the two closes every Monday.

  22. TonyP4 Says:

    Joke of the day.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbVw7entkxg

    I hope she is younger. If you do not understand Cantonese, you miss most of the joke. I almost die of laughing too hard.

    She could have called the airline telling them there was a bomb in the plane and they need to turn the plane back. Haha. When the Chinese banquet time is 7 pm, they do not serve food before 9 pm. Teach them a lesson. Haha.

    That’s why every Asian carries a cam. :)

  23. Steve Says:

    @ TonyP4: Ha ha, I saw this on the Economist website this morning. HK Airport is so organized and well run and she is so crazy. The people there were really patient with her. She’s probably one of those chronic late people who always manage to talk their way into getting inside.

    It’s just the opposite in the Philippines. If you have an 8AM flight, you’d better get there no later than 5:30 AM. The line is already long that far in advance. I was glad I was warned by locals.

  24. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TonyP4:
    that’s a hilarious video. I wonder if the attendants thought:man, are we being Punk’d? Where’s Ashton Kucher? And if that lady was in a Canadian airport, she’d be about one stapler away from getting Tasered…well, at least until our national police changed their policy a few days ago.

  25. Allen Says:

    @A-gu #1,

    You wrote:

    So I believe this is one of those instances where the pro-unification people in China can present no rational argument for their nearly unanimous position.

    Huh? People who believe in one-China has no rational argument to make for the return of the artifacts taken by CKS to Taiwan? Did CKS take it to Taiwn to keep it in Taiwan – or did CKS take it to Taiwan for “safe keeping”?

    Of course – he took it for “safe keeping”. He had all intention of returning to China as its rightful political leader some day – at which time he would also return with the art treasures – the cultural heritage of all Chinese people.

    As for the legal status of how the arts should be returned – there are two models. Both should involve unconditional returns.

    One is to return from ROC to PRC – and we can interpret the relationship between ROC and PRC as a special relationship that does not invoke two Chinas as we have in other agreements recently signed.

    Or … we can return the treasures in the context of returning from a provincial government to the national government. In which case we also don’t invoke the specter of two Chinas.

    What is the problem here?

  26. FOARP Says:

    What’s wrong with the Nanjing Massacre Museum? Here’s a list:

    – horror movie theme music played over the tannoy – almost Disney-like

    – signs telling the reader that “only a strong socialist motherland can prevent this happening again” or something similar on each exhibit

    – human remains on display with signs indicating the individual wounds suffered by each corpse. Dead not treated with respect.

    – people standing around smoking and laughing pointing out said aforementioned wounds on said aforementioned corpses.

    – signs saying “who cannot be moved to tears by this spectacle” in a museum in which the answer was obviously “nobody” as nobody was crying.

    – dodgy stats – not the actual death toll of the massacre (or at least, not just this) but things like the number of dead suffered by China during WWII being quoted as 35 million, when no-one claims that it was this much.

    Essentially the thing is not a work of historical research, but a propaganda article, designed to re-enforce the position of the government. Comparisons to the Holocaust museum at Auschwitz are not valid – that museum allows the viewer to come to their own conclusions by allowing the exhibits to speak for themselves.

    To be honest, I can understand why Israel has Yad Vashem, and why there are museums in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, etc., but I cannot understand why there are holocaust museums in the US. We certainly have no such memorials in the UK. Nanjing needs a memorial to the victims of the Nanjing massacre in which hundreds of thousands of innocent people died, but the current one exploits this tragedy for political ends.

  27. Taiwan Says:

    Uh I just want to point out Taiwan, even today, still officially claim the whole territory of China, HK and Macau as Republic of China. The claim of these treasure is consistent with the legal framework to which Taiwan currently exist, there’s no contradiction. What some other retarded politicans say, however, is another matter…

  28. DJ Says:

    FOARP,

    - horror movie theme music played over the tannoy – almost Disney-like

    That’s your personal taste and I don’t see how it has anything to do with propaganda.

    - signs telling the reader that “only a strong socialist motherland can prevent this happening again” or something similar on each exhibit

    I do object to the word “socialist” since China is clearly a capitalistic country with an authoritarian political system. That said, one lesson many of us do get out of recent Chinese history, and without needing to be taught by the CCP, is that we must ensure our country becoming stronger to prevent such things from happening again. We are reminded by history throughout the last couple of centuries and what is still going on today, over and over, that MIGHT IS RIGHT and all other rules are secondary. I do not object to this reminder in general.

    - human remains on display with signs indicating the individual wounds suffered by each corpse. Dead not treated with respect.

    Do you want to ban all the Holocaust photos in the name of dignities for those suffered?

    - people standing around smoking and laughing pointing out said aforementioned wounds on said aforementioned corpses.

    That’s a sad image, but what does it have to do with propaganda?

    - signs saying “who cannot be moved to tears by this spectacle” in a museum in which the answer was obviously “nobody” as nobody was crying.

    Just because you are unable or unwilling to be empathetic does not make an appeal for empathy in that museum wrong or propaganda.

    - dodgy stats – not the actual death toll of the massacre (or at least, not just this) but things like the number of dead suffered by China during WWII being quoted as 35 million, when no-one claims that it was this much.

    I don’t know what reference and context is offered with that number. The number I remembered from school in China is 20 million.

    [UPDATE] Please see my follow up comment #78 for potential explanations for this 35 million number.

  29. Allen Says:

    @Taiwan #27,

    I will buy that – if ROC wants to claim the treasures as the legitimate ruler of all of China – that’s personally fine with me.

    One day though, the ROC and PRC will re-unite – at which point the treasures will return to all of the Chinese people – instead of being at custody of just a portion of the Chinese people.

    That’s ok…

    To be honest – as someone who feel Chinese – I don’t mind which Chinas I live in – ROC, PRC, whatever else – as long as it’s a China that claims the historical legacy of China and the current and future interests of all Chinese people.

    The One China thing is really only for international law purposes. It’s a signal to foreign powers that there is now only one China – that there is no excuse for foreign powers to meddle in China’s internal affairs through interaction with “this” China – “that” China – and what may.

    Within the Chinese family though – I think it’s fine to temporarily have a couple of Chinas – as long as we understand we are all Chinese and ultimately share a common bond – and will work for the common interests of all Chinese – and push for our ultimate re-unification.

  30. Marky Mark Says:

    Through its experiment with the Cultural Revolution, the PRC has lost its moral right to these artifacts. For a period, the Communists were intent on destroying all aspects of Chinese culture. Since the same regime still controls the Mainland, it is important that the National Palace Museum collection remains in Taipei.
    It is also important to note that the Communists did not completely win the civil war. They simply did not have the resources and amphibious capability to seize the province of Taiwan. Even today, with its improved military, the PRC does not have the economic ability to successfully capture Taiwan. The civil war was never resolved, therefore the location of the entire collection can’t be resolved either.
    If the citizens of the PRC want easier access to see the collection, then develop into a pluralistic society with the rule of law. Then it will be no problem.
    The PRC is simply a political party masquerading as a “nation.” As a result, any discussion about the domicile of the Imperial Collection is all about politics – nothing else.

  31. yo Says:

    @FOARP,
    bad day at the office? you are going off there about the nanjing massacre, and what’s wrong with Holocaust Museums in the U.S? What’s next, you telling us your grip why handicap people get the best parking spaces? (because if you are, i am so totally with you man!)

  32. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #25:
    “Huh? People who believe in one-China has no rational argument to make for the return of the artifacts taken by CKS to Taiwan?” – of course not, cuz the stuff is still in China, in the one-China scenario. How do you return stuff to China that’s in China? How do you return something to yourself?

    So if a “CHinese” museum that happens to be in Taiwan has the stuff, what would justify forcing this museum to hand it over to another Chinese museum that happens to be on the mainland?

    I’d say the conundrum is firmly in place on this one.

    Ahh, the “special agreements”…we’re one China..no, really…nudge nudge wink wink.

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #29:
    “we understand(1) we are all Chinese and (2)ultimately share a common bond – and (3)will work for the common interests of all Chinese – and (4)push for our ultimate re-unification.” – what do points 1-3 (my numbering) have to do with #4? I’m all for #1-3, but I don’t think they’re predicated upon, fundamentally require, or ultimately justify #4.

  34. Allen Says:

    @SKC #32,

    You asked: “How do you return something to yourself?”

    You return the property to its proper sovereign.

    The CCP today is the legitimate of most of China – and since the arts belong to the Chinese people – the arts need to be returned to the CCP.

    If ROC wants to hold onto the cultural artifacts, they must do so as the government of all the Chinese people – not just the people of Taiwan.

    I don’t see why if Taiwan is part of China that there would be no need for “return” – the province should return the art to the national gov’t.

    Plain and simple…

  35. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “You return the property to its proper sovereign.” – but it’s already there…if Taiwan is part of CHina.

    “the arts need to be returned to the CCP.” – whoa whoa whoa wait a second. So does the art belong to “China”, or to the CCP. So if one day, the CCP got booted out of town, you’d be happy if they took it with them? Might as well ask this of all Chinese national treasures then: do they belong to the CHinese people, or to the CCP?

    “the province should return the art to the national gov’t. ” – why “should” they? Can the provinces not possess and display art of national value?

  36. Allen Says:

    @SKC – if the CCP gets booted out of town, and took the art with them, then yes – they would need to return it to the then sovereign gov’t of the Chinese people (not some warlord or some local provincial gov’t).

    Plain and simple…

  37. S.K. Cheung Says:

    If the art left town, then it should be returned. We agree on that. In this case, the art never left town, since it’s been in a place that is a part of China all along, if one China stands.

  38. Steve Says:

    @ Allen & SKC: Didn’t you guys read about the “One China, Two Museums” communique? :P

  39. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    I think that would make for a fine “agreement of special relationship, subsection ‘artifacts’ “.

  40. FOARP Says:

    @DJ –

    1) Why does horror-movie type music need to be played to emphasise the horror of an event? This is a clear attempt to manipulate the feelings of the viewer.

    2) When I said that human remains were on display, I meant the actual human skeletons with numbered signs indicating bullet holes and bayonet wounds, not photographs. Why are these people not buried properly?

    3) The fact that this display does not actually have the intended effect on the people who visit is a clear reason to think less of it.

    4) Nobody was crying, this makes the message seem stupid. I am not talking about myself, but every single person at the ‘museum’. Once again it is a clear attempt to tell the viewer what they should think. The word ‘empathy’ means a common feeling, there is no indication that the people who made the exhibit had any particular feeling about the event, only that they thought that other people should have a particular feeling.

    5) The suggestion that they were simply taking the worst possible figure and then adding a bit also suggests that they are trying to manipulate the feelings of the viewer.

    Finally, have you actually been to the place?

  41. huaren Says:

    I don’t think there is a need for an explicit “take back” of the artifacts. Like other museums, they are simply going to be rotated through-out China as one of you have already said. End of story there. They will be rotating on the Mainland longer because there are more people there.

    Ma’s government and the Mainland have already figured it out.

    SKC, FOAP – as much respect as I have for foolsmountain.com, the fact you are here hanging out means you are incapable of doing more for the positions you take on China. Just my honest opinion. Don’t get mad now.

    How did BXBQ describe the activist scoundrels now? It seems every inch you think you can gain from casting things related to China negatively, you go for it. What gives?

    (FOAP – when the Nanjing museum people figured out your tastes, they will improve the display. Just relax and give them some time. 300k people died in that massacre, you sob. Have some respect. The museums in Japan will keep pace and upgrade too.)

    I won’t call you scoundrels just yet. I just hope we don’t come across naked pictures of you in Forbidden City or elsewhere.

    Also, you can have the last words on me on this thread. Going to Hawaii tomorrow.

  42. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Huaren:
    as I’ve said previously, I’m here for entertainment. Insofar as that goes, some people make me think besides, and I’m better for it. Others…just entertain. You’re free to decide to which group you belong.

    So let me get this straight: if some people who feel strongly about what ails China go out and physically demonstrate their displeasure, BXBQ is unhappy. And if some just choose to talk about it, you ask why they haven’t done more to make their displeasures known. Folks like you are a tough crowd to please. Thankfully, pleasing folks like you is not a high priority for me.

    If Allen ever starts a lexicon for “overused words that have lost their meaning”, I think “bashed” would be a good candidate for that hall of infamy.

    So on that note, have a nice trip.

  43. Think Ming! Says:

    @ Steve 19

    I was lucky enough to get a chance to drop by the San Fran Asian Art Museum a few months back. Yeah, it’s a great display. I’ve never seen a display that so effectively put virtually the entirety of Asian art in context. Wandering through the place you get a sense of the history of the whole continent.

    Xi’an is worth a look. There is a museum downtown (probably Shanxi History/Archeology Museum or something) with a nice display of Tang stuff. Better still, outside Xi’an is a place called Famensi where they unearthed a stash of Tang and Roman relics after an earthquake caused a wall to collapse in the 70s.

  44. Wukailong Says:

    @huaren: “I won’t call you scoundrels just yet. I just hope we don’t come across naked pictures of you in Forbidden City or elsewhere.”

    Since this thing keeps coming up, I guess it’s time I shed some light on it. I happen to know who the naked guys in the Summer Palace are, and even know one of them personally (no, I’m not one of them – I was at home eating breakfast in Chaoyang when the incident happened). Actually, only one of them undressed (which is obvious if you watch the photos) and he’s known for doing these kind of things.

    There are a couple of Chinese who know this too, and nobody feels nationalistic fury at the thing. Quite on the contrary, they find the story very amusing (to say the least).

  45. michael2 Says:

    In keeping with China’s opening up policies, I think the collection should be sold on the free market. After all, if Ross Perot and the Carlyle Group can buy the Magna Carta, why not let Lee Ka Shing or Dr Stanley Ho buy the Chinese heritage treasures and put them on display to attract customers to their casinos and Park’n’Shop.

  46. BMY Says:

    @Think Ming #43

    The Museum in Xian(陕西历史博物馆)is one of the best museum in China. It has large display of from Zhou ,Han till Tang dynasty as it was then capital of those Chinese dynasties.

    The most famous of discovery in Famensi was they found four “finger bone” (sheli) of Gautama Buddha (佛骨舍利)

  47. FOARP Says:

    @BMY – I would also like to give shout-outs to the Nanjing City Museum – especially the beautiful jade suit of armour they have on display there, the Kowloon museum of art – the first Chinese museum of art I have ever been to which actually explains Chinese art in a way that is accessible, the Yongle bell tower (despite the unfortunate stabbing incident last year), and (though I’m sure this may surprise you) the People’s War museum in Beijing which, whilst certainly ideolodgically heavy going, was also much more to my tastes. My problem with the palace museum was the fact that it is a) huge and b) many of the artefacts seem very similar.

  48. Steve Says:

    @ Think Ming! #43: When you were in Xi’an, did you happen to visit Huashan? That’s on my “bucket list” of things to do. A friend of mine from Newcastle visited there while working in Tianjin and told me that “you Americans overuse the word ‘awesome’ but Huashan was really awesome.” :D

  49. Steve Says:

    @ Allen & SKC: Allen, I can understand your view emotionally but it seems like you are approaching this in a legal sense. I see it as a political question. Right now, the collection doesn’t belong to the Chinese people, it belongs to the ROC and the National History Museum. To go beyond that to the result you’d like to see is a political question. In the eyes of the PRC, Taiwan is a province so the collection is in the hands of a provincial government. In the ROC’s eyes, the collection is in the hands of the national government. Standoff! But in this case, the standoff favors the one who possesses.

    The other thought I had was that Taiwan is trying to attract 3000 Chinese tourists per day and I believe the NPM is the biggest draw to attracting more tourists from the mainland. Why would anyone give that up? It’s been one of the cornerstones of Ma’s governing platform so he’s doing everything he can to try and increase the flow of visitors, especially since Taiwan’s manufacturing exports have taken a dump lately.

    I do agree with you that I’d sure like to see the Forbidden City refilled with the original artwork and furnishings. Though the buildings are spectacular, the interiors are pretty spare and I always pictured them in my mind to be ornate. I’d imagine the next step would be exchanges between both sides. However, Taiwan’s asking for a letter of guarantee makes sense if the CCP has the same attitude you do, since normally they would be under no obligation to return anything they felt belonged to them. But as the level of trust builds between the two, the guarantee would cease to be relevant. Other factors besides artwork will be the key to building that trust.

  50. DJ Says:

    FOARP, (Re: #40)

    No I have not been to that museum in Nanjing and that’s why I asked what made you claim that it was merely a propaganda tool.

    Frankly I think it would be fair if your point was that the designers/administrators of the museum were not particularly competent. It doesn’t mean, however, that the museum should be dismissed as merely a propaganda tool. Just because you do not like the CCP as the ruling party in China does not justify lessening the legitimacy of that museum. To rank your distain for CCP ahead of the remembrance of Rape of Nanjing crosses a line of decency.

  51. Allen Says:

    @Steve #49,

    You wrote:

    Allen, I can understand your view emotionally but it seems like you are approaching this in a legal sense. I see it as a political question. Right now, the collection doesn’t belong to the Chinese people, it belongs to the ROC and the National History Museum. To go beyond that to the result you’d like to see is a political question. In the eyes of the PRC, Taiwan is a province so the collection is in the hands of a provincial government. In the ROC’s eyes, the collection is in the hands of the national government. Standoff! But in this case, the standoff favors the one who possesses.

    Hmmm … I consider that a complement. Usually legal arguments are considered dry – so for you to feel for my legal argument emotionally – that definitely is a complement.

    But with that said – I don’t understand why the argument I made is not a political argument (it was meant to be a political argument; I did not my argument based on any laws or contracts).

    Besides, I think you may have read too much into my argument.

    After all, I have said that it is ok for the ROC to keep the arts – but ONLY as a gov’t of all Chinese people – for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people. It does not do for the ROC to think it has responsibility only to a subset of the Chinese people – i.e. the Taiwanese people.

    Now the next step: if the ROC wants to keep the arts for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people, it would surely recognize that the best use of the art is to circulate it throughout China so the common Chinese people can appreciate and be re-united with their cultural heritage.

    What is the political consequence of the ROC acting as a guardian of the Chinese treasures for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people, it is considered a Chinese gov’t (though not recognized) and such as such must never ever allow Taiwan secessionist to be in power again.

    As I wrote in #29, as long as the ROC acts in good faith always with an eye for the benefit of the whole Chinese people – in this matter and others – I’m ok.

  52. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #51: I think I have read too much into your argument. :P

    “After all, I have said that it is ok for the ROC to keep the arts – but ONLY as a gov’t of all Chinese people – for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people. It does not do for the ROC to think it has responsibility only to a subset of the Chinese people – i.e. the Taiwanese people.”

    Agree.

    “Now the next step: if the ROC wants to keep the arts for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people, it would surely recognize that the best use of the art is to circulate it throughout China so the common Chinese people can appreciate and be re-united with their cultural heritage.”

    Agree. From what I’ve read, I don’t think the ROC has a problem with loaning the art to various museums throughout China. The collection is so vast that only a very small proportion is shown at any one time in the Palace Museum. It would make a lot of sense to exhibit to as many Chinese people as possible.

    “What is the political consequence of the ROC acting as a guardian of the Chinese treasures for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people, it is considered a Chinese gov’t (though not recognized) and such as such must never ever allow Taiwan secessionist to be in power again.”

    That’s up to the KMT. If they do a good job running the country and continue to win elections, then the DPP will not be in power. If they screw things up and lose the elections, then the DPP or some other party will run the country. As long as it’s a democracy, the people decide who runs the country, not the KMT, CCP or anyone else.

    “As I wrote in #29, as long as the ROC acts in good faith always with an eye for the benefit of the whole Chinese people – in this matter and others – I’m ok.”

    I agree, as long as the ROC can trust the PRC is acting to benefit the whole Chinese people and not just mainland China. It’s a two way street. Though the threat of war has been greatly diminished, there are still those pesky missiles that cloud the issue and prevent trust. Thus the letter of guarantee is needed. The PRC should have no reason not to issue the letter so everything ought to work out. Let’s hope it does.

  53. FOARP Says:

    @DJ – The point of the museum is not to commemorate the dead, but to indoctrinate the living with the CCP version of history. It is the CCP which offends against decency by putting human remains on display in a glass case, by attaching political messages to scenes of horror stating that only their continued rule prevents further such events happening, by inflating figures beyond those which they have an actual historical basis to claim. I have not done any such thing – and I hope that you will think again about what you have said on this thread and recognise the intemperate nature of some of your comments.

    The CCP were, for all intents and purposes, the designers of this museum, since what is presented in it cannot deviate from their line. I cannot understand your attempt to distinguish between them.

  54. admin Says:

    The Nanjing Massacre Memorial has an English website at http://www.nj1937.org/english/default.asp

  55. Allen Says:

    @FOARP – perhaps we should cover up the horrors of history – since, gasps, horrors can lead to political positions – and how terrible it is to have Chinese political positions!

  56. Allen Says:

    @Steve #52,

    Despite your several “agreements” – I still don’t see that we agree.

    You wrote:

    That’s up to the KMT. If they do a good job running the country and continue to win elections, then the DPP will not be in power. If they screw things up and lose the elections, then the DPP or some other party will run the country. As long as it’s a democracy, the people decide who runs the country, not the KMT, CCP or anyone else.

    What do you mean by country? And where did KTM get into the picture?

    If the ROC wants to claim they are a Chinese gov’t on behalf of all Chinese people – they can’t simply waiver and choose not to simply by a change of political party.

    That is not how gov’ts work.

  57. Steve Says:

    @DJ #50: I’m not trying to defend or criticize the museum display, since I haven’t been there. But when I visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum I frankly spent most of the time being annoyed by the Japanese propaganda attached to each exhibit. What happened to the bomb victims was extremely saddening and was rightfully worth learning about, but the other stuff lowered the museum in my eyes. FOARP might have felt the same way at this museum; I don’t know. But I do know that it’s possible for a museum to overdo it

    @TonyP4: Did you also feel that way when you visited Hiroshima? Or did you think the exhibits were within reason?

  58. DJ Says:

    FOARP,

    So your point is that you dismiss this museum because it is the CCP that presented it. Well, anything presented by anyone would carry the imprint of the presenter’s view and bias. There is nothing particularly unbecoming in that regard.

    The Rape of Nanjing happened and need to be remembered. It’s fair to say it should be done in a more tasteful manner, but quite something else to dismiss the existence of the museum as nothing more than propaganda. The suffering of China and her people in the hands of the Japanese before and through WII is a lingering, raw and open wound for many of us. There is no need for indoctrination about it. You may not have realized it, but your causal dismissal of the museum rubbed me, and I assume a fair numbers of Chinese, the wrong way.

    And I have been conscientiously restrained in my language so far in this thread. So what is intemperate in my comments?

  59. Think Ming! Says:

    Regarding the Rape of Nanjing Memorial. . . I dunno. . . I had heard it was all a giant propaganda exercise, yet found it an informative display that was less propaganda-heavy than I’d expected. I can’t comment on details like claims of numbers killed and stuff since I hadn’t done much research before going. Sure there was the stuff on how the CCP had ‘saved China’, but in China you get that practically every time you enter a museum, open a newspaper, or even ask a question.

    I felt the same about the Harbin Museum documenting the Japanese human experiments conducted there by Unit 731 (or 713?). It was more informative and less emotional and rabidly anti-Japanese than I’d expected.

    That display with human remains in the Nanjing museum is a little freaky. But when does this stuff become OK? We don’t seem to have a problem looking at an ancient mummy and gawking at its injuries. Where do you draw the line? I thought it was a powerful display. The day I was there nobody was behaving disrespectfully, though I’m sure that happens too.

    @ Steve 48

    I never got to Huashan. My Xi’an visit was a short trip. I think we only stayed three nights, and it was freezing cold and right around Chinese New Year.

    @ BMY 46

    The highlights for me at Famensi were the Tang tea sets in silver, and the Roman objects (tortoise-shell coins, glass and so on).

    The unexpected highlight was getting scammed in a restaurant, surrounded by a mob (fortunately just gawkers), chased down the road by the knife wielding maniac restaurant boss, rescued by our driver who appeared out of nowhere with the car, and finally scrambling in and having this bizarre moment as we drove away and myself and my Korean friend realized that the music blasting out of the car’s tape deck was the Bond theme.

  60. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #56: I think you misunderstood me. You had written, “What is the political consequence of the ROC acting as a guardian of the Chinese treasures for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people, it is considered a Chinese gov’t (though not recognized) and such as such must never ever allow Taiwan secessionist to be in power again.”

    Realistically, there are two major parties in Taiwan, the KMT and DPP. You wrote the ROC is a Chinese government and as such must never ever allow Taiwan secessionist to be in power again. I can only assume you are referring to the DPP as the “Taiwan secessionist”. So if it’s not the DPP, the only other viable party is the KMT, right? And the only way the ROC could never allow Taiwan secessionist to be in power again would be to not elect the DPP, correct? You brought it up, not me. And you said the Taiwan secessionists were in power in the past, so you were referring to the ROC government. So by the country I was referring to the ROC, and the KMT was brought into the picture when you brought up the DPP.

    I agree that’s not how governments work. That’s why I responded to your “Taiwan secessionist” statement.

    So where do we disagree?

  61. TonyP4 Says:

    @Steve #57

    Actually I visited several cities in Japan but not Hiroshima. I heard about the memorial though.

    Although there were so many Japanese visitors in Hawaii, I did not see any in my tour in Pearl Harbor Memorial. We will not go to see something we’re not comfortable with, similar to reading newspapers that do not have our views most of the time.

    I just created a blog this morning just for fun. Thanks to modern technology, it only takes me several hours. http://tonyp4joke.blogspot.com/

    It has included several jokes from FM. Once I’ve 1 million hits, I would be as popular and sexy as Paris Hilton. :)

  62. Allen Says:

    @Steve,

    The DPP can get in power if they reform since the ROC is a Chinese gov’t. One thing they can do is to purge the Taiwan secessionist out from within their party.

    That’s not a political declaration – that’s simply applying the logic of ROC being a Chinese gov’t who cares for the whole Chinese people not just the Taiwanese.

  63. TonyP4 Says:

    @Steve, #57

    While have been to several cities in Japan, I’ve not been to Hiroshima, but I’ve heard about it.

    While there were so many Japanese tourists in Hawaii, I did not see any of them in Pearl Harbor Memorial. I guess we just do not want to see something we’re not comfortable with – similar buying newspapers that agree with our view points most of the time.

    Thanks to modern technology, I created a blog in three hours. I included some jokes from FM. It is great to circulate/store jokes. Once I’ve 1 million hits, I’ll be more popular and sexier than Paris Hilton. :)

    The blog is: http://tonyp4joke.blogspot.com/

  64. TonyP4 Says:

    The blog is: http://tonyp4joke.blogspot.com/

  65. TonyP4 Says:

    Admin, just posted 3 messages. They said they were spam and they did not show up. Please check. tony

  66. TonyP4 Says:

    @Steve, #57

    While have been to several cities in Japan, I’ve not been to Hiroshima, but I’ve heard about it.

    While there were so many Japanese tourists in Hawaii, I did not see any of them in Pearl Harbor Memorial. I guess we just do not want to see something we’re not comfortable with – similar buying newspapers that agree with our view points most of the time.

    Thanks to modern technology, I created a blog in three hours. I included some jokes from FM. It is great to circulate/store jokes. Once I’ve 1 million hits, I’ll be more popular and sexier than Paris Hilton. :)
    The blog is: http://tonyp4joke.blogspot.com/

  67. TonyP4 Says:

    Did not take my previous messages. Test.

  68. Think Ming! Says:

    So it’s vital that the Taiwanese people living in Taiwan subordinate their democratic right to determine their own future to the nationalist wet dreams of Taiwanese who abandoned their home to live in the US.

    Right. . .

  69. Steve Says:

    @ Allen: I agree that the DPP hurt their political chances by being so overt about independence over the last two administrations. Will they tone it down in the future? Hard to say. In any election, you need to solidify your base and then move to the middle. The DPP did it in 2000 and 2004, and the KMT did it in 2008. Obama also did it while McCain spent his campaign trying to solidify his base, which helped cost him the election.

    Unless the DPP changes their message, they’ll be out of power for awhile. But politicians hate being out of power and always make adjustments, so I suspect the DPP story will change over the next three years. I’d expect them to move to a “status quo” position with China and beat up the KMT over the economy.

    Allen, let’s not be starry eyed here. Governments care for whoever keeps them in power. Politics is a blood sport. You don’t win an election with logic, you win it with votes and/or party alliances, depending on the system. That’s my political declaration. :P

  70. Allen Says:

    @Steve,

    Imagine if a candidate in the U.S. ran on representing the white people and promised that if he became president, he would represent only the white people and gets elected – what would that mean?

    Please keep in mind the U.S. gov’t is the gov’t of the people – even if a portion of the people want to vote for a bigoted idiot.

    So – my declaration is simple: if the ROC is a Chinese gov’t for the Chinese people – willing to take on the responsibilyt of caring for the treasured heritage of the Chinese on behalf of all Chinese people – it can’t simply switch allegiance to become a gov’t of the Taiwanese people only by simply a switch of party in power – democracy or not.

    That – Steve, mon amie, my fellow blogging comrade – is not a starry eyed statement…! :-P

  71. Think Ming! Says:

    @ Allen 70,

    The ‘white people’ example just seems silly. You can just as well flip it around and say that the KMT represents just some groups within Taiwan and not the whole country.

    The fundamental problem is that there is a lack of consensus in Taiwan about who/what the government of Taiwan should represent. To me that seems a question best figured out by Taiwanese (by which I primarily mean those who care enough about Taiwan to actually live there).

    I can’t see what is so controversial about allowing people to determine their own future, particularly when they are already living in an independent state with democratic systems in place. Nothing outside Taiwan changes when Taiwanese exercise their democratic rights. They threaten nobody. If Taiwanese all felt very Chinese they’d choose a Chinese future, which would be great since people who care greatly about Taiwan but don’t live there (e.g. people in China, or Taiwanese-born Chinese nationalists living in the US) would be chuffed.

    Allowing Taiwanese people a real choice of their future achieves the best outcome for everyone. . . Taiwanese people get to freely choose, and Chinese nationalists outside Taiwan get the chance to see Taiwanese freely choose a Chinese future (surely better than seeing them reluctantly do it to avoid getting killed?).

    Of course the PRC’s military threats render all this a little bit moot. . . The reality is that all politics in Taiwan is colored by the fact that people exercising the democratic rights in the ‘wrong’ way will result in the place getting invaded and colonized yet again.

  72. Allen Says:

    @Think Ming!

    I have written extensively on self determination – and have answered many of your questions before.

    The the hidden and emotional political assumption is to decide beforehand at what granularity to apply self determination – at the clan level, tribe level, zip code level, city level, province level, “ethnic” level, “religious” level, or national level, etc. (Keep in mind that whatever level you choose – you will always find minorities and majorities on any divisive issue…)

    Anyways – I don’t have time to delve into the fascinating topic now. Before if you are interested, let me know. I can start a thread some time in the future.

    As for your ad hominem attacks on me in this thread as well as in others – well … I actually take all those as compliments!

    It sort of reminds me of the desperate, demoralized behavior I often see on the outmatched, losing teams on the sport field! And having people discuss openly about my “wet dreams” … well, let’s just say not everyone gets to enjoy that privilege!

    (OK – the last paragraph is just my trash talking back to you. Don’t take it too seriously.) ;-)

  73. Charles Liu Says:

    I remember seeing a documentary on TVBS few years ago on the history of ROC’s national museum. It was originally in the Forbidden Palace, and the collection was moved to Chongching during Japanese invasion, then moved to Taiwan.

    Perhaps a rational solution would be to acknowledge the fact these artifacts were kept in Taiwan during the civil war retrentchment, and rotate the collection between the national museum and the palace museum so everyone have a chance to see them.

    Realistically this probably can only happen after eventual unification, and the exchange will remain limited while China transforms itself into a more just nation. That’s not to say there’s no onus on Taiwan for improving cross-straight relations. Chen has demonstrated he’s not all that different than Lee, Lien, Soong (reserve judgement on Ma.) while DPP’s brand of politics emphasizing Taiwanese regionalism, I’m sorry guys, has proven to be short-sighted small thinking.

  74. Think Ming! Says:

    I’m not part of any ‘team’ Allen, and I don’t see what happens to Taiwan as a battle that is mine to ‘lose’, so any similarity between my comments and a losing team on the sports field is probably incidental. . .

    Anyhow. . .

    This thread was better when it was about museums and stuff, so maybe we should get back to that?

    I am kind of interested in the whole ‘bias in the Nanjing Massacre Memorial’ thing since I am, as everyone knows, not the CCP’s most fervent cheerleader, and yet I didn’t walk out of the place with such a bad impression. Maybe my expectations were really low to start with, but if anything I was pleasantly surprised.

    The Nanjing Government Presidential Office (also site of the seat of government of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom) was my favorite site in Nanjing though. Sun Yat-sen’s humble house just showed him to be such a greater leader than the pretenders of today. If only he were still among us!

    Of course the San Yat-sen Mausoleum was also good to see。 Lian Zhan, visiting on the same day, had to restrain me as I threw myself on the floor screaming “孫中山!你不能死!” Of course the nearby Ming Tombs were also interesting, and I mostly retained self-control while there.

  75. Allen Says:

    Yes – I am interested about the follow up discussion to FOARP’s reactions to museums in Mainland China, too.

    Unfortunately I haven’t been to any of the “controversial” museums discussed above – so I’ll just go back to listening…

  76. Steve Says:

    @ Charles Liu #73: I think you summed it up quite well. I’d only add that the DPP’s brand of politics was also politically unpopular over the long run. One thing I’d like to point out is that Taiwan’s governmental structure is geared more towards legislative than presidential power, so the KMT party has never lost power, just the presidential office. The KMT dominated legislature certainly hasn’t distinguished themselves in this decade.

    Remember the old “South Park” song called “Blame Canada”? Whenever I listened to Chen, I always felt he was singing a song called “Blame China”. Domestic disaster? Blame China. Rise in unemployment? Blame China. I think it got old after awhile. Funny thing about it was that he was a pretty good Taipei mayor, in my time visiting there the best one they ever had. I guess it was the “Peter Principle” in action. :P

  77. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #70: It can’t switch but it can certainly bend like a willow if it achieved both presidential and legislative control. As an example, using the last eight years in the USA, would you say ALL the people were truly represented? Fortunately, democracies have a habit of blowing back the other way after a few years to even things out. That’s what’s happened in both America and Taiwan.

    I wouldn’t compare the political process to blatant racism; inappropriate example for the USA considering our last election. I’d use ideology and social status instead.

    @ Think Ming! #74: I’m glad you had a good experience at the Nanjing Museum. I had only vague notions of it before reading both yours and FOARP’s descriptions. I’ve taken the train through Nanjing but never stopped, so I’ve never had the chance to check out the city. Sounds like an interesting place to visit.

  78. DJ Says:

    FOARP,

    Re: - dodgy stats – not the actual death toll of the massacre (or at least, not just this) but things like the number of dead suffered by China during WWII being quoted as 35 million, when no-one claims that it was this much.

    As for your charge of dodgy stats shown in the Nanjing Massacre Museum, I am now suspecting it is more likely caused by a misreading of the presentation there. According to Wikipedia:

    The official Chinese Communist statistics of China’s civilian and military casualties in the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937-1945 are 20 million dead and 15 million wounded…

    So you probably took the word 死伤 (i.e., killed and wounded), which is a common phrase in this context, to mean only the number of dead.

    Now, that is just the CCP’s estimate. But I am not aware of any credible charge of that estimation being inflated for propagandistic manipulation. The notes in Wikipedia further state:

    A study based on Chinese Nationalist sources estimates total war deaths of 15-20 million from all causes…

    John W. Dower has noted “ So great was the devastation and suffering in China that in the end it is necessary to speak of uncertain “millions” of deaths. Certainly, it is reasonable to think in general terms of approximately 10 million Chinese war dead, a total surpassed only by the Soviet Union”

    R. J. Rummel’s estimate of total war dead from 1937-45 is 19,605,000.

    I also briefly checked both the Chinese and English versions the website of “the memorial hall of the victims in Nanjing massacre by Japanese invaders” (thanks Admin). Please note the operative word here is “briefly”. But frankly I don’t sense propaganda in any obvious manner.

    Now, let’s go back to your further comment: The suggestion that they were simply taking the worst possible figure and then adding a bit also suggests that they are trying to manipulate the feelings of the viewer. Is it possible, that you went to the museum with the worst possible expectations for any and all things associated with the CCP, and came out adding a bit more misunderstanding of its nature?

  79. FOARP Says:

    @DJ – I went to the museum back in 2004, obviously I had heard about the massacre, I had read John Rabbi’s diary of it, I had also heard about various Japanese nationalists denying the massacre, but I can’t say that I went with any particular expectation. I went with a Chinese American friend of mine whose grandfather had fought in the war, he himself was no lover of the Japanese, we both agreed about the exhibit though. The stats were the same in both English and Chinese – neither of us could believe what we were seeing. I think you’ll find this actually a fairly common impression by non-PRC visitors to the memorial, a Taiwanese friend of mine also felt the same when he visited there.

  80. Allen Says:

    Sometimes I wonder the reaction to something being “propaganda” is related to style of presentation.

    After the Beichuan earthquake earlier this year, I read several U.S. journalists reporting of Chinese propaganda on the ground. When I asked one particular reporter in a comment section of some blog to give an example – he posted a picture that showed a sign telling people to unite together to get through the disaster.

    I didn’t think that was propaganda, so I asked the reporter whether there was something similar in New Orleans after the Katrina disaster.

    He had to eventually answer yes … but then he posted another picture showing a sign that the reporter translated as something roughly to “thank govt and country for help.”

    He claimed it was put up by the local gov’t – probably at the insistence of some Beijing propaganda bureau, he surmised.

    Well, I pointed out that in New Orleans, we also saw some local gov’t officials putting up signs thanking FEMA for help…

    The reporter wouldn’t budge…

    In general – what’s wrong with making signs / documents that drum up pride of community, culture and history or support for the country?

    In the West – we find those things every day in magazines, movies, books, news, and music (even Obama’s inauguration speech).

    In many cases, the Chinese gov’t can be more refined … but now we are talking style – not substance.

  81. Ted Says:

    @ Allen, Steve et al: Why is anyone suggesting that the palace treasure be returned to or belongs to a party all? The party is the party, the museum is the museum, and the people are the people. The museum manages the collection, the people go to the museum, and the party… isn’t involved. Politicizing any of this will only delay an exchange. Given what I’ve read about CCP’s extral-legal status in the mainland I don’t think I would want any treasures returned to China in their name either. It sounds to me like there is still alot of uncoupling to do between the government and various organizations.

  82. Allen Says:

    @Ted,

    I have never argued that the palace arts should be returned to the CCP.

    Neither have I argued that the PRC not the ROC gov’t should keep the arts.

    All I did was respond to A-gu’s comment that “So I believe this is one of those instances where the pro-unification people in China can present no rational argument for their nearly unanimous position” in #1 – and provided several rationales why someone who believes in one China can easily argue for their return.

    I also pointed out the simple fact that the arts belong to the Chinese people. So any gov’t that wants to keep custody of this heritage (in this case, the ROC) better be prepared to claim that they are a Chinese gov’t acting on behalf of the Chinese people for the benefit of the Chinese people.

    That’s all.

  83. Wukailong Says:

    On a personal note, I don’t understand why these treasures shouldn’t be returned to Beijing. Of course it wouldn’t work out politically, but what I would like to see would be for the National Palace Museum to return the stuff to the Forbidden City Museum as a deal between two institutions, rather than countries, provinces or whatever.

    However, I wouldn’t say these artefacts is part of what makes someone today Chinese, which is what it says in the original post. If that were the case, and this robbed someone of their identity, I think it ought to be based on something more substantial.

  84. Ted Says:

    @ Allen:
    “I have never argued that the palace arts should be returned to the CCP….Neither have I argued that the PRC not the ROC gov’t should keep the arts.”

    Your comment #34: “The CCP today is the legitimate of most of China – and since the arts belong to the Chinese people – the arts need to be returned to the CCP.”

    Sounds to me like that was precisely your position. I think the curator of Palace Museum has every right to ask for a letter guaranteeing the return of whatever pieces are loaned to Beijing and a big deal is being made out of what should be a simple exchange.

    My only question is, did the curator of the Beijing collection sign the guarantee Jane mentioned in her original post? If yes, then we, along with the author at the NYTimes, are looking for a problem where there should be celebration, if not then I would say that Beijing is making this political. Why wouldn’t a museum sign a letter guaranteeing the return of objects from another museum.

  85. Allen Says:

    @Ted #84,

    Good catch. But if you read my very next sentence, I wrote: “If ROC wants to hold onto the cultural artifacts, they must do so as the government of all the Chinese people – not just the people of Taiwan.”

    In #34 I provided two equally strong arguments – one for return – or for non-return.

    Let me clarify again. My response in this thread have been motivated mainly in response to A-gu’s comment #1. I am trying to provide why A-gu’s assertion that there is no rational argument to ask for the return for people who insist that Taiwan is part of China is false.

    I’ll reiterate: I personally feel neutral. I can see argument to both sides – with both within the framework of one China.

    In fact, I might as well also make it clear that in my view – the only justification for the art to stay in Taiwan is under the one China framework – how else can Taiwan justify holding onto the heritage of all the Chinese people?

  86. Steve Says:

    @ Wukailong #83: I believe the National Palace Museum is a government museum rather than a private institution, such as the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Therefore, there can’t be a museum to museum exchange without government approval. If I remember correctly, these artifacts sat in caves for a couple of decades before Chiang Kai-shek bothered to show them to anyone.

    Ah, I looked it up and it was 1964 so 15 years after they arrived. I guess you can compare it more to a Smithsonian Institution than a Getty. Since the Forbidden City Museum is also government controlled, the chance of an institute to institute exchange that avoids politics is unfortunately non-existent. Ted, I guess the coupling you mentioned (on both sides) will continue to exist for the forseeable future. :(

  87. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #36:
    “return it to the then sovereign gov’t of the Chinese people” – if the sovereign government of the Chinese people isn’t already the sovereign government of the Chinese people in Taiwan, then either you’ve already got slightly more than one China, or the one CHina you’ve got is not as large as you had hoped.

    #51:
    “if the ROC wants to keep the arts for the benefit and on behalf of all Chinese people, it would surely recognize that the best use of the art is to circulate it throughout China so the common Chinese people can appreciate and be re-united with their cultural heritage.” – hey, that works for me. But then the PRC should reciprocate by rotating and circulating other artifacts through the museum in Taiwan, so that the common CHinese people throughout Taiwan can appreciate and be reunited with their cultural heritage as well.

  88. Allen Says:

    @SKC #87,

    Please see #29.

  89. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #56:
    “If the ROC wants to claim they are a Chinese gov’t on behalf of all Chinese people – they can’t simply waiver and choose not to simply by a change of political party.” – well actually, the sovereign government of the ROC would get to decide, and if the sovereign government of the ROC becomes headed by a different party, then surely some of their political positions might change, barring legally binding covenants and international obligations. It’s exactly the same as when you said that if the CCP left town, the artifacts would belong to the next sovereign government of the PRC, and presumably this new government could do with it as they saw fit, even if their choice is different from what the CCP’s would have been. That, I believe, is how governments work.

    To #70:
    “it can’t simply switch allegiance to become a gov’t of the Taiwanese people only by simply a switch of party in power – democracy or not.” – if the choice is restricted to a dichotomy, you would be right. BUt a government could certainly be biased to the benefit of Taiwanese, perhaps even at the expense of mainlanders. In fact, if there ever is reunification, I would fully assume the opposite, and that the Taiwanese comrades would get the short end of the stick, particularly in situations of competing interests. LIkewise, US presidents swear to uphold the interests of all Americans, but I don’t think they end up doing so completely equally.

  90. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #85:
    “In #34 I provided two equally strong arguments – one for return – or for non-return.” – Non-return is consistent with one China; no argument from me. But return to the CCP as the sovereign government of “China” implies that Taiwan isn’t a part of it. How can one argument (one China) justify dichotomously opposite actions (both return and non-return)?

    “In fact, I might go as far as to say – the only justification for the art to stay in Taiwan is under the one China framework – how else can Taiwan justify holding onto the heritage of all the Chinese people?”…and the only justification for the art to be returned by Taiwan is under something other than the one CHina framework, which I believe is A-gu’s point from the very beginning. I believe you’ve made it for him.

    To #88:
    I’ve seen #29, and all the others. Clearly, your strong argument is having negligible effect on me.

  91. Michael Turton Says:

    What a great thread! Hiroshima and Taiwan independence? Let’s throw in abortion and gun control too!

    As for the Taiwan question, I’m happy enough to let the Taiwanese people decide it. To be frank, I find something faintly ridiculous about non-Taiwanese being so sure of the rightness of either side of the debate.

    Yes — imagine that! The cheek of those outsiders, actually caring about the future of Taiwan! How ridiculous to care about the place where you live and work, and where your friends and relatives live. And who could imagine that a foreigner could ever study the issue and come to understand it, and have a concrete and well-defended position…and a passionate ethical stance that you actually live. Silly foreigners….

    I’m glad you think it is ridiculous that foreigners are involved. Why don’t you tell that to those foreigners in Beijing who want to annex the island?

    The DPP’s position is a crock, and if they had real stones they would demand that the art be returned to Beijing where it belongs, IMHO. A-gu is awesome.

    Michael

  92. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen (#80): I actually like the slogans quite a lot! Most of the time I don’t mind that sort of propaganda (I would call it a sort of propaganda… I don’t think it’s going too far), I even appreciate it. Some slogans are a bit silly, like “the people’s representatives represent the people” (人民代表代表人民) but others are creative pearls, like “One drip of alcohol for you, one tear for your family” (against drunk driving) and I was moved by some of the earthquake ones.

    Does/did Taiwan have something similar?

  93. Andrew Says:

    ” I was deeply saddened that most Chinese people will never be able to see those art works because of Taiwan’s visa restrictions on Mainland Chinese. They will never be able to see and appreciate their own cultural heritage, to find out where they came from, what makes them Chinese.”

    I felt the author’s quote above to be interesting enough to note.

    I found it interesting for the following points.

    The objects in the National Palace Museum are simply objects. They are things, shit, junk, stuff… stuff.
    The author seems to feel that these objects and trinkets once owned by an emperor or two are what makes people “Chinese” and without ever seeing them people in China will never know “where they come from”. This notion works when waxing poetic, but when we step away from the poetry we are still discussing “stuff”.

    The history of this “stuff” is that it belonged to the household of the dynastic imperial families and was completely the domain of such a limited few that it would be inconceivable that this stuff could have been known in any meaningful way by the people in what is now China and now Taiwan, prior to the fall of the Qing dynasty. The objects are not and have never been “what makes them Chinese” and I would surmise that the peoples of China would have been content with their identities had they never heard of these objects. As far as “cultural heritage” goes, in short, culture can best be described as collectively held systems of meaning and customary patterns of thought and behavior shared by groups of people. Let’s face it, these “objects” have been traditionally meaningless to most people they supposedly represent for most of their existence.

    The objects in the NPM, only found their resonant “value” when charged by the political forces of nationalism, which sought to use the objects that once belonged to the Emperor of a great empire, as legitimizing symbols for their new dynasty. It was the political actors that infused the objects with symbolic meaning and then instructed their object, the citizens they wished to govern, on how to understand or de-code the meaning these objects held. Any shared meaning you wish to view in these “things” is the result of a political construction. How else were people to know what these “things” are, where they are from and what their display is intended to mean. These dead objects became a emplotted piece of a recent political narrative and not an ancient symbol of ethnic or cultural unity. If the government had told the citizens that these objects were German ceramic they would not have known or cared what they were. The value was added by the structure of Chinese nationalism. This is supported by the events which marked the Cultural Revolution when objects like the ones in the NPM were derided by Chinese as bourgeoisie and symbolic to many Chinese as objects of an oppressive system. They held an entirely opposite meaning constructed by the CCP.

    The logic that lends deep inner value to these objects as an essential element to the “Chinese character” is in error as it seeks to imbue objects (and places) with a preconceived, essentialized notion of identity that does not account for the very real phenomena of change, time, politics and state structure. IN the author’s own words “where they came from” implies these objects signify a primordial Chineseness that strikes the fancy of orientalists the world over.The author has a preconceived notion of what a “Chinese” is and therefore we would have to assume the author also has a notion of what a “Chinese” isn’t. This relies on the author’s own criterion that may or may not reflect how the billions of different people view themselves. This glosses over the deep incongruities between different Chinese identities and non-Chinese identities. So by somehow tying these national, ethnic, cultural, spacial etc… identities to a museum of “stuff” from particular times, which is given a constructed value is poor logic.

    Lastly, the saddest thing about this argument is that it contains so many of the elements China uses to stake a claim to Taiwan and other areas of Asia. China contends that Taiwan is an essential part of China and as long as Taiwan is independent China and the Chinese people are incomplete. They have applied a politically constructed meaning to Taiwan/Taiwanese and built it into their political narrative, just as others have done with the objects in the NPM. Unfortunately, this thinking makes sense to people and policy makers around the globe who wish to close their eyes to a political construct and instead entertain an orientalist fantasy.

    Let the stuff be stuff. Let Taiwan be Taiwan.

  94. Andrew Says:

    The treasure may have more meaning to Taiwanese than it does Chinese as it has had a tangibility about it for decades.

  95. may Says:

    #93
    Yeah, the meaning of an object is constructed by social actors (including the gov.). So what??

    If the stuff in NPM is meaningless to the Taiwanese, why not give them away to Beijing, or anyone?

    #94
    Seems you are quick to realize your social constructionist argument can work back against you.

    I’d like to know
    1) Isn’t the meaning of the treasure to the Taiwanese constructed too? If not, why?
    2) if it is, how come the Taiwanese construction is more legitimate/more true than the mainland Chinese one?

  96. Andrew Says:

    Like I said… it is all recent politically constructed/motivated meaning. The only difference is that Taiwanese have actually had access to it and have seen it.

  97. may Says:

    all right, I see…

    In this case, the legitimacy/truthfulness/amount of meaning is determined by “tangibility”…

    thanks for clarification.

  98. Andrew Says:

    I am not mentioning “truth” or “legitimacy” anywhere. I don’t know where you are getting that. My point is that it all depends on how you wish to politicize it. The key word is “politicize”. The author is engaging in narratological fantasy.

  99. may Says:

    re-read your #94, my apologies.

    Let’s say:

    In this case, the AMOUNT of meaning is determined by “tangibility”.

  100. Andrew Says:

    Let me elaborate. If the meanings of the objects are the recent products of political/nationalist projects and they were largely unknown and rejected by Chinese, yet they have been known by Taiwanese who were socialized to imagine a defined meaning to these objects, there may be people who felt genuine sentiments about these objects that could be seen, read about and promoted, then the question is open as to exactly WHO shares symbolic meaning in these objects. The question is also open as to whether the row over these objects is a political battle between governments or whether the people in China actually are aware of these objects and what type of meaning they hold to Chinese or how they are imagined, if they are imagined at all.

  101. Ted Says:

    @Allen: I agree with SK. If the rationale is that an elected party in Taiwan only represents Taiwan and therefore the treasures should be returned, then the mainland has gained the Palace Museum at the expense of Taiwan. At least it’s apparent that’s what some will argue.

    On a side note, these were once the possessions of individuals who people from the both ROC and PRC rebelled against. It seems a little petty to squabble over ownership when the artifacts can be used to demonstrate how both sides have contributed to modern China.

    @Steve: Thanks for explaining the Palace Museum’s affiliation. I would think that it all comes down to the language in the agreement and I’m sure the two sides will think of something that works around the question of who owns the pieces. Allen and FOARP are the lawyers here maybe they have some ideas.

  102. Allen Says:

    @Ted,

    It’s fine you agree with SKC. I expect plenty of disagreements since Taiwan /ROC is currently neither a country nor a province. So people’s vision are clouded by that uncertainty.

    I do want to stress the point that that change of political party is not regime change. There are certain responsibilities that go with governance – regardless of who is in power. For example, in the U.S., regardless of whether a democrat or republican is elected to the president’s office, the president is the president of All Americans – not just blue states – or red states.

    Anyways – we can end here. I already have made my point very clearly enough. My goal is not to convince – only to articulate. You and SKC can make up your mind however way you see fit.

    Cheers…

  103. FOARP Says:

    @Michael Turton – In my opinion the CCP’s foreign parrots are utterly reprehensible – I have gone on record as doing my best to expose their dishonest and hypocrisy, people like Chris Gelken, Chris Devonshire-Ellis, Eddie Maher, Mark Rowswell and others should not be allowed to get away with on one side parroting the CCP line and on the other trying to pose as even-handed sources.

    My criticism of pro-DPP foreigners is their seeming fanboyism for a party that most of them cannot even vote for – but I am sure that they are genuine and honest about their opinions and hold them for reasons they think good. Believe me, one of my best friends in the world is a British man married to a Taiwanese woman who, unlike his wife, is solidly pro-DPP, but even he finds essays written by foreigners urging Taiwanese to ‘Embrace the Taike identity’ ridiculous. Surely the whole idea of Taiwanese independence is that Taiwanese people themselves should decide their own identity?

    Let me put it this way, if someone born in Taiwan tells you that he thinks that he is Chinese – are you going to tell him he is wrong? Isn’t what is really objectionable about the Beijing exactly this – that it is followed without reference to what people in Taiwan actually think? You may think that Taiwanese independence is the best step for Taiwan, but, assuming you are not an ROC citizen (and apologies if you are), you do not yet have the right to have any say in the matter.

  104. FOARP Says:

    @Andrew – Couldn’t agree more. Were Buckingham palace to burn down tomorrow and the British museum to go up in smoke the day after, I would be no less British than I am now. Objects do not make people who they are, and the idea that people need to see the contents of a museum which no ordinary person alive at the time of their manufacture was allowed to see seems to my mind to be a ridiculous form of fetishism.

    Places, far more than objects, make people who they are – and of course this links to the wider discussion of the Taiwan identity. If people born and raised in Taiwan feel that they are Taiwanese rather than Chinese, or Chinese rather than Taiwanese, then who is anyone who was not born in Taiwan to tell them otherwise?

  105. Allen Says:

    I disagree that Chinese should not identity with their cultural artifacts as part of being Chinese.

    If all the Chinese cultural heritage in the world are destroyed in one-fell scoop – including art, literature, music, cultural artifacts, etc. – then surely Chinese would have lost a sense of being Chinese – even though … it’s true that as long as the Chinese people exist , they can always continue on and built a new heritage.

    OK – the imperial treasures constitute only a small fraction of Chinese heritage – but it is an important part – so its loss would constitute some loss of identity.

    As for the argument that Chinese should not let their identity be so attached to cultural heritage – is that a serious argument? May I apply to the French, the Germans, the Japanese, the Indians, the Egyptians, the Greeks?

    I am not really sure where this last argument came from – perhaps it’s because the cultural revolution destroyed so much … but wouldn’t the destruction make the remaining heritage that much more valuable?

  106. FOARP Says:

    Allen, as I’m sure you’re aware, some of the greatest artefacts of Italian, French, and Greek culture are not to be found in the galleries of their native countries. The Mona Lisa would be perhaps be the most famous advantage. People are reduced when works of art are destroyed, but this does not mean that they need these works of art to tell them who they are.

    On the issue of pro-pan-green opinion in expat media in Taiwan, I felt this interview by Taipei Times pretty demonstrative:

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2009/02/20/2003436567

    This interview was conducted by local staffers and Taiwanese Americans, and of course it is natural that the cross-strait issue should be foremost in their minds – but did they really have nothing else to ask him about? Not one thing about genuinely local issues? Are they really that short on imagination? The more I read it, the more I find myself admiring Ma – yes, he is a politician, but he does seem a lot more sane than the mono-mania of his questioners.

  107. Allen Says:

    @FOARP,

    Yes – I am aware that some of of the greatest artifacts of Italian, French, and Greek culture are not to be found in the galleries of their native countries.

    That opens up another issue what to do with Chinese arts in great museums around the world …. but that I think is a separate issue.

    As for Ma’s interview. It is consistent with his approach to politics. He is a very careful guy. He is comfortable with legal and constitutional procedures. Sometimes he does appear a bit stiff though … but I agree with you that thus far I do admire Ma’s balanced handling of many sensitive politically charged issues in Taiwan. He is by no means a great president yet. We are in turbulent times.

    Time will tell…

  108. FOARP Says:

    @Ted – Unfortunately I am not a lawyer – I am due to graduate with a law degree in June, and whether I become a lawyer or not depends entirely on whether I can get someone to take a chance on employing me – such is life.

  109. Charles Liu Says:

    For the record the Mona Lisa was purchased by King Francois in 1516. When she was stolen from the Louver, she was subsquently returned.

    Comparatively, the fountain heads were looted from China when Yuanmingyuan was sacked – and the Chinese had to pay war reparation.

    BTW, It’s entirely understandable this is a precedence the former colonial robbers don’t want to set, given the scope of the transgression. For example the greeks also asked Lord Elgin’s loot returned:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6313953.stm

    But realistically they probably should stay where they are, fundamental morality or not. But then again the people of Brittan may have a guilt free night of sleeping knowing the Greeks will not one day become powerful and invade them to recover the loot.

    The Bible says “eye for an eye”, but the Chinese says “measure other’s heart with your heart”.

  110. William Huang Says:

    @ Andrew #93
    Your political simplification of Chinese culture and artistic heritage is little bit too much out of whack. It reminded me of someone said once, “For the guy with a hammer in the hand, every problem looks like a nail to him.” These objects have no political meaning for the present day. They represent the past, the history. They are our heritage and have priceless value in literature, art, craftsmanship, technology, etc, etc. What we do today and will do tomorrow has a lot to do with the past and it’s important for us to know where we come from. They may mean nothing to you but you are making a big mistake that they don’t mean anything people in mainland China.

    Of course, these objects have a lot to do with our life today. Do people in Taiwan watch American movie classic, “Godfather”? If they do, then, what story of a fictional New York Mafia family’s struggle has anything to do with people’s life in Taiwan? More generally speaking, can people live without motion picture? If the answer is yes, then, why people spent so much money making them and then watching them?

    #94 and #100
    These objects came from Forbidden City in Beijing and I understand that due to various historic circumstances, they are in Taiwan today. However, these circumstances do not change the entitlement of its rightful owner (Chinese people as a whole). If you imply that Taiwan should be independent (“Let Taiwan be Taiwan”), then at least, you should have the basic decency to return them to China.

  111. William Huang Says:

    @ FOARP #104

    “ – Couldn’t agree more. Were Buckingham palace to burn down tomorrow and the British museum to go up in smoke the day after, I would be no less British than I am now. Objects do not make people who they are, and the idea that people need to see the contents of a museum which no ordinary person alive at the time of their manufacture was allowed to see seems to my mind to be a ridiculous form of fetishism.”

    Why just British museum and Buckingham Palace? How about destroy all the historical culture record about England from Beatles music to Shakespeare’s play? Let’s destroy them all like British people ever know that they existed. How about Isaac Newton’s book, Alan Turing’s publication, and Colossus computer blue-print? Are you still the same British as you are today? If your answer is yes (which I will be very disappointed to hear), what about the children in school if you never let them learn anything about Shakespeare? Will they grow up as a full British as you are today?

    “Places, far more than objects, make people who they are – and of course this links to the wider discussion of the Taiwan identity. If people born and raised in Taiwan feel that they are Taiwanese rather than Chinese, or Chinese rather than Taiwanese, then who is anyone who was not born in Taiwan to tell them otherwise?”

    There are enough people in some parts of California and Texas feel that they are Mexicans not Americans. That doesn’t mean they can declare independence.

  112. Charles Liu Says:

    I’ve ran into Michael Turton (beagle17 on gnn) last couple years.

    I totally dispise how he exploits Falun Gong’s “organ harvesting” BS to further his Taiwan independence stance. Using UFO cult to demonize China so to justify TI? The NED should pay you.

  113. FOARP Says:

    @William Huang – The answer is yes, Britishness is an idea, one that I learned growing up in the UK, I am proud of my country, I have no wish to see it’s heritage destroyed, but Britishness exists because of the British people, not because of articles they created. Works of art, buildings etc. are evidence of our history (good and bad), not history itself.People are the most important thing, and it is thorugh people that ideas find their expression, not objects. One thing I will credit Mao for, if nothing else, is recognising this: “人民,只有人民, 才是历史发展的动力” (quoting from memory from the banners on the Great Nanjing Bridge)

  114. Charles Liu Says:

    Sorry, beagle17 is Peter Dearman, another ESL guy in Taiwan, dissing China with FLG, talking big about TI – while holding a get-out-of-dodge US Marine helicoptor ticket.

    You can find Michael Turton promoting the organ harvesting BS here.

  115. Andrew Says:

    It is the shared meanings between people. These shared meanings arise with experiences, mainly with a common societal structure and the pathways human beings may take to achieve their objectives (i.e. state structure. As these structures shift and change, so do the cultural meanings. Yes, this may implore many of you to revisit your definitions of Chineseness and cultural heritage.

  116. FOARP Says:

    @Andrew – Indeed, there is much more Chineseness in a staff meeting, dinner at a restaurant, a trip on a bus, a conversation at a market, and other such day-to-day activities, than can ever be contained in any museum. This is not an attempt to belittle Chinese culture, merely to say that it exists in the people themselves, and their relationships with each other, and that art work is an expression of one facet of this.

  117. Andrew Says:

    I would even go so far as to question the concept of Chineseness beyond the national experience.

  118. Allen Says:

    Andrew – can you elaborate?

    One thought may go like this…

    The cultural artifacts technically belong to the upper ruling class. Why should should people outside the descendants of upper ruling class care about these artifacts?

    Similarly, assuming the artifacts were made by artisans? Why should descendants of non-artisans care about these artifacts?

    Even further, assuming the artifacts were made only in specific locations of China. Why should people outside of those specific locations of China care?

    Why must we attach Chineseness to these artifacts?

    Is this where you are going?

  119. may Says:

    Lets de-construct this constructionist logic a bit:
    1) Chineseness is socially and politically constructed;
    2) One of the constructions is the treasure in the NPM means a lot to being Chinese;

    Here is something I don’t understand:
    sure, the meanings of the NPM treasure or being Chinese are constructed. When someone comes up and points it out, does this make these meanings less meaningful to people?

    The point is even if “all are constructed”, the ways one feel Chinese (for example, an attachment to the treasure) are still real to lots of people. Applying a constructionist theory to de-construct these sentiments does NOT make these sentiments disappear.

  120. William Huang Says:

    @ FOARP #113 and #116
    @ Andrew # 115

    Allow me use an example to make my point. Why certain products are universally accepted as beautiful, say iPod and Ferrari? Why significant numbers of people are willing to pay more for their look? If these looks have DNA, you can trace them to Picasso’s cubism painting which can be traced to Paul Cezanne’s painting. The list can go on and on, all the way back to Leonardo de Vinci and Renaissance. Cezanne is called father of modern art. He made a big step breaking away from the traditional art form. How did he do that? He spent a lot of time in Louvre studying old paintings (stuffs) which opened our eye to appreciate abstract art which influenced the way we look at modern buildings, cars, appliances, furniture, etc, etc. Without this progress growing out of our culture heritage, this stand alone “social structure” or “state structure” (I am not sure what it means) would not make any of this to happen not in our life time. So you don’t call art works created by Picasso, Cezanne,de Vinci in the museums just stuffs. The same applies to NPM.

    For de Vinci to create his master piece, somebody would have to pay him so he could eat and had roof over his head. Guess who were the patrons? You shouldn’t be supervised to find out that it was the ruling class among them, Medici family and King of France. Who else could afford it anyway? Did average citizens had chance to appreciate his master pieces? No, and de Vinci wasn’t smart enough to invent color photography yet to benefit the mass. So you can’t blame him for creating a work of art for the rich and powerful. Between the good money but for few and little or no money for the mass, the choice was simple.

    So what’s this day-to-day activity we are talking? We humans are not ant, just eat, sleep and work. How many people in this world can say they are defined by what they do at work? It’s fair to say that only very few lucky ones are doing what they are passionate about but at the same time make a good living at it. If I am passionate about writing but I can only be a restaurant waiter in order to make a decent living, still, I would like to think I am more than a person who just brings people the dishes.

    My point here is that in today’s society, each individual is no longer only concerned about just making a living but much more than that. A considerable portion of populations are very much into the literature, art, crafts, etc, etc and these parts of their lives are intimately connected to these “stuffs” in museums. That’s what makes who we are today in addition to eat, sleep, work, vote, exercise, party, etc, etc.

    For example, Chinese calligraphy has been a long and fine tradition in Chinese people’s life. These life-time practitioners, many of them are ordinary people, will be thrilled to see some of the collections in NPM. To them, these are not just stuffs.

    What’s the big deal about calligraphy and what does this have anything to with “shared meaning” (#93) and “exists in the people themselves” (#116)? Well, if you ask Steve Jobs, he will tell you how calligraphy has changed him (at Reed College) and what leads to the look and feel of Macintosh graphic user interface and many artistic qualities of the Apple Computer products. It’s a billion dollar business and a lot of people are talking about it everyday.

    Let me close this post with what once said by a man, who made tremendous contributions to the civilization of this planet; “If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulder of giants”.

  121. may Says:

    #93 “Let the stuff be stuff. Let Taiwan be Taiwan.”

    I don’t think you are playing a very good constructionist here. Are you sure the idea “stuff is stuff; Taiwan is Taiwan” is not politically constructed? It surely needs some de-construction in my mind.

    #100 “The question is also open as to whether the row over these objects is a political battle between governments or whether the people in China actually are aware of these objects and what type of meaning they hold to Chinese or how they are imagined, if they are imagined at all.”

    I think back in #93 you are pretty sure the mainland Chinese has built a nationalist project around the treasure. Now I am not sure you are sure…

    #100 “If the meanings of the objects are the recent products of political/nationalist projects and they were largely unknown and rejected by Chinese, yet they have been known by Taiwanese who were socialized to imagine a defined meaning to these objects, there may be people who felt genuine sentiments about these objects that could be seen, read about and promoted, then the question is open as to exactly WHO shares symbolic meaning in these objects.”

    Yeah, I am sure these genuine, socialized, and imagined sentiments, when expressed, will be nothing like the “narratological fantasy” Jane has conjured up in her post.

    (sorry if my impatience offends anyone. Side effects from an overdose of constructionist theory in my younger years.)

  122. Steve Says:

    Maybe we can look at this another way~

    When I listen to classical music based on Slavic folk songs, it stirs something deep inside me that is not intellectual but emotional. I happen to be Slovakian on my father’s side and I think there’s something hardwired in my DNA that causes the response, which I don’t get with any other classical music, even pieces I love. I also find this happens with certain Italian paintings or sculptures; I seem to relate to them on some subconscious level that I just can’t explain.

    Now my wife? When we visited the NPM, she was bored to tears. She gets bored to tears at all museums, but sits quietly while I look at everything there. Once I figured this out, I’d drop her off in a shopping area and I’d go by myself so she wouldn’t be bored. Some people are just built differently. For her Chinese side, art does nothing but music affects her.

    Yes, these artifacts were created for the imperial family and their retainers. Mozart wrote his music for the elite. Most great art was created for patrons from the moneyed class. That doesn’t mean others of that culture can’t have the same emotional responses when exposed to this art. Some might and some might not. Is it necessary? Nothing is absolutely necessary beyond food, water and clothing, if we want to get picky. But the quality of life is in finding the treasures that have been created for us and that we can relate to.

    As Charles wrote, Francois I bought (I didn’t realize that, thought DaVinci had given it to him as a gift) the Mona Lisa and it was the first piece that the entire Louvre collection was built around. When DaVinci came to France, it was the only painting he took with him so he must have had an emotional connection with the work. BTW, if you’re even in Amboise, be sure to check out the Clos Luce, DaVinci’s residence when he lived there. And don’t forget to check out the basement where IBM engineers built wooden models of mechanical inventions from sketches left by Leonardo. It’s a great little house.

    FOARP is correct; art is not who we are, but I’d say it is a reflection of our culture and makes us think about aspects of our culture that we normally would not consider. It makes us more human. It can inspire us.

    Andrew is correct; there is a political battle going on and many Chinese citizens have never seen these artworks in any form, whether print or online. But if they happen to visit the TPM, Forbidden City or another venue while on holiday and see them there, they might be struck by them emotionally and become affected in a way they didn’t know was possible. Lack of knowledge before exposure doesn’t mean exposure cannot be worthwhile or fulfilling. Some will see them and still regard them as “stuff” (like my wife) while others will have a completely different reaction.

    William is correct; he gets the same emotional responses from viewing these artifacts as I get from listening to Slavic folk songs. That’s just how he’s wired. Those feelings are hard to come by in this life so I can understand why he attaches such importance to them.

    Museums lend artwork to other museums for touring exhibits so that as many as possible can partake in the experience of seeing the great art of antiquity or modern times. Most people aren’t interested and don’t even bother attending the exhibits. But the ones that do, that are drawn to such things, come away with a special feeling and it is for those that I hope these treasures can be shared with as many as possible.

  123. Andrew Says:

    “I think back in #93 you are pretty sure the mainland Chinese has built a nationalist project around the treasure. Now I am not sure you are sure…”

    You will notice the “nationalist project” is ambiguous, but I am referencing the republican projects of the “ROC”. I no where mention “mainland Chinese” as that is a much later development of nomenclature. At the time Taiwanese were Japanese subjects and part of the Japanese state structure.

  124. Andrew Says:

    Hard wired? I am sorry, but this is a ridiculous idea as if there is some sort of primordial, innate attachment from within human DNA to be attracted to a song, let’s say, composed 300 years ago. It somehow remains removed from the continuum of change that shapes experiences. A “Han” person today would likely consider a Han person from 200 years ago to be like an alien creature. Change! It is constant and ongoing . All you are referencing is a conditioned emotional response rooted in your imagination of attachment. Tou are projecting. You might be aware you had great great grandparents, but their existence is rooted in your scant knowledge and filled in by your imagination. The imagination is a powerful tool, but it is very specific to personal experience and the imagined experiences of others. Which brings me to the Andersonian Imagined Community and my prior reference to state structure taking precedence over “culture” or perceived “ethnicity”.

    David Wu has a wonderful study published in the collection, China Off Center, on Overseas Chinese Communities, and concludes that these communities are rooted in recent developments of the Chinese nationalist projects, both ROC and PRC nationalism. The Chinese identity is spelled out by both competing nationalist projects and these representations are actively promoted on political communities to, in essence, create and maintain a “Chinese people”. The concept of a “Chinese people” comes from these nationalist projects which have been busy defining, framing and re-defining their object. In places where the political engineering of a “maintained” Chinese community has ceased, the immigrants acculturate and assimilate, ceasing to be Chinese. Even the old definitions from the middle kingdom of who constitutes “us” vs. “them” went through radical changes over the course of the centuries often contradicting earlier definitions.

    Politics has engineered the emotional value of these objects and if you removed the politics from the equation you’d simply have “objects”. Whether you determine them to be art or not is an individual opinion, but I don’t think the value some of you are assigning to these things is as universal or sweeping. You also seek to link them to the problematic term “Chinese”, which, if not used as a nationality, should be preclude by ‘people who feel they are”, as Chineseness is a choice of one’s own imagination.

  125. Steve Says:

    @ Andrew: Agree, “hardwired DNA” was a poor word choice. But just because you don’t have emotional responses to certain cultural arts doesn’t mean others do not. I AM attracted to songs created 300 years ago. I wasn’t born over there, I was raised in New Jersey. I don’t have it with any other music. I have no idea why. But I know I’m not the only one who has these feelings.

    I disagree with you in that I don’t think a Han Chinese today would consider a Han Chinese from 200 years ago completely alien. There would be major differences developed over time, but enough commonalities to make a connection. I don’t think I’d have any problem going back to Ben Franklin’s time though there’d be many cultural differences between us. Enough would be shared to overcome that. I can find many similarities in thinking between today’s American culture and ancient Greece. Are there major differences? Of course, but many things we still have in common.

    You wrote, “All you are referencing is a conditioned emotional response rooted in your imagination of attachment.” How can I have attachment to a song from a different era and country far removed from my own? I’m listening to the radio and a song comes on, I feel this response and find out when it’s over that the roots are Slavic. To say that it’s rooted in my imagination of attachment is just as ridiculous as my “hard wired” comment. :P

    As Simon & Garfunkel once sang, “After changes upon changes we are more or less the same, after changes we are more or less the same.” It applies in our lives, but can also apply to our cultures.

  126. CW Says:

    A few questions/issues to be considered:

    1. If Taiwan is to be considered “a part of” China, whether that China is the one with the government centralized in Beijing and claiming Taiwan as a breakaway province or the China that is based in Taipei and claiming the mainland as currently ruled by rebels/revolutionaries/insurgents/what have you:

    a) Which museum is “superior” in status to the other? (How do you judge “superiority” anyways? Why are the British Museum, the Musee Louvre, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art considered the 3 greats of the museum world? How would one assess the Smithsonian Institution, then?)
    b) Which city – Beijing, Nanjing, Taipei – is “superior” in status? Please consider cultural and historical as well as political aspects of the question.
    c) Consider the example of the British Museum and its usual policy on having the choice of “first claim” on artifacts found on British soil. (I am unsure if this claim applies to all of the UK, to Britain, or just to England – 3 unequitable entities.)

    2. If Taiwan is to be considered a separate political entity from the mainland:

    a) What is the current Taiwanese government’s exact argument for legal claim to the artifacts?
    b) De facto possession? Keep in mind that this is an argument which may mean giving up all claims to the mainland as the communists have de facto control there.
    c) Historical basis? As in the fact that Chiang Kai-Shek was the last undisputed leader of a “united” China (such as it was, battered and sans what is present-day Mongolia and pretty much sans Tibet if I remember correctly) and his government was the internationally recognized government of China when the artifacts began to be carted around from Beijing and Nanjing into the inland provinces? But which government – Chiang’s or Mao’s – was the legitimate one when the artifacts were removed from the mainland? Does international law give a clear answer? Legitimacy for either party seems to be a murky question considering that there were competing capitals in Chongqing, Nanjing, Beijing, and Taipei in a relatively short amount of time. Come to think of it, how were the British and French “national treasures” treated during past revolutions?
    d) Cultural basis? But are the artifacts “Chinese” or “Taiwanese” or both? If the artifacts are “Chinese”, then Taiwan would be a position similar to say, the US being in posession of the British crown jewels. If the artifacts are to be considered “Taiwanese”, then I guess Taiwan is REALLY a melting pot of cultures, as the collection contains artifacts from many long-dead cultures and traditions in addition to Qing and pre-1949 ROC acquisitions. See 2 c) also.
    e) Preservation? I’m sure that there have been volumes put forth on both sides regarding the Elgin Marbles issue that could be used as a decent reference. The Greeks have had a revolution or two themselves since the Elgin Marbles were removed from Greece, I do believe.
    f) Educational purposes? Which locale would provide the most people with the most access to the artifacts? Anybody have any statistics?

    3. Regardless of the political status of Taiwan, who or what do “imperial treasures” – whether in Taipei, Beijing, or Nanjing – belong to?

    a) The Aixingjueluo/Aisin Gioro family? The Manchus?
    b) The Han who make up the majority of the population in both Taiwan and the mainland?
    c) The Han who control both governments laying claim to sovereignty over “China” and Taiwan? If we’re going to go ethnic here, why not let the Mongolians, the Jurchens, the Khitans, and so on also toss in there hats? That is, if they still have hats to toss in – I believe that the Jurchens and Khitans aren’t around as a distinct ethnic group anymore.
    d) The CCP who currently control the mainland? The Nationalists who currently control Taiwan? The Nationalists who controlled the last “united” China (see 2 c)? Let’s keep the DPP out of the equation here for now – my impression is they have a few other things to worry about at present.
    e) Beijing? Nanjing? Taipei? I’m sure each city (in addition to the PRC and ROC) government have their own arguments.
    f) “China”? “Chinese people”? As one of the earlier threads on this site discussed extensively, those two concepts are somewhat difficult to define, and there is likely no one “right” answer that everyone will agree with. In practical terms, how would “the Chinese people” actually decide where the artifacts would go? Voting is perhaps most democratic, but rather impractical, especially when you also consider the Chinese diaspora.
    g) Can “imperial treasures” be said to “belong” to a political party? A political entity, whether it be a “country”, “province”, or city? An ethnic group? A cultural group?
    h) Or, like Ted suggested, do the artifacts in question belong to a specific museum? Which? Both? Or any number of museums?

    Or we can just forget about all of the above, go with A-Gu’s view, and have all Taiwanese (or was it all the diaspora?) disavow China, Chinese, and Chinese culture. I know – linguists in Taipei can get to work coming up with a new “Taiwanese” language – never mind written Chinese, Mandarin, and the various dialects in use in Taiwan. New signs! New textbooks! A lot more job creation!

    @ FOARP: Uh…horror music like that played in the Dungeon of London? Oooh – real human remains! Like the mummies in the British Museum? Lots of respectful mourning and weeping there, too, perhaps? Why aren’t those mummies buried properly? I vaguely remember a few objections by the Egyptians… Also – maybe a review of the concept (not the movie) “lost in translation” is in order here.

    And for all those who decry “propaganda”, let’s skip over the “war on terror” phrase and phase and consider Leon Uris’s Exodus. Anybody else read it? Then again, I DO consider Munich a considerably more morally complex film than Schindler’s List. Heritage is ephemeral, and for most people, it may be much easier to identity with a physical identity (be it geographic or an object) than a nebulous concept.

  127. William Huang Says:

    @ Steve #122

    I agree with a lot what you said but not 100%.

    In any culture, high art demands intelligence to appreciate and it is so for many good reasons. If some universally accepted master pieces, say “Last Supper” is considered by someone as just some “stuff”, it’s not a matter of different taste but ignorance (no offense to your wife). Ignorance is not a substitute for taste let alone intelligence. It’s one thing to say, well, I am not knowledgeable and sophisticated enough to appreciate Beethoven’s symphony but it’s entirely different thing to say that Beethoven’s music is just some noise or “stuff” and has no value. The former acknowledge one’s own ignorance but the later has a illusion of knowledge.

    It’s human nature to express ourselves in different ways. The stuffs in the museum are fine examples of how people in the past expressed themselves. People have not changed in this respect and how we express today have a lot to do with the past. If the needs to express ourselves do not make who we are and what we made of, then what hell are we doing here on this FM blog talking to a bunch of strangers and arguing about different things?

    The “stuffs” in museum are no different from movie, “Godfather” and the song, “Yesterday”. To deny Chinese people to see these “stuff” is equivalent to denying you to watch “Godfather” and listen to “Yesterday”. You may not like them but it’s up to you to decide not someone else. In the case of artifacts in NPM, it’s not up to some proponent of Taiwan independence but Chinese people to decide whether they are just some “stuffs” or not.

  128. M.H. Says:

    @Raj

    “If they must be returned then that is acknowledging Taiwan is separate from China.”

    I really don’t see the logic connection here. Even if the pro-unification people believe that Taiwan is a part of China, the imperial treasures should still be returned to where they belong: the Forbidden City. If Chiang had won the civil war, he would have done the same.

    Actually it’s interesting to see how the pan-green people respond as I believe it’s they who are trying to have it both ways.

    If Taiwan is not part of China, as they believe, then there’s no reason holding Chinese imperial treasures. But as far as I know, they have no intention of giving them back neither.

  129. Ted Says:

    Appreciation can be constructed or it can be purely aesthetic. Understanding the context in which a work was created is sometimes vital to appreciating it, however some aesthetic values are, to me, universal.

    Michaelangelo’s Pieta is one of my favorite works of art. Throw all the religion out the window and view it as a mother who just lost her son. The absence of emotion on her face, to me is more expressive than almost any other piece of sculpture I’ve seen as it allows the viewer to transpose their own emotions onto the sculpture. Add to that the emotional torture the sculptor went through to demonstrate his devotion to set of beliefs that rejected him and the fact that with this piece he recaptured a level of compositional mastery that had been lost for nearly a thousand years. Mine is a reaction that is both constructed and visceral.

    My understanding of western art is obviously deeper than that of Chinese art but it’s still possible to appreciate something without fully understanding the context. When I first saw a collection of Chinese pieces I was drawn to certain colors that were absent from the western art I had seen. Notably the cloud like luminescence of the yellows, blues and whites in certain porcelain pieces. The feeling that I could almost push my fingers through some of the glazes was purely emotional and I was left with both a deep appreciation for the works and a desire to learn more. In short, I was presented with something beautiful but I can’t explain why it generated such a reaction from me.

    If a piece possesses an aesthetic quality that transcends cultural barriers, my hope is that it’s shared with everyone. If pieces like this exist in the Palace Museum I hope all the relevant parties do what they can to share them with everyone. Shame on anyone who uses them for political purposes.

  130. James Says:

    Just out of curiosity…does anyone know the actual worth of the collection? Considering that a single piece of imperial china can sometimes be worth millions, the entire collection may be quite valuable. This collection is not just a cultural heritage, it also represents a huge real asset and a driving force of an economy (tourism). Just by its worth, I doubt anyone would want to freely give it away.

  131. dan Says:

    I wonder how many pieces were destroyed on their way to Taipei (packing and unpacking into and from the crates, from carelessness, accidence…)? and how many were ‘lost’ ?
    I agree that DNA could have ‘hard wired’ into our subconsciousness. When I visited one of the museum (Shanghai or in Tianjin can’t remember), there was a replica of a partial Chinese house that a typical middle class Chinese would have lived in Ming’s era. Strangely enough, I felt ‘at home’ the moment I stepped inside the display as if some one just returned home from a long journey! I was so spooked by the experience that I left the place immediately. How in the world that I had that feeling considering that only my great grandfather was born in China.

  132. Steve Says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses about how they view art and how it has affected them emotionally. My wife always says that we need to balance our intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs; too much of one or not enough of another leaves us unbalanced. I think an appreciation of art helps us fill our spiritual needs, and sometimes can affect our emotions.

    @ William Huang #127: Nice post! I’ve never seen art as “stuff”, even when it doesn’t do anything for me. I figure if it does something for others, then it has value so I can appreciate it on that level. My wife is intelligent and educated, but art just doesn’t do it for her. She can still appreciate the intrinsic value that art contains for others. I think I just didn’t explain it very well and you said it better than I could. :)

    I agreed with everything you said but didn’t know what to make of your last sentence, “In the case of artifacts in NPM, it’s not up to some proponent of Taiwan independence but Chinese people to decide whether they are just some “stuffs” or not.” I thought the argument was that China is one country with two governments claiming jurisdiction. What does independence have to do with it? I’d bet the deep green folks would gladly give up the NPM treasures if it got them their independence but they are only a minority so not relevant to this discussion. So the pan blue want to keep the treasures in China (in this case, Taipei) and the pan green would give them up for a “quid pro quo” which they’ll never get. Everyone else in Taiwan is happy the way things currently are and see no reason to change anything. I wasn’t sure if you were trying to bring up a different point and it just went over my head. ;)

    @ Ted #129: I first saw the Pieta at the NY World’s Fair in 1964 (while we were standing on a moving sidewalk, very futuristic!) and then twice more in St. Peters. I love how Michelangelo elongated the body of Christ to create the triangular look. I love the way he created the folds in Mary’s skirt, and the sense of depth in the entire statue. Even in his painting of the Tondo Doni that hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the folds of Mary’s skirt were incredible. He also exaggerated the size of David’s right hand since the power of God had infused that hand with the ability to strike down Goliath. For me, he is so far beyond any other sculpturers.

    @ James #130: I think we can all agree that the collection is priceless and no value can be put on it. But I think your question addresses the economic need of Taiwan to develop more tourism from China. The NPM is certainly a powerful drawing card and on every tour’s agenda.

    @ Dan #131: I looked it up and 2,972 crates made it to Taiwan out of the original 13,491 that left Beijing before the Japanese arrived. The rest are still in mainland China. I seem to remember reading somewhere that miraculously, none of the crates were destroyed during the war. I’m not sure about damage, but I think it was very minimal. I found this site that gives a brief description of the events.

    The first time I visited Shanghai, as soon as I entered the city I felt like I was returning home. In all the time I lived there, I always felt that way. I’ve been in a lot of great cities that I’ve loved in the world, but never had that feeling anywhere else. I have no idea why. My Chinese friends insisted I must have been Chinese in a previous life but I told them I’m Italian so I must have been Marco Polo’s uncle in a previous life. :P

  133. neutrino Says:

    For the time being, the artifacts should be kept in the NPM in Taipei. The Palace Museum in Beijing is not really the best place housing artifacts, as it was, of course, built as a residential/governing compound. When I went there years ago (Maybe it has been improved a lot), the display were not organized well, to say the least. I don’t see any problems to keep those artifacts in taiwan as long as chinese mainland citizens can have access to them with reasonable convenience.

  134. William Huang Says:

    @ Steve #132

    Thanks for the reply.

    As to answer your question about Taiwan independence, I was addressing one of my original points of contention with respect to Andrew’s #93 and #100 posts which I cut and past below (enclosed by lines):

    —————————————————————
    “Lastly, the saddest thing about this argument is that it contains so many of the elements China uses to stake a claim to Taiwan and other areas of Asia. China contends that Taiwan is an essential part of China and as long as Taiwan is independent China and the Chinese people are incomplete. They have applied a politically constructed meaning to Taiwan/Taiwanese and built it into their political narrative, just as others have done with the objects in the NPM. Unfortunately, this thinking makes sense to people and policy makers around the globe who wish to close their eyes to a political construct and instead entertain an orientalist fantasy.

    Let the stuff be stuff. Let Taiwan be Taiwan.”

    “Let me elaborate. If the meanings of the objects are the recent products of political/nationalist projects and they were largely unknown and rejected by Chinese, yet they have been known by Taiwanese who were socialized to imagine a defined meaning to these objects, there may be people who felt genuine sentiments about these objects that could be seen, read about and promoted, then the question is open as to exactly WHO shares symbolic meaning in these objects. The question is also open as to whether the row over these objects is a political battle between governments or whether the people in China actually are aware of these objects and what type of meaning they hold to Chinese or how they are imagined, if they are imagined at all.”
    —————————————————————

    I hate to put my words into Andrew’s mouth and he can clear the issue if I misunderstood. I have strong impression that, according to him, this whole discussion is entertaining a “fantasy” (Taiwan is a part of China) and is denying Taiwan‘s de facto status as an independent state (political construct).

    The last paragraph as listed above by Andrew (#100) is basically making a point for not returning the artifacts back to mainland China. He has two justifications for it, 1) These artifacts are largely unknown and rejected by Chinese, and 2) Taiwanese, have had genuine sentiments for decade and therefore…….

    The last sentence of my post (#127) is to address Andrew’s point as mentioned above.

  135. William Huang Says:

    @ Ted #129

    Very well said.

  136. Allen Says:

    @Steve #132,

    You wrote:

    My Chinese friends insisted I must have been Chinese in a previous life but I told them I’m Italian so I must have been Marco Polo’s uncle in a previous life.

    Steve – don’t be so humble. Reincarnation often crosses ethnic and cultural – as well as religious – lines. So – YES – instead of just a Westerner, you could have been a bona-fide, real Chinese person in a previous life! :-P

  137. Ted Says:

    @Steve: Three times!!? That’s just not fair, I have yet to see it in person but its definitely on the before I die list. Another note about David was that Michaelangelo exaggerated the features of the face to account for the viewer’s perspective and distance. DaVinci may have achieved technically perfect representation of a subject, but Michaelangelo, knowing that evolution has no endpoint, blew past all that and went straight into interpretation. The thing I love about Michaelangelo was that his skills evolved in a manner that let’s everyone experience his genius. Look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and compare the earliest part of the fresco to the last sections he painted. He doesn’t care that he’s painting for a client. He was never trying to present a finished work.

    @ William: Thank you sir, I’ve appreciated reading your comments as well :)

  138. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To William #110:
    “If you imply that Taiwan should be independent (“Let Taiwan be Taiwan”), then at least, you should have the basic decency to return them to China.” – completely agree. The next question becomes, if Taiwan offered to return “the stuff” for this reason, what would China do?

    To William #127:
    “To deny Chinese people to see these “stuff”…” – but if anything, the normalization of travel between the mainland and Taiwan makes the commute to see this “stuff” no more daunting now than if the stuff was in the Forbidden City and you were coming from beyond the Beijing area. I think this complaint was more legitimate in all the years leading up to this recent normalization.

  139. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #136: Actually, I have been a mosquito in all my previous lives. I kept getting bad karma from all that bloodsucking until my last life, when I was a mosquito in the Sahara and had no one to bite, plus a very short lifespan. However, 14 lifetimes ago I bit General Yuei Fei (one of my better bites) and that’s how I came to understand China. I could never figure out why everyone else seems to have been someone famous in a previous life and I was always getting stuck as a mosquito. :(

    @ Ted #137: Unfortunately, since that stupid guy chipped Mary’s toes with a hammer awhile ago, they’ve had to encase the Pieta behind a Lexan shield that reflects camera flashes and really takes away from the experience. David is much nicer because you can get pretty close to it (it’s in the Accademia in Florence, for anyone interested) and really impressive. I never knew about the exaggerated features in David’s face. I viewed it from below and it looked perfect so whatever he did sure worked. It’s a magnificient work of art!

    His last sculpture, the Pieta Rondanini (his fourth Pieta), wasn’t completed but is in the Sforza Castle in Milan. The sculpture looks like something very modern and is unfinished. You can see it here.

    @ SKC #138: The Chinese can now visit Taiwan, but since there’s no train across the Formosa Strait and air travel has not been deregulated, most Chinese cannot afford to go. However, it is available to the middle class and above, and that is huge progress. I wonder why the tourist numbers aren’t at full capacity already? I’ve read that about 1/3 of the allowed tourists are visiting.

  140. William Huang Says:

    @ S. K. Cheung #138
    “- completely agree. The next question becomes, if Taiwan offered to return “the stuff” for this reason, what would China do?”

    Well, it depends. If Taiwan says that we are not Chinese and want to return these stuffs (no strings attached), China should take it without having to accept Taiwan independence. If Taiwan says we are retuning these stuffs in exchange (as a condition) for China to accept the Taiwan independence, China should say no.

    “- but if anything, the normalization of travel between the mainland and Taiwan makes the commute to see this “stuff” no more daunting now than if the stuff was in the Forbidden City and you were coming from beyond the Beijing area. I think this complaint was more legitimate in all the years leading up to this recent normalization.”

    I agree. The government in Taiwan has not intentionally denied Chinese people to have access to the artifacts in NPM but history and circumstances. Nobody’s at fault, if you will. My complain was about Andrew’s “moral” justification (sort of) as who really deserves to own these artifacts. In other words, just because people in mainland China have never seen them, it should not be the reason for denying them the access. Likewise, just because people in Taiwan have seen them for decades and felt more intimate about them, it doesn’t give them more rights than others.

  141. Steve Says:

    @ William Huang #140: Nice post, William. I think you summed it up very well; China would not accept the artifacts as a payment for independence, but would take them with no strings. Conversely, I doubt Taiwan would ever give them up without some sort of quid pro quo.

    If you believe Taiwan and China are truly one, then your reasoning that both deserve them is very logical.

    I read today that China and Taiwan are moving closer to a free trade agreement. Maybe they can write in language that covers sharing each other’s art collections?

  142. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To William and Steve:
    I agree with you both. Of course China would take it without strings. But Taiwan would never offer it without strings. So nothing’s going to change. Which is too bad. Maybe the sharing thing will be the answer. I wonder what level of trust between the two sides would need to be engendered first to allow such an arrangement.

  143. Cop chases Says:

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