A state-run academy in China is hosting the biggest show of treasures to reach rival Taiwan in 60 years, offering a plethora of works including wedding sedans and music to teach the island about its Chinese roots.
The Chinese National Academy of Arts displayed 230 rare items in ethnic Chinese Taiwan this week so the public could take a closer look at its neighbour, often regarded as a military threat, and consider helping save their common heritage.
Some works displayed at the free-entry show in Taipei are listed as Chinese national treasures. A few are marked by the United Nations for preservation. Some date back 2,000 years.
Other items, such as a giant loom, still work so well that the academy brought 22 craftspeople to give live demonstrations.
“The two sides come from the same roots,” said Tian Qing, an academy professor managing the exhibit, suggesting that Taiwan’s youth should study the treasures, then act to save them.
“One aspect is to tell people we have this beauty from the past and another is to let them know it needs protection,” Tian said. “On the path to modernisation, don’t let it get lost.”
China lost some of its best pieces in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when signs of wealth and status were wiped out, he said. Taiwan, for its part, should be mindful of the cultural influences from outside the region, such as that from the United States, Tian said.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
But ties have warmed since China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office last year, allowing a wave of cultural exchanges likely to grow over the coming year as Beijing sees the emphasis on common ancestry as way to push for unification.
Despite scant publicity, the November 27-December 7 Root and Spirit Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition has drawn about 600 people daily, the show’s Taiwan sponsor said.
Displays include Peking Opera costumes, miniature replicas of riverside villages and a wooden imperial palace entry pass bearing a facial description that was the precursor of photos.
“I come from a Chinese culture and approve of it, but people who don’t share my approval can open their hearts here,” said ecstatic visitor Liang Hsiou-huang, 50, a former teacher who lives in Taipei.