Chinese treasures to be reunited in Taiwan

Temporary return of 29 Qing dynasty relics will not be reciprocal for antiques from the Forbidden City

Chinese imperial treasures kept in Beijing and Taipei are to be temporarily reunited after six decades - but only on one side of the Taiwan strait.

China's state media reported this week that 29 Qing dynasty relics would be lent to Taiwan for an exhibition this year, as leaders seek to improve relations. But yesterday officials in Taipei said they had not made a reciprocal offer, despite mainland hopes that antiques carried to Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek could return.

The National Palace Museum in Taiwan is renowned for its 650,000 treasures, regarded by many as the finest collection of Chinese antiques in the world, many of which were from the Forbidden City, where the emperors resided. They formed part of the assets taken to Taiwan when the Kuomintang lost the civil war to the communists in 1949.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, but relations have improved since Ma Ying-jeou became president of Taiwan last year, paving the way for discussions between Taiwanese and Chinese museum officials.

Earlier this week the state-owned China Daily newspaper said Beijing would lend portraits of the 18th-century emperor Yongzheng and his concubines for an exhibition in Taiwan. They are among the 600,000 pieces Chiang left behind at the Forbidden City.

It added that officials would also discuss the possibility of a joint exhibition in Shanghai, in the hope that a Song dynasty painting - Riverside Scene at the Pure Moon Festival - could be shown in its entirety for the first time in decades. Half of it has hung in Taipei since 1949, while the rest remains in Beijing.

But while officials reached several agreements, there was no deal on loans to the mainland, Taipei's museum director Chou Kung-shin told a press conference on her return to Taiwan yesterday. "Senior leaders from both sides will need to talk further about this ... That would be a second phase of our engagement," she said.

Taiwan fears that China may not return any treasures it sends over, a museum publicist told Reuters. Because of the collection's historical sensitivities, the Taipei museum only lends antiques on a strict guarantee of freedom from borrowers that they will be returned.


Tania Branigan in Beijing

The GuardianTramp

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