Home / Dynasty Gallery /
The National Palace Museum in Taipei is home to a collection of over 700,000 items. Assembling a collection of this size spanning seven millennia of Chinese history and pre-history was a mammoth task requiring the joint efforts of countless collectors over the centuries.

Chinese emperors began avidly collecting works by famous artists as early as the Tang period (A.D. 618-906). One notable example
was Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty (r. 627-649), who resorted to trickery to obtain the original "Preface to the Lanting Collection" by calligrapher Wang Xizhi. Emperor Huizong (r. 1101-1125, Song dynasty), himself a keen artist, commissioned scholars to catalog the imperial collection of his own day and write biographies of the Chinese painters and calligraphers whose works were included there. The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795, Qing dynasty), another great lover of art and antiquities, turned his personal study (the Sanxitang or "Hall of Three Rarities") into a repository for three celebrated ancient calligraphic works.
Chinese emperors were not only keen collectors of art, many were also accomplished artists in their own right. Calligraphy by Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712-755, Tang dynasty), and flower & bird paintings by Emperor Huizong (Song dynasty), are both highly renowned. Emperors were also major sponsors of art. Chinese court artists held official rank and received stipends that enabled them to pursue creative work without distraction. Imperial taste was often a moving factor in determining artistic trends of the period. Examples include the brilliant achievement of Southern Song Guan ware under the aegis of Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127-1162), the development of Ming porcelain from Jingdezhen under the strict regime of the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-1435), and in the Qing period the introduction of Western enamel techniques by the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722), and the vogue for imitating antiquity inspired by the Qianlong Emperor.

It is hard to find parallels to the Chinese emperors' passion for art elsewhere in the world. It is their success in preserving ancient artifacts and works of art that has led to the National Palace Museum having the impressive collection we see today. We are indeed fortunate that the traces of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization can be reconstructed through this priceless collection of cultural artifacts.

Customer Service Line: 1-888-ART-8099
© 2008 Lee & Lee Communications, All rights reserved.