Treasures of the Sons of Heaven

The Imperial Collection from the National Palace Museum Taipei, Taiwan

21 November 2003 to 29 February 2004

The unique collection of the Chinese imperial court, which for the most part has been preserved in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, will be presented for the first time in Berlin and Bonn next year. This exhibition is part of the exhibition series “The Great Collections of the World” of the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The importance of the collection as a legacy of imperial China and a symbol of national culture heritage provides this exhibition with a special significance. It is now possible to encounter the oldest living culture in the world through its most exquisite masterpieces, which have become a synonym of unbroken traditionalism from the Chinese perspective.

The exhibition contributes to a cross-cultural dialogue not least of all through its involvement in a comprehensive project with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. As exchange for the exhibition from Taipei the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz plans an exhibition with the title “A Century of German Genius: Masterpieces of the Berlin State Museums, from Classicism to early Modernism”, which will be presented in Taipei in 2004.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei, which was built in 1965, houses the largest collection of Chinese art in the world. Many of the 650.000 objects have neither been shown nor written about until today. Some of these works of art can now be included in the German exhibition after having recently been recorded for the archives. The exhibition is displaying approximately 400 exhibits over a period of six months. They reflect the diversity, creativity, and functions of Chinese art as well as major social, intellectual, and political currents.

The exhibition is presenting 127 famous paintings and calligraphies by old masters, rare seals, 69 exquisite pieces of porcelain, 43 ancient ritual bronzes, 43 pieces of carved jade. Also rare book prints that were never shown out of Taiwan before, magnificent tapestries and picture embroideries as well as lacquer works, cloisonné enamels, wood carving, and miscellaneous works of art in various precious materials will be among the exhibits.

Thematically the main emphasis is put on man in his relationship with society and nature.
 A more spiritual, reduced pictorial language in the tradition of the “scholar artists” forms the opposite pole to the sensual and strongly symbolic splendor of courtly aristocracy. Imperial patronage is also a special topic in the context of aesthetic values, moral ideas, and political goals. The eventful fate of the collection thereby illustrates the history of China under the aspect of preserving and handing down artistic accomplishments from the highest achievements of burial art in the bronze age to the emergence of the modern age.

A catalogue will be published for the exhibition with articles by leading scholars in East Asian art history and sinology as well as by experts from the National Palace Museum in Taipei. There essays will deal with the following topics: the history of the Imperial Collection, ancient ancestor worship, ritual works of art, ceramics and porcelain, lacquer work and textile art, calligraphy and seal art, and the aesthetics of literati and courtly paintings.

Three scientific symposia are being planned: on the history of Chinese Art and the Imperial Collection, to the interpretation of poetry of the Tang-Dynasty and the Calligraphy of the Song-Dynasty and to the aesthetics in east and west, in cooperation with the Universities of Heidelberg and Bonn.


Schätze der Himmelssöhne
472 pages with 501 color illustrations
Trade edition: Hatje Cantz Verlag

Cataloguecover: Schätze der Himmelssöhne
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  1. Image from ExhibitionPhoto: Peter Oszvald © Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH

Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Museumsmeile Bonn
Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 4
53113 Bonn
T +49 228 9171–200

Opening hours

Mondays closed
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Thursdays–Sundays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
(including public holidays even those which fall on Mondays)

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