'Elegant Gathering of the Princess'
By Dimitri Bruyas, The China Post
October 19, 2016, 12:17 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Have you ever been invited to a princess party? If not, then you can join the "Elegant Gathering of the Princess" and discover the culture of appreciating and collecting art at the Mongol Yuan Court. Held at the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) until Dec. 26, the exhibit recalls a high-society meeting organized by a prominent Mongolian princess by the name of Sengge Ragi at Tianqing Temple south of the capital Dadu (modern day Beijing) on April 28, 1323.
To show her appreciation for the people in attendance, Ragi took out works of Chinese painting and calligraphy from her private collection and invited guests to write auspicious couplets. Modern scholars have said the gathering was used as a means for the ruling Mongols — who founded the Yuan dynasty in China by conquest in 1271 — to proclaim their appreciation for the high arts of Chinese painting and calligraphy.
The new exhibit, which features 43 masterpieces, is also a tribute the unique interactions between ethnic groups during the Yuan dynasty; allowing you to see the Mongol emperors' vision of cultural "open-mindedness." By providing a glimpse of the imperial holdings, the display demonstrates the significance of Mongol rulers' involvement in Chinese painting and calligraphy.
In contrast with previous studies emphasizing the Sinicizing role of Chinese art for Mongol rulers, the "Elegant Gathering of the Princess" presents famous works from the collections of three members of the Mongol Yuan imperial clan, including Princess Sengge Ragi, the great-granddaughter of Mongolian general and statesman Kublai Khan (1215- 1294); her son-in-law, Tugh Temür, who became Emperor Wenzong of Yuan (1304–1332); and Toghon Temür, (the last Yuan emperor also known by the name Huizong). These three figures all held important works from the Song and Yuan dynasties in their collections.
Wenzong established the Kuizhang Pavilion, where he viewed rare books and participated in the appreciation of art with academics, using seals with the "Tianli" (for his reign name) and "Kuizhang" characters to mark his collection. Huizong also used the seal "Treasure of the Xuanwen Pavilion" on Chinese paintings and calligraphy at his court.
This special exhibition features 43 of such works, many of which are masterpieces from the Song and Yuan dynasties. Since some are of "restricted" status, they must be rotated to accommodate shorter display periods. ■
'Elegant Gathering of the Princess: The Culture of Appreciating and Collecting Art at the Mongol Yuan Court' (公主的雅集：蒙元皇室與書畫鑑藏文化) ► Until Dec. 26 (Mon.) / National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) / No. 221 Chih-shan Rd., Sec. 2; Shih-lin, Taipei (台北市士林區至善路二段221號) / (02) 2881-2021 / www.npm.gov.tw
"Early Spring," Guo Xi (ca. 1023-1085), Song dynasty, hanging scroll, ink and light colors on silk,
158.3 x 108.1 cm (Courtesy of the National Palace Museum)