The Palace Museum's Hall of Literary Glory reopens with a comprehensive exhibition of the works of Wu Changshuo. Wang Kaihao reports.
First built in 1420, the Hall of Literary Glory (Wenhua Dian) in the Palace Museum in Beijing, China's former royal palace, also known as the Forbidden City, used to house myriad books during the imperial age.It was also where emperors of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties reviewed imperial examinations.
In recent years, the hall has been used to present porcelain artifacts before a brief closure.
However, since it reopened to the public on Sunday, the hall will better live up its grandiose name, as the space will now house the museum's abundant paper treasures - ancient Chinese paintings and calligraphy.
Perhaps an exhibition of works by painting guru, Wu Changshuo (1844-1927), is the perfect way to inaugurate this new era of the hall as he, too, initiated a new era.
About 100 of his works, which were selected from the collection of the Palace Museum, will be displayed for Iron Pens Grow Flowers: Exhibition of Wu Changshuo's Works, which will run through July 15.
It almost makes for a perfect summer exhibition as the painted flowers make it like a garden on paper.
According to Nie Hui, a researcher of painting and calligraphy at the museum, auspicious flowers are the most recognizable theme in Wu's paintings.
"Each flower represents a spirit," Nie says. "He skilfully mixes a common aesthetic with a literati's taste through the flowers."
For example, his paintings range from those of plum blossom and orchids - typically embodying the spirit of the Chinese literati - to peonies and wisterias, which are widely favored by the general public.
"Wu is among the peak of Chinese literati painters and the brightest star in recent Chinese painting history," Nie says.
"Later, people had overwhelming praise for him. It's just like the flowering world under his paintbrush: It's a rain of blossoms, and the falling petals are of riotous profusion."
According to Ren Wanping, deputy director of the museum, who curated the exhibition, some sections are designed for the exhibition to not only display a panoramic review of Wu's lifetime achievements but also to explore how his artistic styles formed.
In one section, Wu's paintings are juxtaposed with some ancient painters' works to trace the origin of his inspirations.
Xu Wei, a Ming Dynasty artist famed for his bird-and-flower paintings, and Zhu Da, an early Qing Dynasty painter better known for his pseudonym Bada Shanren, are among the predecessors who influenced Wu.