China and Taiwan’s Palace Museums, collectively homes to the world’s best collection of Qing dynasty (1616-1911) treasures, have had informal but friendly ties for some time. Now that relations between Beijing and Taipei are thawing that relationship is getting complicated.
A weekend meeting between Zheng Xinmiao, curator of Beijing’s Palace Museum (the formal name for the Forbidden City), and his visiting counterpart from Taipei’s National Palace Museum, Chou Kung-hsin, was treated “as it involved two rival Chinese emperors themselves,” the FT reports. The two agreed some minor exchanges of staff and cooperation on academic research and publications, but didn’t take on any difficult issues such as labels.
Beijing won’t stand for anything that implies Taiwan is a independent state. For its part, Chou’s museum won’t lend anything to its Beijing counterpart without legal guarantees that it will get the artifacts back. It has a huge collection of Chinese treasures that arrived with the Kuomintang in 1949. Beijing holds that the treasures are in foreign hands and should be returned for free.
The Taipei museum will, though, be borrowing 29 artifacts from Beijing for three months for an exhibition about Emperor Yongzheng (1722-1735). So the cultural diplomacy is at least flowing in one direction.