Thursday, February 08, 2007


Taipei, Feb. 8 (CNA) As an eyewitness and a longtime observer of Taiwan's development over the past 30 years, British Museum scholar Jan Stuart told the CNA on the sidelines of an international academic conference that she has been constantly amazed that it's possible for Taiwanese identity and Chinese identity to coexist.

Currently in Taiwan for the promotion of a British Museum artifacts exhibition and an international conference on the art and culture of China's Northern Sung Dynasty, the Asia Department keeper of the British Museum has also been busy meeting acquaintances during his visit. And she hasn't needed a guide.

Stuart, a U.S. citizen, speaks excellent Mandarin and is very familiar with Taipei City because she lived in Taiwan for a total of one-and-a-half years on two separate occasions in the 1970s and the 1980s.

She visited Taiwan for the first time in 1976 "to see if studying Chinese in Taiwan could be an option" and ended up staying for six months, living with a well-educated couple in the Wanhua district of Taipei City.

"We lived in an old community and a house with no hot water. It was the first time I realized that people with the same education level enjoy different living standards, " Stuart said, describing the experience as "culture shock."

With her interest in Chinese culture growing, Stuart came back to Taiwan in 1982 and enrolled in a National Taiwan University Chinese-language program, living this time on Roosevelt Road for nine months. "I've been surprised to see how fast Taiwan has changed as a country since that time," she told the CNA.

Based on her experience and observations, Stuart presents a unique perspective on Taiwanese culture and Chinese culture.

There are many regions in China, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, that have distinct cultures, Stuart said, adding that this is the reason why she thinks the Taiwanese identity can coexist with the Chinese identity.

"From the viewpoint of an outsider, "it's possible to be Taiwanese and Chinese at the same time, " she said, adding, however, that she realizes it is not easy to separate politics from culture, especially in Taiwan's case.

Stuart said that she first fell in love with Chinese culture after seeing Chinese paintings as a high school student and that her experience in Taiwan facilitated her decision to pursue Chinese culture research as a career.

Stuart obtained both her bachelor's degree and master's degree at Yale University and worked in the field of Chinese culture studies thereafter.

Specializing in art and culture from China's Sung Dynasty (960-1279) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) , Stuart worked in the Smithsonian Institute before joining the British Museum three months ago. She is now based in London.

In addition to scholastic research, Stuart enjoys "visual arts of every country and form" as well as folk practices. During her time in Taiwan, she spent numerous hours watching outdoor puppetry performances.

"I enjoy observing how people live, " she said.

A total of 271 artifacts collected by the British Museum valued at more than NT$50 billion are being exhibited at the National Palace Museum in Taipei City from Feb. 4 to May 27. This marks the first collaboration between the two museums.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Taipei, Feb. 2 (CNA) A total of 271 artifacts collected by the British Museum, valued at more than NT$5 billion, will be exhibited in the National Palace Museum (NPM) from Feb. 4 to May 27, the NPM announced in a press conference Friday.

The exhibition, "Treasures of the World's Cultures: The British Museum after 250 years", brings these historical relics from the U.K. to Taiwan for the first time and will be a part of celebrations marking the reopening of the NPM, which is entering its 80th year, NPM Director Lin Mun-lee said.

"We are expecting a very exciting week. Following the Grand View, this exhibition will be one of the most important events for the NPM this year," Lin said. Grand View is an exhibition of painting, calligraphy and Ju Ware of the Northern Sung Dynasty.

The NPM has designed three different visiting plans with time spans of 30, 60 and 120 minutes to cover the top 10, 20 and 42 recommended artifacts, which include items from different eras and regions of pre-history, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, early Europe, Medieval Europe and the Renaissance. The display area,
which is located in the Library Building, will be separated into 13 zones, according to the time period and place of origin.

Among the ten most notable items are The Unlucky Mummy wooden mummy-board, Queen Puabe's Lyre, Statuette of Hermes, Bust of the Emperor Hadrian, Bust of Antinous, and a cast gold pectoral of a chief or priest in South America.

The exhibition is important for the British Museum not only because it takes place in Taiwan for the first time, but also because the displayed items reflect humanity's achievements from both the past and present, said Andrew Burnett, Deputy Director of the British Museum.

Starting from Feb. 3, the NPM will also be holding its first NPM Outdoors arts festival. The festival has invited world-renowned performing groups, such as Japanese national treasure "Noh Theatre, " and Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera Troupe, the Ju Percussion Group and the U-Theatre Group.

Noh Theatre master Umewaka Rokuro will share with the public a suspenseful performance of The Lion and widely-acclaimed Concubine Yang, produced by samisen master Yoshizumi Kosayo.

The performances will be held outdoors and are open to the public free of charge to allow visitors the opportunity to come face-to-face with these famous performing groups.