China's ancient artworks in the international frame

Collection on display at Venice Biennale inspired by project to compile and catalog cultural treasures

By DENG ZHANGYU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-22 07:15
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The book project A Comprehensive Collection of Ancient Chinese Paintings consists of 226 books and catalogs ancient Chinese paintings spanning 2,000 years of China's art history. CHINA DAILY

Inspired by collection

The entire exhibition draws on the book project, A Comprehensive Collection of Ancient Chinese Paintings. The project consists of 226 books, and catalogs 12,405 artworks from the pre-Qin period (before 221 BC) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), housed in 263 museums, galleries and cultural institutions both in and outside China.

"It's the first time the book project is being exhibited at such a big international art event. It is a comprehensive collection of Chinese art, and the exhibition is a good platform for showing Chinese culture to a wider audience," said Wang, who is also deputy dean of the School of Art and Archaeology at Zhejiang University.

Since 2022, touring exhibitions based on the project, which took 17 years to complete, have been held in various countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Malaysia and Singapore.

"Chinese painting reflects Chinese people's aesthetics, their relationship with nature and values. It shows their respect for nature and contains their philosophy," said the curator.

"It's the first time the country has systematically compiled all these artworks scattered around the world", said Jin Xiaoming, a professor at the School of Art and Archaeology at Zhejiang University, and also a member of the team responsible for the book project.

Since it began in 2005, with President Xi Jinping's support and encouragement, the project has brought together thousands of paintings from museums and cultural institutions across the world through digital technology. Experts involved launched three international campaigns to collect images of ancient Chinese paintings. About 3,000 digital images owned by museums overseas have been "returned" to China as a result of the project.

Jin and his team have been in communication with museums outside China for more than a decade. In order to get a single image, they often had to visit a museum several times, and persuade experts to authorize the use of the image.

"Although the long work of compilation has been very hard, it has paid off," Jin said.

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