SZETO Yuen Kit 司徒元傑
Hong Kong Museum of Art 香港藝術館

Preserving and Promoting Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Collections for All in Museums
博物館與眾同享 - 守護與推廣中國書畫收藏

Museums provide an environment to preserve objects of high historical and cultural value. Their collections not only reflect the development of civilizations through time, but also enrich cultural life of the audiences through display. Chinese painting and calligraphy are particularly precious as they embody the exquisite essence of Chinese culture, thus the preservation, research and promotion of which are important missions for museums and their practitioners. Shiqu baoji [Catalogue of Painting and Calligraphy in the Qianlong Imperial Collection] of Emperor Qianlong (r.1736-1795) of the Qing dynasty recorded around 2,000 works of painting and calligraphy from the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties. Yet, when compared with the 7,644 pieces documented in the inventory of Emperor Huizong (r.1101-1125) from over 600 years ago, the decrease in number actually manifests that paper and silk calligraphy and painting are indeed very fragile and transient in the tides of history. Last year, the Palace Museum organized an exhibition and an international conference on Shiqu baoji. Curators, experts and scholars gathered to re-examine the Chinese gems, taking a step further to explore the strategies of preservation, research and public education, which are the core functions of modern museums.

In the early 20th century, some works catalogued in the Shiqu baoji were lost and scattered overseas via Hong Kong. Fortunately, Mr. Low Chuck Tiew, owner of the Xubaizhai Collection, had endeavored to rescue and acquire 13 pieces. For the sake of long term preservation of calligraphy and painting, Mr. Low decided in 1989 to donate his Xubaizhai Collection, including those previously in the imperial collection of the Qing dynasty to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. The Museum established a special team, building an advanced storage, a research center and a gallery to manage and display the collection in a professional standard. The works from the collection have been constantly exhibited in different thematic shows and featured in various educational activities and publications. The Museum is now planning an exhibition showing the Shiqu baoji works in the Xubaizhai collection which will recount some stories of the imperial collection and stress the importance of preserving the cultural heritage. The Department of Asia of the British Museum curated a special exhibition on the culture of Yangzi River. One of the exhibits, The Odes of Chen by the Song painter Ma Hezhi (act. ca 1130 - ca. 1170), was a documented painting in Shiqu baoji. The exhibition allowed visitors to learn about Chinese history, culture and painting and calligraphy from diverse perspectives. These exhibitions illustrate how museums and curators fulfill their roles and perform their duties in preserving and promoting cultures.

博物館的建立為人類具歷史和文化價值的事物提供了良好的保存環境;它的藏品不但凝聚了文明精粹並反映其發展進程,又為衍生更優秀的文化、藝術提供豐富養份。中國書畫作為精緻文化藝術的重要載體,對於它的保存、研究、教育推廣誠然是博物館及相關從業員非常重要的使命和工作。

清代乾隆《石渠寶笈》著錄唐宋元書畫作品共約二千件,但相比六百多年前宋徽宗的書畫譜記錄,單是北宋前作品已達七千六百多件,反映了書畫一類珍貴的紙絹作品在歷史流傳進程中,是非常脆弱並輕易湮沒。北京故宮博物院去年舉辦了《石渠寶笈》的展覽和國際學術研討會,來自世界各地的博物館館長、專家、學者深入地再檢視這批中國文明瑰寶,為往後保存、研究和傳播知識進一步釐清問題,從而奠立更堅實的發展基礎,充份發揮了現代博物館的功能。

《石渠寶笈》的一部份作品在上世紀經香港散佚海外,當時幸有虛白齋主人劉作籌先生傾力搶購得以保留十三件。劉先生有感歷史上個人書畫收藏大多如過眼雲煙,決定將虛白齋藏品捐贈予香港藝術館。館方特設專業部門管理,建立先進的虛白齋倉庫、研究室和展廳,其中不斷利用了藏品中的《石渠寶笈》書畫舉辦專題展覽和教育活動,又出版教育刊物。又例如大英博物館亞洲部館長,曾利用館藏《石渠寶笈》的南宋馬和之《陳風圖》,以長江文化為專題策劃展覽,讓海外觀眾得從不同角度了解中國歷史、文化和書畫藝術。此舉亦說明了現代博物館和館長如何執行守護與推廣文化知識的使命與責任。