MILESTONE: Barry Lam (front left), Chairman of Quanta Cultural and Education Foundation, signs a memo on January 16 with Chen Hao (front right), Curator of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, on the joint displaying of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains in Taiwan (XINHUA)
Since its completion, the painting passed through the hands of numerous collectors and only 691.3 cm of its total remain. In the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it went to a man named Wu Hongyu. In 1650, when Wu was dying, he asked his family to burn the painting because he was so fond of the painting that he wanted it to go with him. Fortunately, a nephew of his, Wu Jingan, saved the painting by secretly replacing it with another one. But part of the painting had already been burnt and it was torn into two parts.
Because the great value of the painting, many later generation painters have imitated it. Recorded copies of the painting number more than 10.
The painting was later collected by Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The emperor loved the painting very much. But his first version of the painting was a counterfeit. In the next year, Emperor Qianlong accidentally obtained the authentic work. The emperor had insisted the imitation he possessed was authentic, and viewed it as a great treasure. Ironically, he also bought what he judged a "counterfeit" at a high price.
The emperor had a hobby of writing poems about painting after appreciating them. He inscribed more than 50 poems in the blank space of the so-called "authentic" piece of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, leaving no further blank space. Thus, the authentic piece avoided any damage.
Even after Emperor Qianlong passed away no one corrected the situation. And so the authentic painting laid silently in the palace for nearly 200 years. Not until the 1930s, when most treasures of the Palace Museum were moved to south China to avoid flames of war due to Japanese military aggression, did Xu Bangda, a famous painter and expert on cultural heritage, discern the genuine one from the fake after careful research. Before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the longer section of the authentic work was moved to Taiwan while the shorter part was housed in the provincial museum of Zhejiang.
For many years, Chinese people shared the dream the famous painting separated by the Straits could be reunited one day.
Yang Jianxin, Director of the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture, began making efforts to try to unite the great work in the 1990s. "Cultural exchange across the Straits then was not as smooth and frequent as it is today. At the time Zhejiang Province had tried many times to communicate with the other side through various channels but there was no result," Yang said.
In July 1999, Yang invited 30 well-known painters across the Straits to visit the Fuchun River scenic spot where Huang created the painting. These painters together imitated the great work, and this effort became a popular story on both sides of the Straits.
In 2005, events took a favorable turn. With Liu Changle, Chairman of Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings Ltd., acting as go-between, the "National Palace Museum" in Taipei agreed part of the painting in the Zhejiang Provincial Museum could be displayed in Taipei together with the other half. But there were no plans for that half to be displayed on the mainland.
After comprehensive discussion about related affairs, the two sides eventually signed a memo about displaying the painting in its entirety, in Fuyang, Zhejiang Province, the site of the Fuchun River, on January 16 this year.
The two parts will be displayed together in a single showcase but separately because they are mounted with independent scrolls, said Chen.