Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Rooms T1 & T2
May 14, 2013 (Tue) - June 16, 2013 (Sun)
Except for China, Japan preserves the most Chinese paintings in the world. This is because, during a thousand-year period of exchange with China, Japanese people have cherished and carefully passed on Chinese paintings. With a focus on the Edo period, this exhibition shows how treasured Chinese paintings (which were known as kara-e at the time), have been preserved.
There are four existing copies of the painting Solitary Angler on a Wintry River by Ma Yuan, which was fully restored last year. The copies were made by successive generations of Kano school painters. The original is wrapped in beautiful sarasa chintz and stored in a three-ply wooden box, which is a preservation method characteristic to Japan and not found in China. From these facts, it is clear how carefully our predecessors in Japan treated this work. It also shows how, over a long period of time, even masterpieces created in China gradually became a part of Japanese culture.
As the storage boxes and wrappings for paintings are not normally exhibited, most of them are on display here for the first time. This exhibition also features written evaluations of paintings, which reveal how Japanese people researched Chinese paintings in the Edo period.
In January of this year, the Toyokan (Asian Gallery) reopened after refurbishment. As with the museum’s collection of Chinese paintings, the Toyokan’s collection of Asian art is also owing to the activities of generations of Japanese people like those mentioned above. Visitors will hopefully sense that these collections are not just random series of acquirements. Through the activities of our predecessors, new understandings of Chinese painting will surely emerge.