Taiwan Museum Denies It Tried To Cover Up Breaking Of Ming And Qing Dynasty Objects

Butter-fingered museum worker drops and breaks a priceless China plate by opening a box the wrong way.

The video was released as the director of Taipei’s National Palace Museum faces calls to step down after the institution delayed admitting to breaking three precious Ming and Qing dynasty artefacts, reportedly worth TWD 2.5 billion (GBP 67 million).

Picture shows one of the broken artefacts, undated. Three cultural relics in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, were damaged. (National Palace Museum/AsiaWire)

The valuable pieces, mostly from the original Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City, were shipped to Taiwan by the then Kuomintang (KMT) China Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek, as he fled mainland China in 1949 after losing a civil war to the communists.

Wu Micha, the director of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, said that the pieces are currently being restored, and apologised on behalf of the museum for the careless damage that has been caused.

The museum admitted to the previously undisclosed breakages only after an opposition KMT legislator Charles I-hsin said he had received a tip-off about the damage and alleged that museum director, Wu Mi-cha, had tried to hide the matter.

Picture shows one of the broken artefacts, undated. Three cultural relics in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, were damaged. (National Palace Museum/AsiaWire)

He alleged that Wu had ordered museum staff not to speak to anyone about the damage, and asked that no records of the mishandling of the artefacts be made until they were fully restored. Charles I-hsin said Wu also asked for all related paperwork to be classified.

The incidents he said would not have come to light if it was not for the tip-off he received.

The museum identified the pieces as “Ming Hongzhi Model Small Yellow and Green Shuanglong Small Bowl” which is a yellow and green dragon-patterned bowl from the Ming dynasty’s Hongzhi period (1487-1505), damaged in February 2021.

There was also the “Qing Kangxi Model Dark Dragon White Small Yellow Porcelain Bowl”, a yellow bowl featuring dragons and white lining from the Qing dynasty’s Kangxi period (1654-1722), broken in April this year.

And finally, there was a blue-and-white floral porcelain Qing plate from the Qianlong period (1711-99) that was damaged in May, with the incident seen in the video.

Picture shows Qing dynasty item before being broken, undated. Three cultural relics in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, were damaged. (National Palace Museum/AsiaWire)

The museum insisted that only the case in May involved human error, asserting there was no evidence of mishandling by museum workers in the first two incidents. The “Qing Qianlong Blue and White Flower Plate” suffered the most serious damage, having shattered into seven pieces.

Wu Micha explained that during one recent exhibition, one of the employees took four cultural relics from a brocade box that contained six.

And without notifying other colleagues that the box had two other plates still inside, he left the lid of the box unbuckled.

Wu Mica said that another colleague mistakenly believed that all the cultural relics in the brocade box had been taken out.

“He saw that the cloth at the bottom of the box had fallen off, and wanted to stick it back. When he turned it over, two cultural relics fell out, and one was blocked with his body,” he said.

“It didn’t fall,” Wu added.

Picture shows Qing dynasty item before being broken, undated. Three cultural relics in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, were damaged. (National Palace Museum/AsiaWire)

Wu also said that the museum will learn from this lesson, including strengthening the collection environment, operating standards, and colleague training.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei also issued a statement sternly rejecting the accusation of negligence and saying Wu had never tried to conceal the cases.

They also stated that it would punish two staff members for the error.


To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Simona KitanovskaSub-EditorMarija Stojkoska, Agency: Asia Wire Report

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