China’s Palace Museum has always been a symbol of political legitimacy, its art and artifacts a kind of currency. Making imperial treasures public to the new nation, it first opened its doors in the Forbidden City in 1925. But many of its finest pieces are no longer in Beijing — the Nationalist Party and its army took thousands of cases of art with them, first on retreat during World War II and finally into exile on Taiwan, where the collection is hosted in a second Palace Museum in Taipei. When the People’s Liberation Army entered Beijing in 1949, its generals had maps and strict orders to safeguard the Forbidden City. Even in the Mao era, the Communists still valued cultural artifacts, building “socialist museums” to make antiquity accessible to the masses, and before the tumultuous Cultural Revolution even came to an end, the Palace Museum was secretly prepared for reopening in advance of President Nixon’s famed 1972 visit to China.
Read the full article at Even Magazine.