Free: Download 70,000+ High-Resolution Images of Chinese Art from Taipei’s National Palace Museum

Dur­ing Chi­na’s Ming and Qing dynas­ties, which togeth­er spanned the years 1386 to 1912, few in the Mid­dle King­dom, let alone else­where, could hope for even a glimpse of the finest Chi­nese art­works of their time. But recent­ly one muse­um has made a trove of art and arti­facts from those dynas­ties and oth­ers dig­i­tal­ly acces­si­ble to the world, and a muse­um out­side main­land Chi­na at that. “Accord­ing to pop­u­lar news web­site The Paper,” writes the BBC’s Ker­ry Allen, “Taipei’s Nation­al Palace Muse­um has placed 70,000 high-qual­i­ty elec­tron­ic images in a free-to-down­load archive so that online users can enjoy its exhi­bi­tions” — and with­out the has­sles of “glass bar­ri­er and light­ing restric­tions.”

First estab­lished as the Palace Muse­um in 1925, after the expul­sion of Chi­na’s last emper­or Puyi, the Nation­al Palace Muse­um began its col­lec­tion with valu­ables belong­ing to the for­mer Impe­r­i­al fam­i­ly. Now, writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Claire Voon, it boasts “one of the largest troves of ancient Chi­nese impe­r­i­al arti­facts, from paint­ings to rare books to all sorts of objects made of jade, bronze, ceram­ic, and more.”

The dig­i­ti­za­tion and upload­ing project, called Nation­al Palace Muse­um Open Data, offers an Eng­lish ver­sion site, “although that is cur­rent­ly a rather lim­it­ed and incom­plete resource. The Chi­nese ver­sion fea­tures two por­tals to more effi­cient­ly comb through the museum’s relics. One is specif­i­cal­ly for paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy works; the oth­er, for every­thing else.”

Still, the Nation­al Palace Muse­um has been improv­ing its Eng­lish por­tal, which allows search­es not just by cat­e­go­ry of object but by dynasty, a list that now reach­es far beyond the Ming and Qing, all the way back to the Shang Dynasty of 1600 BC to 1046 BC. But even as the Eng­lish ver­sion catch­es up to the Chi­nese one — as of this writ­ing, it con­tains more than 4700 items — it will sure­ly take some time before Nation­al Palace Muse­um Open Data catch­es up with the com­plete hold­ings of the Nation­al Palace Muse­um, with its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of about 700,000 Chi­nese impe­r­i­al arti­facts and art­works span­ning eight mil­len­nia. As with Chi­nese his­to­ry itself, a for­mi­da­ble sub­ject of study if ever there was one, it has to be tak­en one piece at a time.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1.8 Mil­lion Free Works of Art from World-Class Muse­ums: A Meta List of Great Art Avail­able Online

The World’s Old­est Mul­ti­col­or Book, a 1633 Chi­nese Cal­lig­ra­phy & Paint­ing Man­u­al, Now Dig­i­tized and Put Online

Pre-Flight Safe­ty Demon­stra­tion Gets Per­formed as a Mod­ern Dance: A Cre­ative Video from a Tai­wanese Air­line

China’s New Lumi­nous White Library: A Strik­ing Visu­al Intro­duc­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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