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Curiously, one of the world’s greatest collections of Chinese antiquities is not in China – but across the Strait in Taiwan. In the early 20th century, the art collection of the Imperial Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, was on the move. It left Beijing and criss-crossed the country for nearly 20 years in an effort to spare it from the ravages of war – firstly by Japanese forces, and then during China’s Civil War. 

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When in 1949, the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek retreated to the island of Taiwan – leaving Mao Tse-tung’s communists in control of the mainland – he took the best pieces with him. In three ships and across stormy waters, more than 600,000 of the finest and most fragile artworks were transported. Remarkably, the precious cargo arrived entirely intact.

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After landing in Taiwan, the collection remained in storage until a suitable space was designed. Built in traditional imperial style, the National Palace Museum opened in Taipei in 1965. That was about the same time that the Cultural Revolution was raging on the mainland when so much of China’s ancient heritage was destroyed. Now the National Palace Museum is considered one of the world’s greatest collections of Chinese antiquities, from the Neolithic age to the Qing dynasty. Andrew Burnett, former deputy director of the British Museum, says it is “in the front rank of international museums”. Some compare it to the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Prado.

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Read more on The Telegraph:

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