Taiwan: Discussions with China Over Artwork
As relations across the Strait of Taiwan improve, art experts from rival art museums in Taiwan and China are planning historic visits to check out the other's disputed treasures and overcome a major symbolic stumbling block to better ties.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists defeated Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) and forced it to flee to the island.
The KMT (the Chinese Nationalist Party) took some of the greatest cultural artifacts with them on its retreat - paintings, calligraphy, porcelain and rare books. This year , directors of Beijing's National Palace Museum, in the Forbidden City complex, will be able to examine some of the 654,000 pieces of jade, scrolls and pottery the Nationalists shipped in 3,000 crates when they fled.
Meanwhile, Taiwan National Palace Museum officials will head to Beijing, probably next month , for a chance to examine some of the 600,000 less spectacular pieces left behind in China's capital.
The Palace Museum collection was founded in the 10th-century Song dynasty, when the second Song emperor built a pavilion to house his books and paintings, which survived violent dynastic changes.
In the early 15th century, the collection settled in Beijing in the new Ming dynasty palace, the Forbidden City, where it stayed for more than 500 years.
When China's disgraced last emperor Pu Yi was forced out, and after the Republic of China was established in 1912, Liang Jinsheng's grandfather helped to turn the Forbidden City into a palace museum. Six years later the Japanese army invaded Manchuria, and Nationalists ordered the collection to be moved.
The collection went first to Shanghai and Nanjing, then to Sichuan and Guizhou in the west.
By the end of the second World War, the collection had spent 16 years criss-crossing China on trains with machine-gun nests to fight off Japanese troops, communist guerrillas and bandits.
Cross-strait ties have improved since China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in Taipei earlier last year - many more direct flights have been introduced, pandas have been exchanged and the prospect of even closer relations looks possible.
China's president Hu Jintao called for more cultural exchanges between the two sides in a policy speech on Taiwan this week.