And Finally, Cross Strait

Meeting halfway

Prestigious Chinese painting is finally reunited in Taipei museum

Meeting halfway

It has political symbolism too...

Looking for a painting with plenty of political symbolism? In the Chinese context, it would be hard to better Huang Gong-wang’s Dwelling in the Fu Chun Mountains. Ranked among the 10 greatest Chinese paintings, the masterpiece was separated by a sea in 1949. One half went to Taiwan with the fleeing KMT army; the other remained in Zhejiang province with the victorious new regime.

To be completely accurate, the scroll had been in pieces for a while. Separation first occurred in the 17th century, when a former owner ordered it burned on his death, only for a family member to rescue (what became) the two halves from the flames.

Symbolically both sections of the painting were “reunited” at Taipei’s Palace Museum earlier this month, reports the Taipei Times. The political message of a future ‘reunification’ with Taiwan was hard to miss in Beijing’s decision to lend its half of the painting to the museum.

The timing couldn’t be better as far as art-loving Chinese tourists are concerned. As of June 28, a new pilot programme will allow mainland travellers from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan individually. Up till now they’ve had to travel as part of tour groups.

On top of that, agreement has been reached to up the number of flights across the Strait by 50% to 558 a week. The statistics show that mainlanders made 930,000 trips to Taiwan in 2009 (when restrictions were first loosened) and that number is expected to jump to over two million this year due to the new visa rules permitting individual travel.

“I will definitely sign up for an individual trip,” Xiamen native Lu Xin told the China Daily. He’d been before on a package trip with a group but had many regrets. “We didn’t have much time. I’m looking forward to exploring the island in-depth.” One thing that Lu will find all too familiar when he touches down in Taipei is the latest food scare. Taiwan’s food has generally been considered safer than its neighbour’s but that reputation has been sullied by revelations that Taiwanese drinks makers have been adding DEHP – an organic compound usually used to make plastic soft and pliable – to their beverages.

Taiwan’s health authorities first found DEHP in products on May 23 and then demanded that 168 food processors recall 1 million tainted items. DEHP was being added by unscrupulous producers because it was far cheaper than palm oil.

The Chinese mainland has since banned the import of 950 Taiwanese-made food products on health grounds. Whether the food scare will blunt the tourist rush is unlikely. But Taiwan’s chief of economic affairs told the Taipei Times that it would cost the food sector at least NT$10 billion ($348 million) in lost revenues.

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