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A Special Exhibition of Deng Tuo's Donations to the National Art Museum of China has drawn crowds since its opening just before the Lunar New Year. The exhibition presents for the first time more than 140 ancient ink artworks donated to the museum by Deng Tuo in 1964, from his private collection. The exhibition offers a rare artistic feast for viewers, says museum director Fan Di'an. Among the eye-catching items are masterpieces by the most-recognized artists from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) through the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), such as Su Dongpo (1037-1101), Shen Zhou (1427-1509), Zhu Da (1626-1705) and Zheng Xie (1693-1765). Arguably, the most important item on show is Su Dongpo's Bamboo and Rocks scroll. It is generally believed to be the only existing authentic work still to be found on the Chinese mainland by the versatile artist, who enjoyed fame during his lifetime due to his literature, poetry and calligraphy. With a height of 28 cm and a width of 105.6 cm, the scroll, which is featured on the third-floor exhibition hall, was created on a single piece of silk. The only other surviving painting by Su, Withered Tree and Queer Rock, is now housed in a Japanese museum and was taken during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), Fan says.
Deng (1912-66) was a well-known historian, poet and former publisher and editor-in-chief of People's Daily.
He was persecuted during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) and killed himself as a result.
Deng developed a deep love for classical arts and culture in his early years and began collecting in the 1930s, when he was fighting in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.
He donated his collection, most of which focused on old Beijing, to the National History Museum of China (now the National Museum of China) in the 1950s.
"To mark the 100th anniversary of Deng's birth, we are holding this special exhibition, displaying the entire collection at once for the very first time," Fan says.
Deng is "one of the outstanding official-scholars in New China, who cherished a passion for ancient art and invested much energy in building a private collection", says Liang Jiang, a researcher of ancient ink art and a key organizer of the exhibition.
However, "Deng's purpose was not to possess these works but to use them as firsthand materials for his research of ancient Chinese art history", says Beijing-based art critic Sun Wei.
"Deng was planning to write books about ancient art, including a history of ancient ink paintings. But his tragic experiences prevented this."
Deng Tuo's daughter Deng Xiaohong says: "Behind every piece there is a heart-wrenching story."