China Daily Global Edition (USA)
A master of the arts
Environmental protection pioneer donates outstanding collection to university, Lin Qi reports.
Qu Geping has carved his name at the front line of China’s environmental protection efforts over the course of nearly five decades. He was the first chief of what is now the country’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and the founder of the nonprofit China Environmental Protection Foundation. He is committed to professional and public education on issues pertaining to the subject.
Qu developed an interest in classical Chinese art during his childhood and is adept at calligraphy. He is well-connected in arts and culture circles, befriending modern luminaries, such as Zhao Puchu, Qi Gong, Li Keran and Huang Zhou, among others.
Qu’s associations with these renowned figures have helped him develop a keen artistic eye and assemble a collection that is evidence to his friendships with noted cultural personalities.
A recent donation Qu made to Tsinghua University in late March provides the public with a glimpse of the 90-yearold’s wide connections and cultural insights. Qu was once an adjunct professor of Tsinghua University, and had contributed to the setup of Tsinghua’s School of Environment.
It comprises 48 classical Chinese ink paintings and calligraphy works, which are now housed permanently at the Tsinghua University Art Museum. A large selection of them are on show at Like Strings of Splendid Beads, an exhibition at the museum which runs until May 5, as a celebration of Tsinghua’s 110th anniversary on April 25.
Du Pengfei, the museum’s executive director, says he first heard about Qu’s wish to make the donation when visiting his home in early 2019. Du says he was not surprised at all by Qu’s decision, because “he has always been a generous
A top university needs a first-class museum . ... Achieving that goal requires many hands to lend help. All I can do is to make a small effort.”
Qu Geping, scholar and a former adjunct professor of Tsinghua University
man who constantly pays back into society by contributing intelligence, hard work and wealth”.
Du says Qu’s donation features more than 30 figures in fine art, literature and history, many of whom actually made the works as a gift to Qu. He adds that these artworks represent several influential styles in modern Chinese art and include the painting schools of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Jinling, as well as of Lingnan (Guangdong province) and Chang’an (Xi’an).
Du says such a collection reflects “the scope and depth of Qu’s vision in art as well as his wide acquaintance”.
The exhibition title is derived from Liji, or the Book of Rites, a collection of classical texts of Confucian literature compiled during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24). The line originally compares the sweet sound of singing to the delicate feel of a string of beads.
“At this exhibition, the title means the art from Qu’s donation is as precious as splendid beads,” Du says. “And also, Qu is a man with a mind as pure and beautiful as that of beads.”
Zhang Yuting, a student from the School of Environment, says her favorite work at the exhibition is Wild Geese in Reeds, a vivid ink painting by Lin Fengmian. She says the landscape presents a scene of dynamic vitality, showing the extensive beauty of nature that does not need many words to explain.
Qu says he used to worry about the safety of the collection which he had kept for decades, and he feels thankful that Tsinghua will take over his “burden”.
“A top university needs a first-class museum, and a first-class museum needs a quality collection and a good curatorial team,” Qu says. “Achieving that goal requires many hands to lend help. All I can do is to make a small effort.”