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Introduction

Japan, on the eastern edge of the Eurasian tectonic plate, looks out over the Pacific Ocean. Since antiquity, Japan has undergone waves of contact and exchange with other regions in Asia, yielding the unique features of its own art and culture as well as various facets of acceptance and isolation. These changes over time have driven the development of Japanese culture, leading to different levels of transition and transformation. From the clan-based society of high antiquity to the aristocracy of imperial rule, and from mighty samurai warriors to people of commoner status seeking refinement in life, they all have throughout the course of history shone brilliantly like so many stars, establishing for Japan an unmistakable place in the realm of world culture.

In 2014, the National Palace Museum collaborated with the Tokyo National Museum and Kyushu National Museum in Japan to hold at those two institutions a special exhibition entitled “Treasured Masterpieces from the National Palace Museum, Taipei.” It was the first time that many fine works from the Museum collection traveled to Japan for exhibit together, also marking an important milestone in cultural exchange between the two respective countries. As a way to express gratitude for the loan of masterpieces from the National Palace Museum, the Tokyo and Kyushu National Museums agreed to organize a reciprocal exhibition entitled “Japanese Art at Its Finest: Masterpieces from the Tokyo and Kyushu National Museums” at the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum. The exhibition features 151 examples of some of the finest Japanese art in their collections, including 68 pieces in the ranks of “National Treasure” and “Important Cultural Property.” It is also the first time that Japan has organized such a comprehensive group of quality works for overseas display. At the same time, it represents the largest and highest level of exhibition for Japanese art in Taiwan. The exhibition is divided into six sections on “Worship and Life,” “Imperial Power and Buddhism,” “Realms of Aristocracy,” “Culture of the Samurai,” “Formation of the Urban Class,” and “Tradition and Innovation.” With works spanning five millennia, the exhibition takes visitors on one of the richest and most diverse trips through Japanese art and culture.

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