Zhang Boju (left) watches Pan Su painting at their home in Beijing in the early 1980s. The couple collected a quality array of classic Chinese paintings and calligraphic works and donated them to the country. (Photo provided to China Daily)
An ongoing exhibition shows how a husband-and-wife team sacrificed everything to protect national treasures.
Zhang Boju (1898-1982) and Pan Su (1915-92) are acknowledged as a model of a happy couple in modern China. They both hailed from well-connected families, shared an interest in the arts, and were known as charismatic and learned.
More importantly, the late couple is remembered for assembling a quality collection of classic Chinese paintings and calligraphic works over a period of three decades that they donated to the country in the 1950s. Their generosity allows people today to appreciate the magnificence of Chinese cultural traditions through these vivid legacies.
But building up such a great assemblage of art not only cost the couple－who were both painters and calligraphers themselves－almost all of their wealth but also sometimes put them at risk.
Zhang once said: "It is not necessary that I should keep what I've collected all my life. Only I hope they will stay in my country forever and be passed down through generations."
The couple's devotion to traditional Chinese art can be traced back to their comprehensive educations. They were well-versed in painting, calligraphy, poetry, classical music and opera.
Previous exhibitions through the decades have showcased many artworks from their collection. But an ongoing exhibition, Admiring the Noble Character with Reverence, also focuses on their accomplishments in ink painting, calligraphy and literature, including letters to such friends as art master Zhang Daqian.