Dong Qichang (1555–1636), style name Xuanzai and sobriquet Sibai (also Xiangguang jushi), was a native of Huating (modern Shanghai). He was awarded the Presented Scholar (jinshi) degree in 1589 and subsequently became a painter, calligrapher, and art connoisseur in the Ming dynasty. His painting and calligraphy achievements have been held in high regard by painting circles around the world ever since the Qing dynasty. He proposed many creative perspectives and made significant contributions to the areas of painting and calligraphy appreciation as well as art history-related research. He described the development of painting by dividing it into the "Northern and Southern Schools," which remains an important topic in art history-related research to this day. Such an accomplishment validates his profound influence in Chinese culture.
The National Palace Museum (NPM) houses more than 300 Dong Qichang-related artifacts. To host the Synthesis and Departure in Tradition: Painting, Calligraphy, and Dong Qichang (1555-1636), Lee Yu-min (ex-Chief Curator of the Department of Painting and Calligraphy, the NPM) led a curatorial team including Hu Yan-chiuan (associate research fellow) and Chiu Shih-hua (research assistant) beginning in 2014 to carefully select artifact masterpieces in the collection of the NPM. For the exhibition catalogue, it contains a monograph written by Ogawa Akiho (painting and calligraphy teaching assistant, Department of Liberal Arts, the Yasuda Women's University) introducing Dong Qichang's "Imitating the Ancients" and "Grand Synthesis," which serve to enlighten the audience about Dong Qichang's creative paintings, unique painting style, and remarkable achievements.
Dong Qichang's political career spanned several decades and his appreciation for art lasted more than 60 years. He possessed a wealth of knowledge and was a skilled writer and calligrapher. He was able to enrich his own knowledge by studying the works of masters and his predecessors and develop his own art style by constantly testing and implementing his own creative philosophies. His positive attitude and strong painting background influenced painting history-related views of future generation and opened new frontier for Chinese paintings and calligraphies; his contributions to Chinese art are thus impossible to overstate.