Businessman donates $156m painting to Beijing museum

Local | Phoebe Ng 1 Dec 2017

A HK$156 million Ming dynasty landscape painting has officially returned home to China after being donated by property tycoon Hui Wing-mau.

The Silk Road Landscape Map, which may be one of China's earliest world maps, is a handscroll that spans more than 30 meters. It will be housed in Beijing's Palace Museum and was unveiled at a donation ceremony there yesterday.

Many high-profile politicians attended the ceremony, including former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and Zhang Xiaoming, who is Beijing's man in charge of SAR affairs.

Hui, the chairman of Shimao Property, acquired the painting from a Japanese collector for US$20 million (HK$156 million).

The silk scroll, which is 31.1 meters long and 59 centimeters wide, pinpoints 211 locations, ranging from the Jiayuguan Pass to Mecca, which is named Tianfang on the map. More than 10 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa are covered, including Uzbekistan, Tunisia and Turkey. The names of the 211 locations on the map are written in Chinese and are mostly transliterations from foreign languages.

The painting belongs to the Wumen School of the mid-Ming dynasty. According to academic Lin Meicun, the painting was likely used by the Jiajing Emperor, who ruled from 1521 to 1567.

Hui said he was "lucky" to be able to contribute to Chinese culture.

"It is lucky that Shimao gets to help to preserve Chinese artifacts and contribute a little in the revival of Chinese culture. It is also a destiny in a way," he said.

"I would like to invite others to join our mission to preserve Chinese civilisation."

Dong Wei, vice minister of culture, thanked Hui for his donation. "His charitable act will benefit the next generations to come."

This is not the first time Hui has donated to the Palace Museum, he previously made a contribution of HK$90 million.

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