ROC Taiwan 2002

ROC Yearbook 2002

The Arts

Plastic Art


There was no strong formal tradition of sculpture brought from mainland China. Before the 1920s, temple and folk sculpture were the only sculptural forms thriving in Taiwan, and it was not until the 1970s that sculpture was widely accepted as a fine-art genre.

Taiwan's first fine-art sculptor was Huang Tu-shui 黃土水, born in 1906. Like many painters of his generation, he studied Western-style techniques at the Tokyo Fine Arts Institute. His most celebrated works are of water buffaloes, an animal that symbolizes the heart of the Taiwan countryside. The most renowned sculptor after Huang was Chen Hsia-yu 陳夏雨, who was also trained in Japan and returned to Taiwan after World War II to create realistic portraits and figures, often of women in pensive poses.

The tide of Western-oriented abstraction that swept through the local art world in the 1960s produced the first Taiwan sculptor to gain worldwide attention. Yuyu Yang (also known as Yang Ying-feng 楊英風), who died in 1997, was most famous for his stainless steel sculptures, which often converted traditional Chinese symbols like the phoenix and dragon into fluid abstract forms. His works, which were sometimes monumental in size, have been erected in cities around the world. His East West Gate 東西門 (1973) stands on Wall Street in Manhattan, and the 23-foot Advent of the Phoenix 鳳凰來儀 (1970) can be found in Osaka. In 1996, Yang held a major retrospective of his work in England, at the invitation of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

The back-to-roots movement of the 1970s (see section on Painting) is exemplified by Ju Ming, who was initially trained as a folk sculptor but later studied with Yuyu Yang. Ju was initially admired for his rustic, simple figures carved from wood, especially his monumental Tai Chi Series 太極系列. In recent years, he has explored a variety of materials, including painted bronze and rolled stainless steel sheets, creating abstract figures of athletes, ballerinas, and people in everyday poses. Like Yuyu Yang, Ju has exhibited worldwide, in Hong Kong, England, New York, and elsewhere.


Taiwan is also known for its high-quality reproduction ceramics, an industry that got its start in the late 1940s. Several talented figures, such as Lin Te-wen 林德文 and Tsai Hsiao-fang 蔡曉芳, became known for their skill at imitating ancient porcelain. Today, there are a number of kilns in the north-central city of Miaoli 苗栗 and in Yingko 鶯歌鎮, a small town southwest of Taipei, that are known worldwide for their reproductions of Ming and Ching dynasty ceramics. In the early 1950s, several ceramists, including primarily Lin Pao-chia 林葆家, Wu Jang-nung 吳讓農, and Wang Hsiu-kung 王修功, made their first efforts to develop Taiwan's ceramics into a contemporary art form. These men began their careers by working in ceramics factories, helping to revive the industry after its decline during the Japanese occupation. Eventually, they broke away to pursue their own creative ideas and to establish teaching studios. Although they remained within the traditional framework of functional ceramics, making vases, bowls, and pots, their works represented a creative venture into unusual shapes and experimental glaze effects.

It was not until the late 1960s, however, that creative ceramists began to gain widespread recognition, thanks in large part to exhibitions at the National Museum of History 國立歷史博物館, which continues to play a central role in promoting the art form. In 1968, the museum held the island's first major solo ceramics show, featuring Wu Jang-nung. In the following decade, ceramic exhibitions at private galleries gradually became more common. A key figure during this era was Chiu Huan-tang 邱煥堂, who studied ceramics in Hawaii and returned to Taiwan to introduce the contemporary ideas he had learned abroad. Ceramist Sun Chao 孫超 also gained recognition during this time for his crystalline glazes 結晶釉. After a career in the National Palace Museum, Sun began applying his experiments with ancient glazing techniques to his own work. In recent years, he has moved from making decorative crystal patterns on vases and bowls to large, flat glaze "paintings" that combine Chinese ink landscapes with abstract expressionism.

After 1981, ceramic art quickly came into its own, boosted by the 1983 opening of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum 臺北市立美術館, which included ceramics in its opening show. In 1986, the National Museum of History held its first biennial ceramic show. The Chinese Ceramics Association 中華民國陶藝協會 was formed in 1992, and the following year held its first festival, which featured indoor and outdoor exhibitions, demonstrations, and lectures by prominent ceramic artists. Taiwan's first ceramics museum, the Yingko Ceramics Museum 鶯歌陶瓷博物館, opened in November 2000. It presents Taiwan's ceramic development and promotes cultural exchange between local and overseas ceramic artists.

Seal Carving

Carving name chops, or Chinese seals, with names or other calligraphic inscriptions was once a necessary skill, along with painting and calligraphy, for any well-rounded literati artist. Although machine-carved name chops are commonly used for most business transactions today, only a handful of artists specialize in the art of engraving name chops by hand. Among them are Wang Pei-yueh 王北岳, who teaches seal carving at the art department of National Taiwan Normal University. Among the younger generation of chopmakers is Huang Ming-hsiu 黃明修, who was recognized in the 1994 Provincial Art Contest for his work. Name chops are made of wood, jade, or soft precious stones, such as tien- huang 田黃, or "field yellow." The body of the chop may be a plain rectangle, or it may be sculpted into a lion, dragon, or other symbolic image. Besides their use in business transactions, name chops are also stamped on traditional paintings and calligraphy, both to identify the artist and to add an aesthetic touch.

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