Folding up the ‘Manual of Birds’

By Angela Wu, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — On the first day of Chinese New Year (農曆新年), there is the traditional custom of “Zou Chun” (走春) — literally meaning “walking spring” — where people go to temples or to visit relatives.

Nowadays, people not only spend this time of the year making courtesy calls to friends and relatives but also use it as a chance to get out and experience the festive atmosphere. Taking advantage of the upcoming holiday, you can take in the visual feast of the “Famous Painting in the Spotlight: Manual of Birds” (名品聚焦—清人鳥譜) exhibit at the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院), which runs until March 25. This collection of beautiful paintings, originally titled “Collaborative Copy of Jiang Tingxi’s ‘Manual of Birds’” (名品聚焦-清人鳥譜) by Yu Sheng (余省) and Zhang Weibang (張為邦) is on at gallery 202 in the museum. The 13 pages on display from the first painting album feature vivid illustrations and fine-line brushwork. Each animal’s name is presented in Chinese and Manchu alongside legends and myths, and includes a brief description of the habitat and surroundings of each bird, making it resemble a modern illustrated calendar of birds. Among other highlights, “Manual of Birds: Phoenix” (鳥譜 鳳) shows a mythological bird of Chinese culture that symbolizes high merit and grace. The Chinese phoenix is also an immortal bird whose rare appearances signify prosperity and well-being, as well as to mark the dawn of a new age. ■ ►