The Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, originated from a fine arts programme launched by the New Asia College in 1957 and became a full-fledged department offering a four-year undergraduate programme in 1959. When The Chinese University of Hong Kong was formed from a federation of colleges including the New Asia College, the Department emerged as the first provider of visual arts education at the tertiary level in Hong Kong. Over the past six decades, the Department has trained up a great number of talents by remaining true to its mission of “promoting traditional Chinese culture and bridging Chinese and Western art” with an emphasis on traditional Chinese art for its core courses. An important partner of the Department is the Art Museum (formerly Art Gallery), which was founded in 1971. All of its directors, past or present, have been the Department’s faculty, three of whom were concurrently the Department’s chairmen, not to mention ongoing collaboration in teaching, curating and research between the two entities. This unique and complementary partnership has proved to serve us well, leading to the recognition of The Chinese University of Hong Kong as a main cradle of art professionals. Needless to say, the credit goes to the dedicated teachers and scholars, the most preeminent of all being Professor Jao Tsung-i.
With a long list of publications to his name, Professor Jao, born in Chaoan, Guangdong, in 1917, is an erudite scholar of international renown and an undisputed authority on a wide range of subjects that cover archaeology, Dunhuangology, oracle bones, stones and bronzes, Songs of the South, manuscripts on bamboo slips and silk, and Chinese poetry, painting and calligraphy. This stature of his is matched by his veneration as a painter and calligrapher. Whether in terms of art or scholarship, the Department of Fine Arts and the Art Museum have benefited immensely from his expertise. As early as 1952, he taught at the New Asia College and was a part-time teacher at the Department between 1975 and 1977. In his capacity as Honorary Professor since 1982, he has supervised many of the Department’s MPhil and PhD students. Besides the Department, the Art Museum has also been fortunate to have had valuable advice from him on many aspects.
On the occasion of the Department’s 60th anniversary, the exhibition “Enduring Presence: The Art of Professor Jao Tsung-i in the Collection of the Department of Fine Arts and Art Museum, CUHK” is jointly presented by the Department and the Museum to put on display a selection of 45 paintings and calligraphic works, most of which have hitherto been unpublished. Grouped under the four sections “Inscriptions and Connoisseurship”, “Modelling on the Past”, “Creativity and Originality”, and “Paintings with a Difference”, the exhibits serve to showcase the professor’s proficiency in Chinese art and his longstanding ties with the Department and the Museum. More importantly, it further serves as a token of gratitude from the two institutes to the professor.