Shining treasures show the Prince's style
Yixin spent 46 years of his life at Prince Kung's Palace from the second year of Emperor Xianfeng (1852) to the 24th year of Emperor Guangxu (1898). Most of the buildings, utensils and collections in the palace reflected his aesthetic taste. He built a courtyard on the west of the palace to store his collections.
The main room of the courtyard was called Xijin Studio, which housed The Consoling Letter (Pingfu tie), a calligraphy work by Lu Ji, a great litterateur and calligrapher of the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316). The name of the west wing room where other calligraphy works and paintings were stored was Er'er Studio, which meant that the collections were no better than those of The Consoling Letter (Pingfu tie). The antiques were stored in the east wing room, called Legu Studio.
Calligraphy and painting through the ages
Since his youth, Prince Kung had been interested in appreciating and collecting the inscriptions, celebrity calligraphy and paintings of literati and refined scholars. What treasures did he collect in the palace? Although we can't find any in today's palace, we still know something about them from the autobiography of Yixin's great grandson, the famous master of calligraphy and painting, Pu Xinyu, and the research by scholars such as professor Fukuda of Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.
Many famous calligraphy works and paintings in the history of ancient China have been stored in Prince Kung's Palace, such as Lu Ji's Consoling Letter (Pingfu tie), Wang Xizhi's Youmu Letter (outline and fill-in copy) and Wang Xianzhi's E'qun Letter (outline and fill-in copy). Therefore, collections in Er'er Studio are not ordinary at all. These are all famous works, which make the Prince Kung's Palace brilliant.
Fate of calligraphy and paintings at the palace
The collections of calligraphy works and paintings of all dynasties are the most important treasures in Prince Kung's Palace, and fully reflect Yixin's royal identity and artistic taste. However, with the demise of the Qing government in 1911, these precious calligraphy and paintings went to the hands of different people in just 20 or 30 years, and suffered different fates.
Youmu Letter by Wang Xizhi of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420）
It is said that it was brought out of the palace around 1900 and into Hiroshima, Japan, after the Xinhai Revolution in 1911 that brought down the Qing government. It was reduced to ashes by the atomic bomb of 1945. Now only copies have been handed down.
Gaoshen Manuscript by Yan Zhenqing of the Tang Dynasty (618-907)
It was mortgaged by Puwei to Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan around 1913. In 1930, Japanese calligrapher Nakamura Fusetsu bought it. It is now collected in the Calligraphy Museum in Tokyo, Japan.
Five-Colored Parakeet on a Blossoming Apricot Tree by Zhao Ji, Emperor Huizong of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279)
It was lost around the Xinhai Revolution. It was later purchased by the Japanese collector Yamamoto and is now collected in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the United States.
It is a distressful thing to list the lost ancient calligraphy and paintings from Prince Kung's Palace as most of them have drifted overseas or disappeared on their return, and for some of them we have no way of knowing even their names and contents.