Overseas Chinese Help Rebuild a Rich Heritage

Many of the Shanghai Museum's biggest donations have come from wealthy entrepreneurs in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or the US whose families fled the mainland decades ago during the Communist takeover.

These overseas Chinese capitalists, once branded as enemies by Mao, are being courted by Beijing's market-oriented leaders to invest in China.

China's new leaders, mainly educated technocrats, "want to rebuild the country," says best-selling author Nien Cheng, who now lives in America and is part of a coalition of people contributing art or cash to the museum to boost efforts to resurrect Chinese culture.

Beijing's evolution toward a post-revolutionary future, in turn, is encouraging ethnic Chinese across the globe to join together to help reconstruct China's pre-communist past.

Wang Qingzheng, vice director of the Shanghai Museum and chief fund-raiser, says overseas Chinese have donated more than $10 million and hundreds of artworks in the last several years. He has "met many potential donors at international auctions over the years," and adds that they are bound by a common link.

"People in Taiwan and Hong Kong and overseas Chinese have a common education and are steeped in common traditions," says Mr. Wang. "We are united in our love for traditional Chinese culture, which has no national boundaries."

Asia expert David Shambaugh at George Washington University in Washington says "the re-creation of a global cultural China is a huge joint venture between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the mainland, and the museum is a microcosm of that process."

Wang says this growing coalition of promoters of a cultural Greater China is being formed in part to fight a new enemy. "Some [Chinese] youths like Western culture too much, and they are being surrounded by Western TV, pop music and films," Wang says. "Many collectors, contributors, and curators are afraid that mass infiltration of Western culture will obliterate traditional Chinese culture."

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