After 250 years of "locked country" foreign relation policy enacted by Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan began to face the military threats imposed by Western powers in the mid-19th century. As a result, many people demanded Tokugawa to step down and return power to the Emperor while some others urged Tokugawa to remain in power. The divided opinions resulted in many confrontations across Japan. Civil war was soon to erupt. Finally, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last Shogun in Japan’s history, decided to return power to the Emperor in order to unite Japan competing against the Western powers. Then, Japan took many modernization initiatives in Meiji Restoration Period.
Many changes took place in Meiji Restoration Period, highlighted by the conflicts between new and old cultures. Japanese applied their technical know-how to arts and had thus improved their art technologies to an unprecedented level. 126 pieces of metalworking, sculptures, lacquers, metals, ceramics and woven velvets exhibited here were produced between late Edo and early Showa Periods. Some artworks were produced by Japan’s royal artists noted for their superb art technologies and fantastic coloring skills. These artworks demonstrate how the artists turned “crafts” into “arts”, revealing the beauty of art in Meiji Period.
Chen Ting-shih's iron sculpture "Man" looks like a gentleman walking with a stick and holding a briefcase in his hand. The gentleman wears a hat and has a slightly large belly. The whole picture looks vivid although a little bit unreal. The stick is soldered with a round iron plate that perfectly matches the square iron plate on the ground. The ingenious artist produced this brilliant artwork to signify the harmony between the real and the unreal. This artwork not only reveals the essence of aesthetics, but also expresses the dependencies between the square, the round, the straight, and the curve.
In his late years, Chen Ting-shih produced this artwork "Jonnie Walker" using scrap iron only. This artwork is made up of curled iron tablets that imitate a man wearing an overcoat and walking straightforward elegantly. Highlighted by motion and speed, this artwork reveals the energetic temper of the artist. This artwork reminds viewers of a famous brand of Scotch whiskey. Most people smile when they see this amusing artwork. Perhaps, this artwork reminds drinkers of their good old days.