Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Unlocking the past (Shang)

"Whenever I feel vexed and in need of leisure, I enter their world and entertain myself. I appreciate their ancient beauty and purity, explore the principles of craftsmanship, and understand the social and cultural backgrounds." Yan Hong-sen (顏鴻森) isn't talking about sculptures or paintings or any other works of art.

Rather, he's referring to the hundreds of old Chinese locks he has acquired over the past quarter century. "Often times, I find myself in total forgetfulness while in their midst," says Yan, a professor of mechanical engineering who is now executive vice president of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan, Taiwan.

Yan differs from many collectors in that he was conscious of a strong desire to build a collection long before he knew what kind of things he would acquire. Also, profit has never been his motive.

"I've never treated my collection as an investment. The true value of a collection lays in the appreciation, study, and discovery of the object, and sharing with the public, not merely through purchase and preservation..."

The entire article appears in the winter issue of Shang, a bilingual magazine produced for the Shangri-La hotel chain by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. The photo here is courtesy of Yan Hong-sen.

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