Chinese School of CAACF 2019

JUNE 17–OCTOBER 29, 2017

This summer, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), presents China’s 8 Brokens: Puzzles of the Treasured Past, the first-ever exhibition dedicated to bapo (which translates to “eight brokens”) painting. The revolutionary artistic genre emerged in China during the mid-19th century. Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture, and bapo refers to the damaged cultural ephemera hyper-realistically depicted in the paintings—worm-eaten calligraphies, partial book pages, burned paintings, remnants of rubbings and torn-open letters. They are usually arranged in a haphazard, collage-like composition—created with Chinese ink and colors on paper or silk, but offering the illusion of three-dimensionality.

When bapo emerged, this unexpected imagery was radically distinct from classical Chinese landscape and figure painting, and became popular among an aspiring, urban middle class delighted by its visual trickery and sophistication. After 1949, the art form was largely forgotten, but has recently been rediscovered by contemporary artists and collectors.

This exhibition will present some of the finest examples of bapo paintings dating back to the 19th century, including new acquisitions and loans from museums and private collections located in the United States and Asia, as well as a contemporary work by artist Geng Xuezhi. They will be interspersed with three-dimensional decorative and functional objects that display bapo imagery.

Presented with generous support from the Tan Family Education Foundation. Additional support from the Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Exhibition Fund, the Joel Alvord and Lisa Schmid Alvord Fund, the Roger and Dawn Nordblom Fund for Chinese Paintings in Honor of Marjorie C. Nordblom, and The June N. and John C. Robinson Fund for Chinese Paintings in Honor of Marjorie C. Nordblom.

China’s 8 Brokens Puzzles of the Treasured Past
Untitled (detail), Chinese, 1900



For more information, please contact Grace Munns at or 617-369-3045.

Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115


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