An exquisite collection of Chinese antiquities valued at up to $38 million has been pledged by a Chinese-American entrepreneur to California State University, Northridge for public display and academic study -- the largest donation ever for the university and the entire California State University system. Cal State Northridge President Jolene Koester announced September 23 the record donation by entrepreneur Roland Tseng, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley but now lives in Northern California. Tseng has made a four-year pledge to the university, and already conveyed the first year's items, valued at $9.5 million. With the gift, Cal State Northridge in April 2004 plans to launch the first in a series of public exhibits in the Oviatt Library displaying the gifted items and others loaned from Tseng, totaling about 100 pieces. The highlight of the initial gift is an ornate, 3,000-year-old gold and bronze ritual vessel valued at $5.5 million that is believed to be unique in the world.
Tseng, a veteran art collector who also has helped the Chinese government with its own preservation efforts, said he chose Cal State Northridge for the collection because of the university's long and deep connections with China, and because the university is a place where the antiquities can be publicly shown and studied in many different disciplines.
Tseng is a corporate founder and inventor, internationally published author and photographer and martial arts expert. In April 2003, he was one of a group of local Asian Americans honored as role models by Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn. His family also has longstanding ties to Cal State Northridge.
Tseng's donated antiquities will become part of the Special Collections and Archives area of the Oviatt Library. The donated items will be known as The Tseng Family Collection, and they will be displayed in the C.K. and Teresa Tseng Gallery, which is being named in honor of Tseng's parents, on the second floor of the library's west wing.
The first of the planned public exhibits, titled "Possessing the Past: Mysteries of Ancient Chinese Art," has been scheduled for Friday, April 16 through Friday, August 27, 2004, at the library. The exhibit will span 6,000 years of Chinese history with more than 100 pieces of archaic jade, ancient bronze, Neolithic pottery, earthenware and Stone Age tools.
Tseng's first-year gift of Chinese antiquities includes the ritual vessel believed to date between 1,300 and 1,100 B.C., a bronze bull with inlaid gold and silver dating to between the 11th and 6th centuries B.C., a glass water buffalo weight from between 400 and 221 B.C., and a Stone Age axe blade believed to be between 2 million and 1.5 million years old.
Tseng said the vessel, 7.5 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide, is believed to have been used by Chinese royalty in ancient ceremonies. The vessel illustrates the exceptional and now lost metallurgy skills of China's extinct Ba culture, since even today's technology could not replicate such a piece combining arsenic bronze, gold and archaic jade in a single casting.The unique piece, which has a warm grayish green tone, consists of a main vessel cast of arsenic bronze intermingled with solid gold ornamentation of dragons undulating in and out of its surface. On each side of the main vessel are solid jade block inlay handles in the shape of tigers. A matching gold flower cover is inlaid with a water dragon made of more archaic jade.
It is Tseng's entrepreneurial and diverse range of interests that made the proposal to name the university's College of Extended Learning for him an ideal form of recognition, said college Dean Joyce Feucht-Haviar. The college offers distance learning and other specialized and community-based programs, also fitting with Tseng's interest in emerging technologies.