September 22, 2003 Vol. VIII, No. 3

Entrepreneur Roland Tseng has donated this 3,000-year-old Chinese gold and bronze ritual vessel, valued at $5.5 million, to Cal State Northridge.

Priceless Chinese Antiquities Donated to Cal State Northridge

$38 Million Pledge by Entrepreneur Roland Tseng is Largest Ever for Northridge, CSU System

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 this week announced 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.

"We are deeply appreciative and honored that Roland Tseng has entrusted these exceptional treasures to Cal State Northridge," said President Koester. "Because of his generosity, and with the support of the Chinese government, Cal State Northridge will become a major center for the study and appreciation of Chinese art and culture."

President Koester said she plans to ask the Board of Trustees of the California State University in November to celebrate the gift by naming the west wing of the Oviatt Library—where the prized art will be displayed—the Tseng Family Wing, and by renaming the College of Extended Learning as the Roland Tseng College of Extended Learning.

China-Northridge Ties

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.

"I have always considered myself as a caretaker of these priceless antiquities, and now I've found a home for them," said Tseng, who has traveled to China more than 100 times. "Northridge also has had such a great relationship with China, all the way back to former President James Cleary, who made the university one of the first to launch major exchanges with China."

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.

April Exhibit Planned

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.

Susan Curzon, dean of the University Library, said Tseng's gifts also will establish an endowment to permanently support the collection and its activities. "This collection offers a tremendous opportunity to see extraordinary art, to experience the past and to understand the artistry and complex lives of those who lived long ago," Curzon said.

The university and Tseng also expect the collection will become a focus for academic research, by the university's own faculty and students, and by researchers from around the world, including China. President Koester said the university's interests will span virtually every college, including the fields of archaeology, art, Asian studies, geology, history and material sciences.

"These visually stunning objects will greatly enrich our community and provide a unique research experience for our students and faculty," added Curzon. "This is a rare and exceptional gift. The Oviatt Library is honored to preserve these beautiful objects for future generations."

Rare, Ancient Artifacts

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 ritual vessel is the most unique and valuable among those artifacts. "This is an extremely rare and important piece," he said. "We know of nothing else in the entire world like it. It needs to be shared with researchers and studied so we can learn more about how it was made and used."

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.

Tseng said the vessel was discovered in the early 1980s in China's Sichuan Province. The value and significance of the piece only became known later when other discoveries increased knowledge of China's ancient Ba culture.

Donor to be Honored

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.

"Roland Tseng's own life and career—as an ongoing learner, an innovative and skilled professional, a problem solver, and a creator of new knowledge and new technological possibilities—exemplify the kind of lifelong learner and reflective professional that our college seeks to foster through its many distinguished programs," Feucht-Haviar said.

If approved, Extended Learning would become only the second of Northridge's nine colleges to be named in recognition of a donor. The first such naming occurred in mid-2002 when the Michael D. Eisner College of Education was named in honor of a $7 million gift from The Eisner Foundation. Until now, the Eisner gift was the largest in the university's history.

In the wake of Tseng's initial $9.5 million first-year gift, he and campus officials expect to announce additional details of the other gifted artworks that will comprise his pledge to the university before the collection's first public showing next April.

Tseng's gift also is being made on behalf of his two daughters, Sophie Marie Tseng and Lily Anna Tseng, who will be recognized, respectively, with the naming of a classroom in the College of Extended Learning and a pond in the university's Botanic Gardens.

@csun | September 22, 2003 issue
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