Chu Ko

1931-2011 Hunan, China


A central figure in the modern art movement for the past forty years, Chu Ko is known for his image of the unwinding knot. His work is featured on the cover of Michael Sullivan’s definitive monograph Arts and Artists of Twentieth-Century China (by University of California Press, 1996), in which Sullivan describes Chu as “one of the Taiwanese artists who have given new meaning to the term wenrenhua [literati painting].” While Chu utilizes traditional iconography and a traditional format and style of Chinese ink painting, his approach concertedly strives to revitalize traditional norms.

In 1949, he moved to Taiwan and enlisted in the military, remaining an active soldier for seventeen years. During that time, he enrolled in night courses at a local art college, expanding on his classical education in literature, painting, and calligraphy. In 1968, Chu joined the Antiquities Department at the National Palace Museum and became an expert in the field of ancient bronze vessels. It was during the 1970s, with the encouragement of friends and family, that Chu began to exhibit his works. In 1984, following a miraculous recovery from nasopharyngeal cancer, Chu devoted himself fully to his painting. In 1988 and 1992, Chu was selected as one of the two Chinese artists commissioned to represent the Republic of China at the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics, respectively.

In the past 50 years, Chu Ko has participated in over sixty solo and group exhibitions across the world. Following a retrospective exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 1991, Alisan Fine Arts held its first solo exhibition for Chu in 1992, followed by two more solo exhibitions, one at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. In 2014, three years after Chu’s death, the Cultural Department of Taiwan Government organized the exhibition Walking Through his Paintings and Poems exhibit to commemorate this Taiwan icon.

His works have been collected by several important public institutions including the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; the Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the JP Morgan Chase Art Collection.



1931    Yuan Te-hsing, a.k.a. Chu Ko, born in Hunan Province, China
1938    Began formal education with the “Three Character Classic,” “the Confucian Analects” and calligraphy
1947    Enrolled in Mi-Ho High School, inspired by the writings of modern reformers and modern poets such as Laoshe, Baijin, etc.
1954    Transferred to Taiwan
1957    Adopted the pen name Chu Ko for his art critique
1962    Became a Buddhist
1966    Published first poetry collection “Unripe Fruit”
1967    Invited to teach Art and Chinese culture at the Chinese Culture College in Taiwan
1968    Joined the Antiquities Department of the National Palace Museum, specializing in ancient bronze vessels
1970s  Edited and written“Enamels in National Palace Museum” (1971)“Jade in National Museum” (1974), published “The Cultural Monuments of China”(1976) a survey of Chinese art for the general
1980s  Published “Firebird Reborn” (1985), a collection of art reviews titled “The Life of Beauty” (1986)
2002   Lectured and demonstrated at Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle, USA
Retired researcher from the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan
2011   Passed away in Taiwan



  • My Way in One Continuous Strans: A Retrospective Exhibition of Chu Ko, Liang Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan, Mingshan Art Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan


  • Walking through his paintings and poems-3rd anniversary of Chu Ko’s death, Cultural Department of Taiwan Government, Taipei, Taiwan


  • Oil painting exhibition, Mingshan Art Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan


  • 99 Degree Art Centre, Taipei, Taiwan


  • Shanghai Liu Haisu Art Museum, Shanghai, China


  • Braid it in Art: The Rope Twisting Art by Chu Ko, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


  • Chu Ko: The Unwinding Knot, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong


  • Ties of Affection, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


  • Contemplating Structure, Taipei Museum of Art, Taipei, Taiwan


  • The Ceaseless Line, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Library & Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong


  • A Man for all Seasons, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong


  • A World of Feelings, Retrospective Exhibition, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan


  • Jacques Barrere, Art d’Extreme Orient, Paris, France


  • Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong


  • Contemporary Painting Gallery, Seoul, Korea


  • 3rd Shanghai Ink Biennial, Zhu Qizhan Art Museum, Shanghai, China
  • 8 Artists from Taiwan, Chinese Cultural Association, Beijing, China
  • Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
  • International Asian Art Fair, Alisan Fine Arts, 7th Regiment Armory, New York, USA
  • Das Ulbersee Museum, Bremen, Germany
  • The Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  • Olympiad of Art (representative artist of Taiwan), Barcelona, Spain 
  • Couleurs de la Vie – Cent Artistes Temoignent Pour l’Homme, Biblioteque Nationale, Paris, France
  • 5th Asian International Art Exhibition, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 4th Asian International Art Exhibition, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan            
  • Homage to Picasso, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Contemporary Chinese Art Exhibition, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Olympiad of Art, Seoul, Korea (representative artist of Taiwan)
  • 3rd Asian International Art Exhibition, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • The New Look of Chinese Modern Art, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 2nd Asian International Art Exhibition, National History Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 7 Chinese Kunstenaars uit Taiwan, Nederloo, Belgium
  • Tendances de la Peinture Chinoise Traditionnelle, Versailles, France
  • Abstract Ink Painting in the Republic of China, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Taipei Modern Art 1986 Exhibition, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
  • Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Ueno Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
  • Travelling Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Artists, USA
  • Jubaopen Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA
Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland
Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
JP Morgan Chase Art Collection