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Art Patron | Shi Wen-long

  • Date:2024-07-04
Art Patron Shi Wen-long

Chinese Name: 許文龍

Born: February 25, 1928

Died: November 18, 2023

Birthplace: Tainan City (Southern Taiwan)


Did You Know That…?

Shi Wen-long was a Taiwanese entrepreneur and art patron. He was known as the founder of Chi Mei Corporation (奇美實業), Chi Mei Medical Center (奇美醫學中心), and Chimei Museum (奇美博物館). Shi also enjoyed the fame as Taiwan’s “father of acrylic.”



Born in Tainan in 1928, Shi Wen-long had to work his way through school at a young age as he grew up in a slum. The valuable experience that he frequented public museums when he was a child motivated him to build a museum for the general public in the future. At the age of 31, Shi established Chi Mei Corporation, a business venture that earned him the title of “father of acrylic” in Taiwan. His company grew into the largest maker of ABS resin in the world when he was 63 years old. Turning 70, Shi founded Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corporation, which later became the world’s No. 4 supplier of flat-panel displays for computers and televisions. After he became successful in his business, Shi felt a strong desire to contribute to his hometown. He built a hospital and a museum to enhance the physical health and spiritual development of his fellow townspeople in Tainan.


In 1990, Shi spent NT$70 million of his own money to take over the Tainan Fengjia Hospital (臺南逢甲醫院), which was on the verge of bankruptcy. It was renovated and became the Chi Mei Hospital. The hospital was upgraded to a medical center in 2000 and has since been an important medical institution in southern Taiwan, providing services to the people in Yunlin County, Chiayi County, and Tainan City. 


Shi was an art aficionado. In order to promote art and cultural affairs, he established the Chi Mei Culture Foundation in 1977. As an enthusiastic collector, Shi was happy to exhibit his rich collections. In 1992, he founded the Chimei Museum inside his company building, which housed his private collections in four parts: Western art, musical instruments, weaponry, and natural history. In 2015, the newly built Chimei Museum was opened at Tainan Metropolitan Park.  


Not aiming to build a museum that has a trendy design or displays high-end works by world-famous artists like Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, Shi merely wanted his museum to present the purest beauty of art that can deeply touch the hearts of ordinary people.


In addition to notable paintings, ancient weaponry, and biological specimens, the Chimei Museum—a Western classical building in pure white—also houses the biggest collection of instruments in the violin family. Among them, the violin collection is especially well known. Chimei Museum prides itself on the largest number of violin collections in the world, with many violins made by master luthiers Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù and Antonio Stradivari from the 17th and 18th centuries. Having been fascinated by the sound of the violin since he was little, Shi Wen-long started to collect the string instrument after he became a business tycoon. Knowing how expensive a fine violin could be, Shi helped to reduce the financial burden for musicians by allowing them to borrow the instruments. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma (馬友友) and violinist Tseng Yu-chien (曾宇謙) have borrowed the musical instrument from Chimei Museum.


Interested in the works made by famous luthiers and bow makers around the world, Shi aimed to collect violins of great historic significance, even though the violins are unplayable. There are three culturally valuable violins in Shi’s collections, including an Italian violin, found in 1915, made by a Hungarian soldier during World War I; a violin decorated with the Star of David owned by a Jewish violinist who died in Holocaust; and a Taiwanese violin made by a political prisoner during the White Terror period. 


Shi Wen-long was not only a generous art patron but also a dedicated promoter of harmonious relations between Taiwan and Japan. In 2013, Shi was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (旭日章) by the Japanese Government for his devotion to Taiwan-Japan economic exchanges and his donation to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami-affected area. In his acceptance speech, Shi said what determines a country’s prosperity is the citizens’ cultural literacy and aesthetic sensitivity. If a country wants to increase its competitiveness on the global stage, it should start with art and culture, added Shi. He noted that what future generations need is not money but sustainable natural ecology and cultural heritage.