CSU Northridge -- September 24, 2003
Entrepreneur Donates Priceless Chinese Antiquities to
Cal State Northridge
$38 Million Pledge is Largest Ever for Northridge,
Cal State 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 today 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.
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
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.
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
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.”
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
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
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
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.
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,”
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
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.
Contact: John Chandler, CSUN Public Relations, (818)