Taiwan: The National Palace Museum

24 December 2013

It was way past midnight and transport from Taiyuan airport proved to be easy and efficient. Kuo-Kuang Bus (125 TWD) took me to the main train station where taxis were waiting outside in an uniformed line. Mr Bai, the taxi driver was particularly concerned about my safety.

“It is nearly 1am and you are by yourself. Please be careful because unfortunately girls are always targeted.”

Mr Bai works the night shift and we chatted.  He thinks that the Taiwanese economy is going down and Taiwan is stuck in a sticky position when it comes to the Cross-Strait relationship. He apologised for causing any offence when he found out that I work and live in Beijing. My family is not fond of politics. Due to China’s turbulent past, my family was divided into the nationalists, the communists and the nothingists. My immediate family belongs to the third group so varying political views and insults can be stomached.

SONY DSCThe National Palace Museum (npm.edu.tw) was number one on my list. It contains some 696,000 pieces of historical and cultural artefacts with many belonging to the ancient emperors who once ruled China. The collection encompasses over 10,000 years of Chinese history from Neolithic age to the Qing Dynasty.  The bus stopped right outside the NPM and after paying 160 TWD, I found myself standing inside the great hall of the museum. I was a couple of steps away from seeing some of the most precious Chinese imperial artefacts and artworks. I’m going to steal them.

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Old photo showing the treasuries being moved

The National Palace Museum was first established in Beijing on the 10th of October 1925. It was split into two due to the Civil War which unfortunately divided China into PRC and ROC. So the National Museum in Taiwan was established on the 12th of November 1965. In 1931, the leader of the Nationalist Government (KMT) Chiang Kai-shek ordered an evacuation so the museum placed many treasures into crates and shipped it away from Beijing. China’s Summer Palace was already burnt and looted by foreign powers so the very thought of these treasures falling into the hands of the Japanese was unthinkable. 

The Communist seized control so not all of the collection made its way to Taiwan. As a result, many treasures that once stood in the same room in China’s Forbidden City became separated. A reunification of such artefacts on PRC soil is extremely unlikely since Taiwan fear the treasures will be impounded by the PRC. An exception was the painting  “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains”.

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After 350 years, one half of the painting from Zhejiang Provincial Museum was reunited with its other half in Taipei’s National Palace Museum.

When the Cross-Strait relationship was somewhat sour, Mainland China said that the collection was stolen. The Republic of China said that it was a necessary act to protect the pieces from destruction during Japan’s invasion, civil unrest and in particular the Cultural Revolution.

IMG-20131224-00599Whether it is paintings, calligraphy works, rare books, documents , carvings, ceramics, snuff bottles or statues, you can find it in the museum. Some of the most well-known pieces are the Jadeite Cabbage, the Meat-shaped Stone and the Carved Olive-stone Boat.

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Time flies when you are thoroughly enjoying yourself. I was gone- completely engulfed by the NPM.

The last one out

Random Observations

  • Alcohol wipes and umbrella covers provided at MRT stations.
  • Receipts show a different year system in the ROC. Instead of 2013, they use R.O.C Year 102. When I asked my father why is it so? I could hear his disappointment- “Didn’t you know about the importance of 1911?”
  • Tourists can collect stamps from major attractions as well as airports and bus stations.

    Stamps that you can collect
  • Clean metro ( dark blue for top priority, light blue for normal passengers, pink labels for women)IMG-20131227-00700