The National Palace Museum

Taipei, Taiwan

March 30, 2003

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     Over one thousand years ago, one of the emperors of China started a collection of Chinese art by confiscating all art from the ‘little people’ of China.  The collection of hundreds of thousands of pieces passed from one emperor to the next and ended up in a place established as the Forbidden City.  The Forbidden City was forbidden which meant that no one, including the people of China, was allowed to visit and view this art.

     The Forbidden City was forcefully opened in 1925 when the Kuo Min-Tang party (KMT) was in the process of a revolution in China and the concept of Emperors in China was gone forever.  (As Herbert says, the movie ‘The Last Emperor’ does a good job of explaining this historical period.)

     Finally the Chinese people were able to see the collection at the palace as it became the National Palace Museum.  But, it wasn’t for long.  The Japanese had taken over and the KMT was worried that the items would be lost to the invaders.  In 1933, they packed everything up into crates and moved it out.  The massive shipment of crates spent the next 32 years on the move – by train, boat and sometimes on the backs of mules – always seeming to be moved right before it would have been destroyed by invaders or bombs.  The KMT finally shipped most of it to Taiwan for temporary storage and it’s been here ever since.

     The National Palace Museum of Taiwan was opened to the public in 1965.  There is still some dispute as to who really owns all the treasures, China or Taiwan, but for now they’re available. 

     Two of the engineers from the office here, Jerry and Eric, took us for a day in Taipei.  The main focus of our day was the museum.

     One of the things we enjoyed the most about the museum was an exhibit showing the relationship between the history of China and the history of the rest of the world.  As you walk around the room there is a time line along the wall that explains the culture, the developments that were made in industry, communication methods and the belief systems of the people.  It spans a time period that started before Christ was born until the present time.

     As we went through the museum, we thought that we weren’t allowed to take photos.  At the end, we discovered that you can take photos of anything except for the paintings and the calligraphy.  At this point, it was too late for us.  But I did run back and take a photo of my favorite piece. 

     There are two Chinese gardens on the grounds surrounding the museum.  We went to one of them and that’s were most of the following photos were taken. 


     For more information on the museum, go here (English) or here (Deutsch).


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1 - A statue of Chiang Kai-Shek watching over the front lawn of the museum.   2 -  The front lawn of the museum grounds.   3 - Herbert, with the museum in the background.
4 - This was my favorite piece of art in the museum.  It's a multi-level lunch box carved out of ivory.  The carvings are so fine, that the sides of the trays look like they're made out of lace.  You could even see through it to the inside.    5 - This is a top view of the garden that we visited on the grounds of the museum.    6 - The garden has beautiful plants and building that you can use for picnics or just to sit.
7 - The focus of the garden was a series of three ponds connected by  small streams.   8 - The ponds are stocked with Japanese koi fish, which are large colorful carp.    9 - There is an exhibit of peacocks that contains a few albino ones.
10 - I thought this building with the surrounding plants was very peaceful.    11 - It's very common to see young engaged Taiwanese couples having their wedding photos taken in public.  This couple was in the garden and I took their photo.  It's a little blurry because I was in a hurry.  I felt like I was intruding on their private moment.  But, they just smiled as we walked away.


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