MUSEUMS IN TAIPEI
Taipei has many museums. The most popular and spectacular museum in Taipei is the National Palace Museum, which houses the largest collection of Chinese art treasures in the world, including paintings, calligraphy, bronzes, oracle bones, and art objects made of porcelain, jade and rhinoceros horn. The collection consists primarily of treasures gathered and protected during World War II in the mainland and then brought to Taiwan during the Communist Revolution after the war.
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum houses many examples of contemporary Chinese art. This museum sponsors cultural exchanges between Chinese artists and artists from all over the world. Other interesting museums in Taipei include the Taiwan National Museum (formerly the Taiwan National Museum), which offers exhibits chronicling the history of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes, and the National Museum of History.
The Taipei Contemporary Arts Museum was completely renovated in 2001. The National Museum of History, founded in 1955, has more than 30,000 items in its collections of oracle bones and ritual vessels of the Shang and Chou dynasties, earthenware of the Sui and T'ang dynasties, stone engravings of the Han dynasty, and jade articles of the Chou dynasty. The Taiwan Museum has the most complete collection of natural history specimens in the country. The National Taiwan Science Education Center in Taipei houses a planetarium and scientific exhibits.
Taiwan National Museum contains a collection of biological specimens and minerals as well as life-size statues of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes and their crafts. There are also exhibits on cultures from southern China and the Pacific, displays chronicling the history of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes, and anthropology and geology exhibits. The Taiwan Museum has the most complete collection of natural history specimens in the country. The National Taiwan Science Education Center in Taipei houses a planetarium and scientific exhibits.
A list all the museum in Taipei includes the National Palace Museum, Beitou Museum. Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei Chinese Postal Museum, Sung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, National Taiwan Museum, National Museum of History, National Taiwan Science Education Center, Puppetry Art Center of Taipei, Taipei Water Park Discovery Center, Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center, Taipei Story House, National Taiwan Arts Education Center, Taipei Astronomical Museum, the Taipei Fine Art Museum (with 24 galleries of modern art), Taipei Municipal Social Education Hall, Chang Foundation Museum, Butterfly Museum, Chung Cheng Aviation Museum, Hwa Kang Cultural Museum, National Armed Forces Museum and Tamkang Maritime Museum.
National Palace Museum
National Palace Museum (northern Taipei) is considered one of the top museums in the world along with the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the British Museum in London. Containing the world's largest collection of Chinese art, the museum is housed in a group of green-roofed yellow buildings, beautifully situated among lush green mountains and gardens in northern Taipei. It opened in 1965 and the buildings are modeled after the imperial palaces of the Qing dynasty.
The collection of Chinese art treasures includes paintings, calligraphy, coins, ceramic, 5000-year-old bronze vessels, Neolithic jade pieces, personal items belonging to the Chinese Emperor and art objects made of porcelain, jade and rhinoceros horn. The collection consists primarily of treasures gathered and protected during World War II in the mainland and then brought to Taiwan during the Communist Revolution after the war. The collection spans China's nearly 5,000-year history. Most of the museum's 700,000 or so art pieces were part of the Chinese imperial collection, which started to be collected over 1,000 years ago in the early Song dynasty.
The National Palace Museum is situated at the foot of steep, green mountains that rise at the northern edge of the city. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “it houses artifacts dating back to the earliest days of Chinese civilization. The collection includes oracle bones, which have the first known written Chinese ideograms, as well as ritual bronze vessels, Ming Dynasty pottery and jade sculptured into the shapes of cabbage and fatty pork.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, December 9, 2008]
Adjacent to the Palace Museum is the Chiah-shan garden, an attractive walled Sung dynasty garden, where visitors can stroll among pavilions and watercourses. On the forth floor of the museum is the San Hsi T'ang Chinese Tearoom, where visitors can enjoy an expensive pot of tea in a room modeled on the imperial study of Emperor Ch'ien-lung (AD 1736-1795).
The museum is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pam and you need about a day to gie the museum a through visit. Guided tours in English leave from the front information desk daily at 10:00am and 3:00pm. Multi-media slide presentations in English are offered in the theater adjacent Gallery 103 at 9:00am and 2:30pm. Information phones can also be rented for two hour periods. The gifts shops near the main entrance have a superb selection of scrolls, books, postcards, prints, T-shirts and other items that make classy gifts.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Shilin Station, transfer Taipei City Bus(No. Red 30) to National Palace Museum stop; By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Yuanshan Interchange Binjiang Street Dazhi Bridge Beian Rd. Ziqiang Tunnel Gugong Road Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd; Contact: Address: No.221, Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City; The address can also be written: 221 Chih-shan Road, Section 2; Tel: -(2)-2881-2021, Website: Tel: www.npm.gov.tw/en/home.htm, (8862)-2881-2021.
History of the Palace Museum
Most of the Palace Museum's collection came from the Imperial collection of the last Qing emperors who resided in the Forbidden City in Beijing. The collection was built up over a thousand years by the Sung (A.D. 960-1279), Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) emperors.
The museum came into existence in 1925, one year after the Last Emperor Pu Yi was forced to move out of the Forbidden City and the collection became a possession of the Chinese people. War and upheaval in China in the first half of the 20th century forced the entire collection to be moved several times.
First it was taken from Beijing to Nanking, then it was taken to Sichuan, where most of the collection was hidden in caves during the Japanese occupation. After World War II it was taken back to Nanking and finally transported to Taiwan from the mainland in leaky freighters before the Communist takeover. The fact that nothing was lost or damaged is achievement unequalled by any other museum in the world.
The mainland Chinese complain the objects in the museum were looted and shoudl be returned. However their presence in Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution no doubt saved many item form destruction by the Red Guards. ''I was always fascinated by that decision,'' Irmin Pao, an influential publisher in Taipei told the New York Times. ''They've lost the battle, they're trying to get out of China, bullets are flying, and someone has to pack all those vases. It's very Indiana Jones. 'For that reason alone, China will never let us be independent.'' [Source: Douglas McGray, New York Times magazine, March 23, 2008]
Treasures in the Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum contain around 700,000 relics and works of art, some of them dating back to 10,000 B.C. Among them are 5,511 bronzes, 25,197 porcelains, 10,923 jades, 3,716 calligraphies, 5,243 painting, 182,101 rare books, and 386,440 documents. The astonishing collection is so large it can not be completely displayed at one time. Only the most famous pieces are on permanent display. An entire day in the museum is often not long enough to see everything. Some people spend three or four days there.
The museum has individual sections devoted to lacquerware, Taoist painting, imperial clothes, and others. The collections held in the highest esteem are the calligraphy, painting and ritual bronze collections. Items in the jade, porcelain, painting and bronzes sections are rotated every three months. There are so many pieces that even if the displays are changed every month, there is enough items to produce a new display every month for five years.
NThe ceramics and porcelain collection contains 5,000-year-old painted pottery, 3000-year-old green-glazed shards, greenware of the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C) and Han (206 BC to 220 AD) dynasties, celadons of the Six Dynasties period (220-589 BC), world famous monochrome porcelains of the Sung Dynasty , and the blue-and-white and polychromes wares from the Yuan period. Among the items in the calligraphy collection are 3,000-year-old script on Shang oracle bones, bronze inscriptions, original masterpieces of Wang Hsi-chih of the eastern Chin dynasty (AD 317-420) and works by famous calligraphers of the T'ang (AD 618-906), Sung, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.
Other important treasures include 3,700 year-old Shang dynasty bronze vessels, Tang dynasty bronzes, 450-year-old green and orange Ming dynasty porcelain, silk panel paintings, tapestries, curio cabinets, enamel wares, writing accessories, carvings, embroidery, and rare books and items from Tibet, Mongolia and Manchuria. Make sure to check out the wine cups made with horns that hit the drinkers head, alerting them that they had drank too much; sculptures carved from rhinoceros horn; and ivory boxes that took four generations of craftsmen 100 years to make.
The magnificent jade pieces include a 14th century duck made with yellow jade that fades into brown at the head and beak; and an 18th century jade brush holder with a depiction of a Yu Mountains cave; and a 6-inch-high, white-and-dark-grey carp turning into a dragon, one of the most beautiful white jade carvings ever made.
Permanent exhibits include a huge room-filling chart that compares the development of Chinese culture with culture in the rest of the world; bronze ritual vessels from the Shang and Chou dynasties; oracle bones from the Late Shang dynasty; artifacts from a late Shang dynasty tomb; large landscape and Taoist paintings; Tibetan Buddhist ceremonial objects; calligraphy masterpieces; Qing dynasty costumes; miniature curio cabinets; Buddhist votive offerings; and numerous examples of exquisite porcelain and furniture.
The rotating exhibitions, which change every three months, include special exhibits on Taoist painting, a display of circular jades, illustrations of classics of filial piety, porcelain with auspicious designs, and Tibetan flutes and cups made from human bones and skulls. Make sure to check out the Ju ware from the Northern Sung dynasty. The rarest form of porcelain, it is a kind of celadon that ranges in color from blue to green. Only 65 pieces of it exist in the world and 23 of them are possessed by the National Palace Museum.
Taipei Fine Art Museum
Taipei Fine Art Museum opened in 1983. Located in Yuan Mountain (Yanshan), it is the first museum of modern art in Taiwan. The main tasks of the museum are to organize exhibitions and to collect valuable works at home and abroad. The museum also makes efforts to exchange art views and works with international art museums. The museum has special designs and the scenery near the museum is also very beautiful.
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum houses many examples of contemporary Chinese art. This museum sponsors cultural exchanges between Chinese artists and artists from all over the world. The art museum holds regular exhibitions and works with schools to introduce art works to the students. The virtual reality art museum provides a 3D interactive environment for museum-goers. The MOD system provides a digital random system by which visitors can choose DVD and tapes to watch.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Yuanshan Station; By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Yuanshan Interchange Minzu E. Rd. Sec. 3, Zhongshan N. Rd; Address: No.181, Sec. 3, Zhongshan N. Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2595-7656.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Taipei)
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Taipei) is the first museum in Taiwan solely dedicated to contemporary art. It opened in May 2001 with the intention of bringing Taiwanese and international art to both local and foreign audiences. The museum building itself is a designated historic site. The red brick structure was originally built in the late 1910s as an elementary school, and then it served as the Taipei City Hall for forty years. After extensive renovation, the facade has retained its original appearance and the interior has maintained the complexity of the original colonial building. The museum is currently run by Taipei Culture Foundation and supervised by the city government.
According to the museum: “MOCA Taipei exemplifies a perfect combination of contemporary art, historical architecture, and technology, thanks to the joint efforts of Taipei City Government, the local community, artists, and the business world. Sharing the popular vision that societies around the world are being transformed through economic globalization, digitization, and advanced technology, we were fortunate to start with an ideal setting to engage in international artistic exchange. At the same time, we redefine our own position in attempt to create a niche for a distinctive Taiwanese vision. Establishing interaction between boundary-transgressing contemporary art and different social groups in order to bring art outside of the museum and into the life of society, thereby changing the face of the city has always been one of our goals. In the future, MOCA Taipei will continue to spark creativity in all spheres of life by organizing exciting exhibitions and performances. Besides displaying contemporary art in new and usual media within a beautiful historical setting, we will bring innovation into Taipei and art into the community.
“MOCA Taipei, which has from the start utilized its historical building as a venue for exhibition and performance, has all the tensile strength of a place that juxtaposes cultural history and contemporary art. Based on this characteristic, the museum regularly promotes cross-disciplinary forms of exhibition and performance. Exhibitions include diverse forms of contemporary media, such as photography, video installation, architecture and graphic design. By collaborating with international and local curators and artists, we hope to reflect a vision that is both global and regional.”
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Zhongshan Station and take a 10 minutes walk to the museum; By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Taipei Interchange Sec. 3 to 1, Chongqing N. Rd. Changan W. Rd; Address: No.39, Chang'an W. Rd, Datong District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2552-3721.
Sung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines
Sung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines is a museum of ethnology. The museum mainly works to collect research and display items related to Taiwan's aborigines, as well as engages in educational and promotional activities in order to aid the process of retaining the unwritten history of this island's aboriginal peoples and promote understanding and mutual respect between different ethnic groups living on the island. It does this by broadening their horizons and displaying the vast diversity of Taiwan's native culture.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Shilin Station, transfer Taipei City Bus (No. 255, Small 18) to Weslet Girls High School Stop; By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Taipei Interchange Sec. 4, Chongqing N. Rd. Bailing Bridge Zhongzheng Rd. Fuling Rd. Sec. 1, Zhishan Rd. to Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd. Sung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines; Address: No.282, Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2841-2611.
National Historical Museum
National Historical Museum was founded in the year 1955. The collections here are primarily historical materials from middle portion of China districts, the majority of them are from the Ho Nan Museum, which moved to Taiwan in the 1956-1957 periods. Among the historical materials are: copper utensils unearthed in the Sancheng, Fuiyuan and Anyang areas in the Henan Province Mainland China; Qin Dynasty string- pattern pottery excavated from the Loyang areas; Han Dynasty Green-Paint Pottery; the Music and Dance Statues of the Six Dynasties; and a selection of art from the Tang Dynasty. The museum has been enriched by government funds and the donations from more than 400 private collectors.
The National Museum of History has more than 30,000 items in its collections of oracle bones and ritual vessels of the Shang and Chou dynasties, earthenware of the Sui and T'ang dynasties, stone engravings of the Han dynasty, and jade articles of the Chou dynasty. Owing to the limited space of the Museum, an enlargement plan is now under review. The authority intends to divide the Museum into three main parts in conjunction with the development of the Nanhai Scholastic Park Project After completion, the three separate museums, namely, the Middle China Hall, the Local Hall and the Overseas Hall.
The National Historical Museum is inside the Nanhai Scholastic Park, Taipei City. At its eastern side are the Taiwan Institute of Art Education and the Taiwan Institute of Science Education. Its western neighbor is the Taiwan Province Forest Test Laboratory. In the front of the Museum, separated by a street, is the Jianguo High School and at its back are the botanical garden and the lotus pond. The place picturesque surroundings attract sight-seeing visitors coming here all the year round.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to CKS Memorial Hall Station; Getting There: Nat'l Hwy 1 Taipei Interchange Sec. 3 to 1, Chongqing N. Rd. Sec 1 to 2, Chongqing S. Rd. Nanhai Rd. National Museum of History; Address: No.49, Nanhai Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2361-0270.
Puppetry Art Center of Taipei
Puppetry Art Center of Taipei (next to Core Pacific, Living Mall) is a multi-purpose space offering puppetry exhibitions, performances, classes, collection and sales of puppetry-related items. The Taiwanese Puppetry Area exhibits different types of performances such as Jinguang Drama and Jiandan Drama. Musical instruments and puppet head production are also exhibited backstage.
The puppetry area not only displays differences in the form and function of puppets from northern and southern Taiwan, visitors also have an opportunity to try manipulating the puppets on their own. In addition, there is also a Shadow Puppet Area, Special Theme Exhibit and other fun and interesting exhibition areas. English and multilingual guide service is available: Groups may register in advance for an English-speaking tours/
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall stop; By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Tingding Interchange Tingding Blvd. Maishuai 1st. Bridge Sec. 5, Nanjing E. Rd. Dongxing Rd. Sec. 5, Civic Blvd; Address: 2F, No.99, Sec. 5, Civic Blvd, Songshan Dist, Taipei City 105, Taiwan (R.O.C.), Tel: -(2)-2528-9553.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Taiwan (Republic of China) tourism and government websites, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020