Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: National Palace Museum in Taipei (国立故宫博物院)

The first day was filled with historical sites hopping; covering from one famous landmark to another as though we were in a hurry when in fact we had more than a week. Then again, this is Taiwan we are talking about and the places of attraction are just too many to be listed and even weeks will not be sufficient to complete a full tour of the country, let alone the capital Taipei.
Besides, the first day was usually when one is filled with excitement and bursting with enthusiasm and anticipation towards being in a new place away from home and that alone spells adventures and fun. We planned our routes; or rather, we did not really plan much in detail (learning from experience) and just decided to go with the flow or our moods for the day.

Having visited one of the oldest temple and a historical street in the morning to the iconic CKS memorial hall, the next stop was again to ponder at the history; or perhaps to say, the historical artifacts from the early dynasties (during the monarchy rule) in another landmark topping the recommended places to visit in most guide books; the National Palace Museum in Taipei, also known as Guoli Gugong Bowuyuan (国立故宫博物院).

Pillars, tall and white stand boldly with carvings on them joined together by the arched Oriental-styled roofs, tower over the flight of steps which paved the way towards the museum, as a way of greeting the visitors at the very first sight upon arrival.

From the white and blue marbled building of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall to this building complex of beige yellow colored bricks toned with white stairways and pillars, and topped with Imperial-styled slate roofs which housed historical collections from the early ages of civilization to the dynasties of China, dating until the reign of the last Emperor Puyi.

The National Palace Museum here in Taipei is said to originate from the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City of Beijing; or that they are almost two peas in a pod and are only separated to two different places following the results of the Chinese Civil War.
The main differences are definitely evident in the geographical location; where one is in Beijing, China while the other one is in Taipei, Taiwan where the latter was preceded by a prefix of National in the naming convention.

A typical statue of the Chinese lion guarding the door; there is always a pair of these at the main entrance where they are believed to be of male and female and are tasked to cast away evil spirits from unauthorized entrance.

With a collection dating as far back as 8,000 years from the age of Neolithic to the late Qing Dynasty and covering the trail of the Chinese history of more than 5,000 years, the museum was said to be home to more than half a million of historical and ancient Chinese artifacts (~696,000) and it is definitely one of the world's largest museum complex. There is no wonder this place tops the list of the must visit places in Taipei, and the place just attracts tourists and local visitors like bees swarming to honey; and literally, this place is filled with ancient treasures waiting to impress and sweep their visitors off the floor.
These are not the ordinary artifacts you find in your usual museums which are sometimes filled with replicas reproduced to bring back the memories from the past; the relics and items displayed here are actual pieces from those ages mentioned above, which had gone through tumultuous and challenging journeys before they finally arrived to be displayed this day.
(Read more about the process of transporting these artifacts to this museum here).

It is interesting to note that with the huge number of more than half a million, the artifacts which made it successfully to this museum still accounts for only slightly more than 20% (~22%) of the full collection which was originally packed to be shipped out for preservation at that time.
I can only imagine if the full collection were here?

There are no photography allowed inside the museum; reasonably so as we are talking about ancient artifacts here and the complex is just so huge that it is almost impossible to finish touring the grounds in a day, even if you are here early. The place is lined with a clear directory pointing visitors to the different categorized sections; from painting and calligraphy works to the antiques found from the different dynasties, historical documents from the notable figures back then including the emperors, etc. There is just so much to see and learn from this place; that it would definitely send any history enthusiasts shooting through the roof upon entering the large, well-organized and air-conditioned building.

If you are just interested to skim through; I would still say an hour or two would be required as it would do more justice to the historical artifacts on display here.
There are also guided tours with a fee for those interested, to fully enjoy and understand the collection on display in the museum.

With the white-washed stone brick walls leading to the museum, it did indeed resemble somewhat buildings pictured in the Forbidden City, and there is just this feeling that I was in Beijing when I was there.

Admission Fees: TWD$250; TWD$230 (for groups/tours)
(Do keep the ticket stubs for a free admission to the nearby Zhi San/Chih-San Garden)

Opening Hours:
08:30 - 18:30 (Sunday to Thursday)
08:30 - 21:00 (Friday and Saturday)

General Rules to Observe:
1. No Photography/Cameras allowed inside the museum
2. Bagpacks or large bags/duffel bags are to be stored in lockers provided by the museum before entering (just right beside the ticketing counter; the staff will guide you)
3. No Slippers allowed
4. The Ticket stubs for the admission to the National Palace Museum grants free admission to the nearby Zhisan/Chih-San Garden

How to Get There:
Okay, this will not be a straightforward route from the train as you will need to hop onto a bus to get to this museum.

(a picture of a small bus/van - not actual illustration of the bus to the museum)

Take the Taipei HSR or the usual train to the Main Taipei station, then to Shilin station.

Transfer to Taipei City Bus (No.30), which will take you straight to the National Museum stop.

These are also the other possible buses which can take you there:
815, 255,304,18,19,101

To be continued....

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