National Treasures – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #19

April 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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It was recommended by the guidebook that if you have time for only one museum in Taipei, this should be it.

The National Palace Museum.

The Taipei National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院 was constructed as a replica of the Beijing Palace Museum 故宫博物院. It was originally founded in 1925 in the Forbidden City in Peking (Beijing as it is known today), which explains why the word “Palace” is used in its name. Beginning in 1931 the collection was crated and moved into the hinterland of China to avoid the ravages of the impending Sino-Japanese War. In 1949, with civil war raging between the Nationalist and the Communist forces, the government shipped about 600,000 treasured works of art to Taiwan to be temporarily stored. The construction of the Taipei Palace Museum begun in 1962 and was completed in the summer of 1965. With an area of more than 10,000 square meters, the four-storied building is grand and imposing in character.

musuem4
The bus stopped in front of the museum…Itchyfingers were wondering why
there were no visitors….

musuem5
Map at the entrance

musuem
The museum was surrounded by verdant trees and rolling hills…but just
directly opposite were some high rise residential buildings….not very
harmonious looking…

musuem3 
These should be the administrative buildings…

musuem2
The main building

ding
This was erected in 1992 

Excitedly, Itchyfingers kept our camera (no photography allowed lor!) and proceeded to purchase the admission tickets. We bought the bundled tickets of the National Palace Museum and the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines (just about 10-15minutes walk down the road) at NT250 (S$11) per person. Original admission charges were NT160 (S$7) and NT150 (S$6.50) respectively.

Most of the items on display are shown in the main building of the museum. This building has four levels, with the main entrance being on the second floor, which was where Itchyfingers bought our tickets.

Since we couldn’t take any photos in the museum, it just forces one (if you are really interested) to really read the captions to learn more about the art pieces. Tisu Boy came equipped with sketch pad to do his sketches on the spot, while I read and collected leaflets at each exhibition galleries. It was not long before we discovered a little station outside the first exhibition gallery where rubber stamps with ink pad were provided for visitors. Wow! Itchyfingers had heard from friends who visited Japan that there were many stamping stations available at places of interest but we didn’t know that Taiwan also has these! And there weren’t just one stamping station at the musuem, but at the entrances of almost all the galleries there was one! Some of these stations had not just one but a few chops! Now that made Itchyfingers so happy cos at least we could bring a piece of souvenir from the Museum home! So our itchyfingers were so busy stamping these chops onto my travel journal cum sketchbook. 😀 During our stay in Taiwan, we were thrilled to find many places of interest had these stamping stations too! Maybe they learnt it from the Japanese? :p Do bring along a little blank notebook to collect these stamps as a souvenir! 😀

box
Our first chop. Was wondering what was this and found the same picture
on the poster just outside an exhibtion gallery…

So we realised that these little chops actually corresponded with the theme of the respective galleries, or they might be some of the highlights in that particular gallery. This first one we chopped was a Curio Box from the Ch’ing Imperial collection. These were amazing works of arts as when closed, they looked just like an ordinary pretty container. But these actually had many hidden panels and compartments inside. A slideshow suggested how these innovative curio boxes might have inspired modern day cupboard and cubicle designs. Do click the links in blue to see the pictures of the precious artefacts since Itchyfingers could not photograph them!

chair
Mixing and matching sandalwood furniture with painting, calligraphy
and various curios, this gallery had been converted into a Ch’ing-style
living room and studio

buddha
Gilt Bronze Shakyamuni Buddha and Stand, Northern Wei Dynasty, 477 AD

fish
Jade flowerpot in the shape of a dragon-fish from Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

The crowd started to come in shortly after we entered the first gallery. Many were in guided groups – a lot of Koreans and Japanese tourists. As we moved to more galleries, we also found the ink pad getting drier…probably cos more people realised that they could stamp a souvenir chop on their leaflets too. Hmmm…maybe next time Itchyfingers should bring our own ink pad….hahahah….:D It was fun collecting the stamps and then trying to look for the actual piece of art to admire them close…some of them weren’t so obvious that Itchyfingers had to look so hard to compare….hahahah….:D

nut
I almost missed this Ch’ing Dynasty  Carved Olive-stone Boat as it was so tiny!
As the name suggested, this piece was really carved from an olive pit! On this
1.6cm tall by 3.4cm long boat, there were eight figures, each with their own expression!

 

maiden
Pottery figurine of a standing lady from the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).
I find this chop cute…heee…

vase
Famille Rose Conjoined Vase with Panels of Birds and Flowers from 
Ch’ien-lung Reign (1736-1795), Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1911)

vase2
Metal vase with peony flowers and coiled dragons in painted enamels
,
Ch’ing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) 

pot 
Saucepot with incised lotus petals from Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) 

There were so many amazing pieces of beautiful work that it was hard to try to control our itchyfingers not to snap photos of them. But luckily we didn’t do it, cos there were guards around and once I heard an urgent message from one guard’s walkie talkie alerting among themselves of someone taking photographs at the other gallery! Wow! Luckily we didn’t do it or else it would be so embarrassing to be caught red-handed! :p

We spent so much time sketching, stamping, comparing chops with actual pieces, reading and admiring in the many galleries that we didn’t realised it was past lunch time. A bit disappointing to find only two cafes selling the same cakes and pastry without proper food. There was a upmarket restaurant at the other building but we reckoned it would burn a little hole in our pockets and probably would be crowded with tourists who came in buses. So we settled for a quick bite at the one downstairs. While resting, I looked around the souvenirs section and saw one particular postcard with a meat featured on it. Thought it looked a bit strange and told Tisu Boy about it and he mentioned it should be another piece of famous work…anyway, needed to rush off and continue part two of our visit…

Tisu Boy had been talking about a piece of cabbage jade the moment we stepped into the museum…he said it is the most famous piece of collection – a cabbage shaped from a single piece of jade. So it was with much anticipation when we finally reached the gallery at the third floor named the “Dazzling Gems of the Collection: Famous Pieces from the Ch’ing Dynasty Palace”. There were significantly more guards standing around and it was immediately clear that the famous piece of cabbage must be somewhere nearby…just look where the most people were crowding around! Itchyfingers also walked towards the crowd and tried to squeeze our heads and peep through…and YES! That was the cabbage! I was really surprised at its small size! Was imagining to see something of much bigger size like a A4 sheet of paper length…So what made this piece of cabbage so famous?

cabbage
The Jadeite Cabbage, Ch’ing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) Length: 18.7 cm,
width: 9.1 cm, thickness: 5.07 cm. So beautiful..

The Jadeite Cabbage 翠玉白菜 was shaped from a single piece of jade. Complemented by its natural colours, it looks almost completely identical to a piece of bokchoy cabbage, with the purity of the white vegetable body and the brilliant green of the leaves. Look closely and you would find two insects on the vegetable leaves – a locust and a katydid. Now I know why the keychains sold in the shops all had two cute insects on the cabbage! :p 

Still awestruck by such exquisite piece of work, we squeezed our way out from the crowd to look at the other pieces in the same gallery. Then I saw that piece of meat! Wow!!!! My goodness! It really looked exactly like a piece of meat! And it is called the Meat-shaped Stone 肉形石! At first look, this meat-shape piece of stone really looks like a luscious piece of “Tung-p’o meat” 东坡肉!

“Made from banded jasper, it is a naturally occurring stone that accumulates in layers over many years. With time, different impurities will result in the production of various colors and hues to the layers. The craftsman who made this meat-shaped stone took the rich natural resources of this stone and carved it with great precision, and then the skin was stained. This process resulted in the appearance of skin and lean and fatty layers of meat, the veining and hair follicles making the piece appear even more realistic.”

I turned over to see Tisu Boy drooling over the piece of fatty meat….completely mesmerised…hahahaha… 8)

Both the Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-shaped Stone were so beautifully and cleverly carved..you really have to applause the creative minds behind them. 😀 But I think I prefer the meat as it really looked so realistic! But the cabbage seemed to be more famous and a more popular choice among visitors judging from the consistent crowd it attracted and the number of related merchandise available in the souvenir shops. The Jadeite Cabbage was made into numerous designs of keychains, pins, pouches and even stuff toys, whereas the piece of meat…er…well…being in a shape of an oily piece of meat seriously couldn’t possibly be made into anything cute…hahahahah…so there were only the cheap-looking keychain with the photo encased in plastic and similar products…hmmm…probably all meant for mature audiences…hahah…:p Itchyfingers ended up joining many others in collecting the cute looking cabbage merchandise….:p

cabbage1
Our cabbage pin…look at the cute insects!

cabbage3
Cabbage magnetic pins

cabbage2
And our cabbage handphone accessory! Made in Japan…

The National Palace Museum is certainly a first class museum where you would be impressed by the many pieces of treasures exhibited. It was said that the permanent display of the Taipei National Palace Museum contains 20,000 objects and these are rotated once every three months. So you will need many regular visits to see all the rare works of arts as it would take 10-12 years for a full cycle of the rotation! See some of works here if you are still not convinced, be sure to look out for the two famous pieces of work as well as the tiny boat carved from olive pit! 😀 Itchyfingers spent so much time there that we only left with an hour or so for our souvenir shopping as well as hopping over to the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines for a quick visit, which was also interesting if you like to know more about the many aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. 🙂

costume
One more round of stamping on our journal! 🙂

Also see related posts:
> Funny Signs. Interesting Finds – Taiwan Trip #18
Food Glorious Food! – Taiwan Trip #17
Everyone Says Good Good Eat…Again! – Taiwan Trip #16
Answer to Nature’s Call #3 – Taiwan Trip #15
Nine Portions with Nine Lives – Taiwan Trip #14
Déjà Vu and a Brief Encounter – Taiwan Trip #13
Letting Our Imagination Run Wild – Taiwan Trip #12
Walking in the Wind – Taiwan Trip #11
A Walk Along the Cliff – Taiwan Trip #10
Away From the Concrete Jungle – Taiwan Trip #9
Shit Happens – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #8
Gorilla in the Mist – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #7
It’s a Cat! No! It’s a Bear! – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #6
Wow Cow! Holy Cow! So Many Cows! – CowParade @ Taipei, Taiwan Trip #5
Gong Xi Fa Cai! – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #4
Holy Cow! – CowParade @ Taipei, Taiwan Trip #3
Wow Cow! – CowParade @ Taipei, Taiwan Trip #2
Buy One Get One Free! – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #1 

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