Day 259: Taipei, Taiwan. Today we decided to tick off one of the ‘must see’ items off our list – the National Palace Museum.
We’ve been putting this one off a little, knowing it would take a decent amount of time (and the right mindset) to trawl around the huge collection of exhibits.
The museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of Ming and Qing dynasty pottery, bronze and jade work, and some people say they have spent an entire day walking around.
We caught the MRT to Shilin, amused to watch so many people trying to stand upright on the train and escalators without holding onto rails, presumably concerned that they might contract the Coronavirus.
At Shilin, Lil spotted a book shop and bought yet another book – she now has six paperbacks in tow. She’s decided she needs to pop back to one of the bookshops to either sell them the books she’s read, or simply hand them over if needs be.
We walked the remaining few kilometres to the National Palace Museum. It was a glorious sunny day, with spring showing signs of springing already. Trees are just starting to blossom and leaves are budding out. We also saw some cute topiary birds on the edge of a park.
We arrived at the museum and were happy to find it wasn’t too busy. We put our bags into the locker room (even that was themed with flowers to fit in with the overall branding of the museum), and headed into our first exhibit.
The exhibitions are split across three floors, with each room numbered and containing different artifacts. Most of the exhibits come from China’s Forbidden City in Beijing. In the early 20th Century, there was a concern that the Imperial Japanese would invade and plunder the wealth, so everything was shipped to various locations around mainland China.
In 1948 there was more concern about civil war in China, and about 20% of it – some 3,000 crates containing 700,000 pieces of pottery and other artifacts – were shipped off to Taiwan. The story is fascinating and given how many times everything was moved or stored in a railway siding, it’s amazing none of it was broken, lost, or stolen.
We started with the orientation area, where Jim had a lot of fun poking at the touchscreen to reveal more info about each of the thousands of pictures, He joked that we could just stay there and not bother going around the exhibits at all.
We started with some royal ornaments and furniture, moved on to the pottery, and finally on to the bronze and jade. There were thousands of exhibits, and you really would need a whole day to read about each and every item. We didn’t even venture into the calligraphy and literature areas.
In one room there was a multimedia game, where you can pretend you’re an eagle flying over an ancient Chinese town. This time it was Lil who wanted to play.
We were blown away at being able to view artifacts that date back hundreds of years (14th-19th century for most of the pottery), and in the case of some jade arrowheads, up to 8,000 years.
We were unlucky and missed seeing the Jadeite Cabbage which is a crowd favourite exhibit – it’s currently on display at the sister museum in Chiayi, but we were lucky enough to see the ‘Jade Meat-Shaped Stone’ (which looked like a piece of pork belly).
When we’d finished at the museum, with our brains fizzing with so much information, we headed outside to have a look at the terrace and gardens. There were fabulous views across the hills, where we should probably have been walking in the sun today.
We had a coffee on the way back to the MRT, had dinner and then headed home to sort out our next lot of travel insurance and some other planning.
Tomorrow we may well pack in a long walk – hopefully the weather will be good again. And perhaps we’ll practice being able to stand on the MRT without holding on.