Today we finally made it to see the National Palace Museum here in Taipei. One website says that the National Palace Museum is “one of the four best museums in the world, in a class with the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
This museum is amazing. It has a HUGE collection of Chinese artifacts, which date from as early as 6000 BC up to the early 1900’s. Their collection totals around 700,000 items, but the museum is only big enough to display a small percentage of their collection at one time. The Museum’s website states, “It has been calculated that for any given time period, the percentage of items that can be put on display in proportion to the entire National Palace Museum collection is as follows: calligraphy and paintings, approximately 15%; antiquities, approximately 6.4%; books, approximately 0.07%; and documents even less.” They rotate exhibits every few months, but it would still take approximately 12 years of visits in order to view their whole collection. Due to the space crunch, several portions of the museum are currently being renovated and expanded. This was actually GOOD news for us, because it means that the tickets we purchased today are good for one free visit between now and December 31st.
We’ll probably actually make many more visits between now and the end of January, as we didn’t give ourselves nearly enough time today and we still need to take the guided tour. We also want to do some more reading about China’s history, so that we can have a better understanding of each of the dynasty’s and the major events. So our plan is to read up on a certain period, and then go visit the museum and look at their exhibits related to the time period covered by the reading. We hope that this will help give us a better context for what we’re seeing at the museum, and that what we see at the museum will help us understand how the events of the period were being expressed in art, craftwork, and writing.
Some of the coolest things that we saw today were the miniature carvings. One of these carvings is actually an olive pit (maybe a little larger than a pit from a kalamata olive) that has been fashioned into a boat. The picture doesn’t do justice to the amazingly intricate detail of the carving. There were also tiny bottles with intricate paintings. However, these paintings aren’t on the exterior of the bottle…they are painted on the inside of the bottle, using a tiny brush inserted through the bottle opening. Among the oddest things we saw today was this rock that looks exactly like a slab of some of the pork we find semi-regularly in our lunches. Meat layer, fat layer, skin and all. Apparently, it’s one of the museum’s most famous pieces.
Tomorrow promises to be interesting as well. We’re planning on visiting the Wanhua district of Taipei, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods. Among the things we’ll see there are the Longshan Temple, one of the oldest and most popular temples in Taiwan, and Huahsi Street. Huahsi street is more popularly nicknamed “Snake Alley.” Why? Check back here tomorrow to find out!!!