The National Palace Museum
Before leaving for Taiwan, I marked up a guidebook of sights to see! On my must-see list was the National Palace Museum of Taipei! (國立故宮博物院) This museum is one of the largest permanent collections of Chinese artifacts in the world! Due to cultural-cleansing, China suffered a devastating loss of artifacts and historic relics that, at the time, were seized and destroyed by the government during the cultural revolution. This is why the National Palace Museum (and the Palace Museum in Beijing) are such important historic sights. They are the largest collection of what remains of an ancient culture.
The items I saw in the museum range from scrolls dated back to 500 A.D, and one of the world’s most prized pieces of Jadeite. There are almost a million artifacts, so around 60,000 are rotated every three months, meaning it would take nearly 12 years to see them all! The main attraction is, oddly enough, a big chunk of Jadeite carved into the shape of cabbage with an insect crawling on it! Before you laugh, the reason it is mobbed by crowds daily is not because of it’s lifelike resemblance to cabbage! This was a piece of Jadeite with many imperfections, but the artist carved it so that the imperfections were incorporated into the art. It dates back to the 1800s, and was carved from a single piece of Jadeite. When I tell you it is the main attraction…I mean mobs of people pushing us against the glass display to get a look at it!
Our favorite attraction was Tibetan scrolls of the Dragon Sutras. These Tibetan scrolls were hundreds of years old, inscribed on a special cobalt blue paper, written with gold ink. There are over a hundred such scrolls, only eight of which are at the National Palace Museum (the rest are in Beijing). The scrolls are the staple teachings of the Buddhist religion, and are originally preserved in an elaborate fashion, consisting of lacquered boxes, over four different kinds of fabric wrappings, and interwoven belts.
While the inside of the Palace has many beautiful treasures, to me, the outside was the most impressive part! I find Asian architecture astounding, and the outside of this Palace is a sight to behold! The building was never a temple or actual Palace, it was created to be a Museum. It was absolutely breathtaking! There is a huge white gate in the front, and hundreds of steps leading to different levels of the Museum, not to mention surrounding gardens and ponds with giant koi fish.
So far I am coming to find that Taiwan is an exquisite island, riddled with adventure, stunning sights, and to-die-for food. It’s amazing that this is not a big tourist area, it is just too beautiful to miss!