National Palace Museum

On 22Jul14 we visited the National Palace Museum - the front of a huge collection of artifacts from China’s 8000 year history. When the Nationalist Chinese government retreated to Taiwan in the late 40s, they brought everything collected by the emperors of China over the thousands of years of Chinese empire. There are pots and vases painted with the styles of different dynasties: blue and white was the aesthetic of Ming dynasty while the Qing pottery was much more colorful. Thousands of years of funereal artifacts are in the Palace Museum, mostly taken from tombs by archaeologists in the early 20th century. The quantity of artifacts in the museum collection is such that it would take >40 years to show everything if they changed the exhibits every 3-4 months. Currently, the most famous artifact on display is a cabbage carved out of jade, which has a grasshopper on it, part of the same piece of stone.

We learned some interesting facts about jade while at the museum. At the earliest times, it was used for tools - axes, weapons, knives. However, as metalworking developed it was replaced by copper for functions such as these and relegated to a material used for beautiful ritual objects, which is how it remained for thousands of years.

At the top of the museum was a tea room designed by Chiang Kai-shek’s wife, who had the sole right to bring people up there. It’s a beautiful room looking out over the mountains surrounding the area. The decoration is simple and traditional and it would be very relaxing and expensive to drink tea there.

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The night markets are the most striking and interesting facet of Taipei to me so far. We’ve visited two so far: Gongguan near where we’re staying and the Guangzhou Street market by the Lungshan temple.

These markets are packed with tiny stalls, some free-standing, others built into the buildings along the street. Food, mostly unfamiliar to me, is far and away the top item. It’s easy enough to buy whatever you like with little-to-no language skills, just point. It’s a lot easier to be bullied by the vendors too, though. I did want to buy some tea, but when I showed any interest it took about 20 seconds for the man to strongly¬†recommend a certain type and sell it to me.

We also visited Lungshan temple, which was very interesting itself of course. It was a Daoist temple, surrounded by nature including a small waterfall and a pond with some huge fish. There was a special Buddhist ceremony going on while we were there as well as many people visiting normally, praying at various shrines. One shrine that got a great deal of (mostly female) traffic was the moon goddess whose portfolio included love, so many prayed there for boyfriends or husbands

Since we were there during summer break, the shrine of the god who guides students had hardly any visitors.