National Palace Museum
February 27, 2003 5:18 AM   Subscribe

"The National Palace Museum collects, preserves, and promotes the essence of Chinese art and crafts. Accumulated over a thousand years by Chinese emperors and royal families, its collections include ceramics, porcelain, calligraphy, painting, and ritual bronzes". [more]
posted by hama7 (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"The Museum was first established in 1925 at Beijing and finally relocated at Taipei, Taiwan after WWII. "

There's a virtual tour and lots more. (might be better with speakers turned off)
posted by hama7 at 5:23 AM on February 27, 2003

Wow. Being able to visit the Palace Museum was one of the best things about living in Taiwan (that and the food). They have so much stuff the collection rotates every few months (or did 25 years ago), so every time you go back there's a whole new slew of masterpieces. It's like the Met, Louvre, Hermitage, and Vienna Kunsthistorisches all rolled into one (for Chinese art, that is). Of course, that's the result of the massive theft of national treasure by Chiang Kai-shek's gang of Kuomintang bullies as they fled the mainland after the war, and it's a miracle the stuff didn't wind up on the bottom of the China Sea, but on the other hand, if it had been left where it was God knows what would have happened to it during the Cultural Revolution. Plus I never would have gotten to see it.

Thanks, hama7!
posted by languagehat at 9:22 AM on February 27, 2003

They still don't know what happened to the bones of Peking Man, which were intended to go to Taipei along with the rest of the booty, but got lost along the way.
posted by linux at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2003

Being able to visit the Palace Museum was one of the best things about living in Taiwan (that and the food).

You are most obviously welcome!

It must have been fascinating to live there. Do you have any tales that you wouldn't mind telling?
posted by hama7 at 1:19 AM on February 28, 2003

Well, one of the things that was most memorable was that there was a KMT informant in every class taught by a foreign teacher (or so I was warned; I was teaching English and linguistics classes at a college a short distance from Taipei), and every student who talked to a teacher about anything but classwork was noticed and perhaps would get a black mark. As you may imagine, this made me very nervous, and when students wanted to talk politics after class (as they often did) I tried at first to wriggle out of it or put them off with banalities. But eventually I realized that they knew the risks far better than I did and had a real hunger for viewpoints beyond the Party-approved ones they were sick of, and I decided to just talk as honestly as I would with American students (well, except for trying to avoid the terms "communism" and especially "Formosan independence," the latter considered even worse and a sure ticket to prison). I had visited the USSR some years before but hadn't interacted much with the locals (I was of course part of a tour group, since that was pretty much the only way you could visit), so this was my first real experience with a one-party state, and it was an eye-opener. One of the few unequivocally positive developments in the last few decades of world history has been the amazing transformation of Taiwan into a free country with a vigorous democracy where everything, even "Formosan independence," can be openly debated; I wish Americans were more aware of it (and I wonder what's going to happen when push comes to shove with the mainland, as it inevitably will).
posted by languagehat at 9:56 AM on February 28, 2003

Certainly, the vast majority of Chinese antiquities not removed by the KMT was destroyed by the Communists.
posted by halonine at 7:47 PM on February 28, 2003

Thanks, languagehat. Your tale reminded me of an old acquaintance of mine who grew up in Taiwan during the period that you have described (now lives somewhere in Manhattan), and while serving a harrowing two years or so in the Taiwanese military where there was, and still is, a major threat from mainland China, he worked in a clandestine 'Formosan Independence' group, which, (I think he has come to regret), was standard communist/ revolutionary Maoist in idealogy. Over many years, his family has disowned him, and he fled the country, and I've never asked, but I'm sure there's more to it.

Communism was like steamroller in those days, and even today tentacles of it survive, unfortunately. Luckily, the artwork survived it.

I've never been there, but I've heard fascinating things about organic Taiwanese capitalism, and the freedom that the dwindling threat of communism has inspired. I hope in time that Taiwan will be seen as a model of economic and idealogical freedom for China, rather than a provincial threat.

Always a pleasure, languagehat.
posted by hama7 at 4:16 AM on March 1, 2003

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