Saturday, November 05, 2005
National Palace Museum
Today I went to the National Place Mueseum, which is the largest collection of Chinese art in the world. Some of the pieces date back 5000 years, while many others are fromthe private collections of the emporers It has a really interesting history dating back to the Soong Dynasty (900-1260 AD) in mainland China. Back then the emporers confiscated all forms of art from all over the country and eventually it ended up in the Forbidden City (in Bejing) where it could only be enjoyed by emporers and empresses, and other important court people. The first time regular people were allowed into the forbidden city was 1925 after the cultural revolution, and the palace became known as the National Palace Museum. When the Japanese invaded in 1931 a lot of the art was moved for safekeeping. This art, treasures really; priceless antiques from Chinese Ancient history, were shuffled around from city to city, trying to keep them safe from the war. Amazingly almost everything survived and was put on display again in 1947, in Nanjing. This didn't last long as Communist power grew. When they took over the KMT in 1949 the entire collection was moved to Taiwan with the ousted KMT government. The KMT retreat was supposed to be temporary so collection stayed boxed up for 10 years, but in 1965 the National Palace Museum in Taipei was opened. Throughout all this, not a single piece was broken. Despite Mainland China's protests over the 'stolen' art, the Taiwanese justify it by saying that it would of all been destroyed in the 1960's during the Red Guards destructive marches meant to destory all traces of Chinese tradition. Apparently this is still a sore point for Mainland Chinese. The museum can display about 15,000 pieces at one time, but the collection is so vast that even if they changed the display every three months it would take over 12 years to see it all. There are airconditioned, underground vaults deep in the mountainside where the rest of the art is stored.
Today we saw displays of 'encyclopedias' from the 15th century. When the emporer would get an exotic creature as a gift he would have it painted and written about in big books. There were books of birds and water creatures, too. We saw some calligraphy and scrolls that are a thousand years old, as well as carvings and bronze casting. It was pretty neat stuff and I am glad I got to go!