January 2017, Taipei, Taiwan
During a trip to mainland China’s Forbidden City in 2005, we were told by our tour guide that if we wanted to see the treasures collected by several Chinese emperors, we had to go to Taipei. The sprawling palace compound, also called the National Palace Museum, had over a thousand buildings, yet rooms were bare, with only a few Oriental vases here and there. I found out later on what she meant.
When China was at war with Japan and later on during the civil war, the retreating army of Chiang Kai Shek secretly moved the most prized antiquities from the Beijing palace museum and shipped them to Taiwan. The collection after trekking from town to town finally found a home in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, a complex completed in 1965.
The best way to get to the museum is to take the MRT to Shilin Station and then the Red 30 local bus that will drop you off in front of the museum complex. And yes, it is the same station that you exit to go to Shilin night market. It is better though to get off the Jiantan station (1 station before Shilin) to go to the market.
The entrance and the steps leading to the museum is very impressive and built in the same style as the National Palace museum in Beijing.
So many antiquities to look at and to take pictures of. If you are going to the museum, make sure you get there by early morning. The museum opens at 8:30am. It is highly recommended, if you like museums, to allocate one day to this trip. The collection is huge and shown in several floors. For lunch, I would recommend a restaurant in the basement of a building to the right of the museum (facing out to the entrance)
I noticed that young school children were there first and then hordes of tourists closer to noon. There are two items in this collection that are always popular with tourists: the jade cabbage and the jade pork. The lines were long and my friend and I decided to forgo seeing those two tiny items. There were other beautiful antiquities to see.
The antiquities that I was most attracted to were the funerary vessels. One, I believe, was made 300 years before Christ. The other one I am fond of was a baby dragon climbing onto the jug.