National Palace Museum and Carcassonne
On today's menu: the national palace museum. This museum, second to none but to Le Louvre or the Metropolitan, is built on the private collections of the late Qing emperors. Originally from the Forbidden City, they were brought to Taiwan by the Nationalists (see http://www.npm.gov.tw/exh97/masterpiece/index1_en.html to learn about their tumultuous whereabouts).
One can browse a selection from the museum collection here:
A favourite of mine is the boat carved in an olive pit
Another piece I was really impressed by is a calligraphy work where the character shou 壽 (longevity) is drawn with 128 different styles. Most artifacts date from the Ming or Qing dynasties. But there are also a number of more ancient pieces (notably some 璧 bi jade from the Xia dynasty). It is also fascinating to see the evolution of the Chinese script, ranging between the rough symbols carved on sacrificial bones and the elaborate calligraphy of the Qing era.
An entire day is merely enough to scrutinize all the pieces displayed. It seemed that many of the visitors were Chinese tourists from the mainland who were eager to see all these treasures taken from the continent sixty years ago. As a result, the museum was incredibly noisy, a clamour rather unusual for such a place. Some helpless employees were vainly standing here and there with signs "Please keep silent". Also of interest is to compare the attitudes of the Westerners and the Chinese. Most of the former (only a handful at the opening, much more numerous towards the end of the day) only glanced at the galleries without much respect for the beautiful objects.
Before going back to my hotel, I drop by the shop, whose sign reads "Carcassonne 卡卡頌 ", I have noticed the day before. The vendor is taken aback to see a native from this very town (since the city's population is no more than 40,000 inhabitants, the probability of finding a Carcassonnese in Taipei is approximately zero) and we exchange a few words, joyfully mixing Chinese and English, about this delightful place (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcassonne). Through him, I can appreciate the hospitality of the Taiwanese people as he heartily offers me to guide me through Taipei if needed.