Mathilde HK at the National Place Museum, Taipei

You are curious about the treasures from the Forbidden city?

You want to know more about the precious pieces taken to Taiwan?

You like Ancient Chinese Art, Fine Porcelains, Zitan Furniture and Gems?

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Cabinet for precious miniaturized artifacts, curio, Qing dynasty, picture@NPM 

I spent some time in Taipei, Taiwan and sized the opportunity to visit the National Palace Museum. That immense building located in the Northern part of the city, next to the mtr station Shilin, provides one of the best examples of imperial Chinese Art, from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties.

I suggest visitors to go there from 6 to 9 pm on Fridays or Saturdays evenings, for it is the only moment the exhibition halls are quite empty.

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The National Palace Museum, Shilin, Taipei, picture@NPM

Originally, the National Palace Museum was located in Beijing and was launched in 1925. However, the Japanese invasion soon forced its curators to relocate the precious collections in South of China. In 1934, Shanghai was selected to display a large number of imperial master pieces. From 1937 to 1945, over 7000 pieces were transported either on cargos, or on the roads of China, to avoid destruction and war. In 1948, fights between the Chinese Nationalist and Communist armies increased in the North and the Central Government made the decision to send the most precious objects in the collections of the Palace Museum and the Preparatory Office to Taiwan. A total of 2,972 crates were shipped. A new Museum was built in Taipei in 1965 and expansions of the exhibition rooms progressively took place.  In 2009 more than 2.5 million visitors had come to the National Palace Museum.

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Revolving vase, Qianlong, picture@NPM

The collections are divided into 8  sections, namely: Calligraphy, Jades, Bronzes, Ceramics, Paintings, Rare Books, Documents and Curios. The Museum also launched several temporary exhibitions, among them, a Painting Animation: Along the River During the Qingming Festival,  a eighteenth century masterpiece of realistic genre painting, with many copies of it being done over the centuries. The piece is quite huge, 35.6×1152.8 cm, and depicts several urban scenes with exquisite details and figures, such as below.

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Along the River During the Qingming Festival, The Qing Court Artists, Qing dynasty Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 35.6×1152.8 cm, picture@NPM

I also enjoyed the display chosen by the curators. For example, the ceramic department provided a History of Chinese Ceramic, from the Tang to the Qing dynasty, housed in 5 rooms. Pieces were in very good state. My favorite objects were the early Song pieces, especially the black glazed tea wares I knew nothing about, an early Ming Wine vessel with its cobalt blue ewer and 3 revolving vases in Yellow Glaze Famille Rose, created for the emperor Qianlong  (1736-1795).

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Ting Ware Ceramic pillow, Northern Song Period, 960 – 1126 CE, picture@NPM

The Porcelain exhibition fund an extension in a smaller room dedicated to the relationship between Flower and flower pots in the Forbidden City. They were paintings depicting the XIX th century emperors sitting next to the actual flower pots on display, that was amazing!!!

Despite a serious book shop, the amount of available publications in English was rather short and I was disappointed not to be able to get a real big catalog.

The National Palace Museum – Taipei

Exhibition(Main Building) Open daily from 08:30 to 18:30 all year round.from 18:30 to 21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.(English guided tours)

Bibliography – Cataloges on exhibitions at NPM or on NPM

  • Collectif. Trésors du Musée National du Palais, Taipei, Mémoires d’Empire, Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1998.
  • Collectif. A Panorama of Ceramics in the Collection of the National Palace Museum: Chün Ware. Taipei : National Palace Museum, 1999.
  • CAI He-bi. Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Kangxi, Yongzheng an Qianlong Porcelain Ware fom the Qing Dynasty in the National Palace Museum. Taipei : National Palace Museum, 1986.
  • FONG, Wen C., WATT, James C.Y. Possessing the Past, Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei. New York : The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Taipei : National Palace Museum, 1996.
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