21 February 2010

Taipei: National Palace Museum, 101, Longshan temple

National Palace Museum
My morning is entirely devoted to the National Palace Museum. I was here eight years ago but I am just as excited today. The best museum for Chinese art in the world. The story is well known. Chiang kai-shek took about 20,000 trunks wirth of art from the imperial collection of the forbidden city when he had to leave Beijing during the civil war. All that stuff traveled around China, but when Chiang saw that he was losing to mao, he had his staff pack "only" about 7,000 trunks of the best items and shipped it over to Taiwan. This treasure is still a major bone of contention with Beijing, though in recent years there have been cooperation programs with museums in the mainland.

This is la crème de la crème of Chinese art, collected by emperors as far back as the Tang dynasty. Chiang had a nuclear bomb proof vault buil in a mountain next to Taipei and then, next to the mountain, this museum. The world is lucky that the stuff is here, or it would probably have been dstroyed during the cultural revolution in China. Today, only about one percent of the items are on display, and the Museum's staff rotates it ever so many months. Incredibly refined, pottery, ceramics, calligraphy, jewellery, jade, bronze...

I can see myself coming back here many, many times...

Leaving the Museum I head to the XXI symbol of pride of Taiwan, Taipei 101. When it was completed in 2004 it was the tallest building in the world, and it remained that until last month, when Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai. Taipei 101 is a controversial project. My friend S., who openly sympathizes for the independentist school of thought in Taiwan, says it was not really necessary and it was motly a trick by the Nationalists to impress an increasingly disillusioned electorate.

Taipei 101


Moving fast in 101 elevator
Be that as it may, it is still impressive. Inside, there is a slurpy food center in the basement. Then several floors of shopping mall, and what a shopping mall! Luxur brands from all over the world and a pleasant yet awe inspiring carousel of escalators, lifts, lights, and immense empty spaces that provide a welcoming and warm atmosphere.

At the top, it is cold and windy today. Not the best day to enjoy the landscape. I don't spend much time there, but again I must admit to being impressed: this time by the elevator, the fastest (at this time) in the world, going up and down at 17 meters per second without the slightest discomfort for the user. Well, may I should say the traveler, since it's over half a kilometer up from ground level!
Inside 101


An impressive 730 tons tuned mass damper is installed near the top to absorb shocks caused by wind or earthquakes.

tuned mass damper in 101
In the evening I went to the Longshan temple, where I spent some time looking at the faithful perform Buddhist ceremonies and giving offerings. It is a mystic atmosphere, welcoming and somewhat magic. Free CDs with Buddhist music ara available.
Longshan temple


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