When looking up things to do I thought going to a museum full of art and old books might be fun so I took the train and then a bus to the National Palace Museum. The bus drop off is a short walk from the entrance for groups, since the public bus stop is also near where tour buses drop off. The first floor is where these bus groups check-in and is also where the gift shop is. However for people or families you’ll want to go up a floor to the regular check-in. Prices are 350 NT$ (US$11.33) per adult. There are several discounts available for international students with ISIC cards, groups or kids.
Before going through security you need to remove any food or drinks from your bag. There’s a section of coin lockers for you to store your things, but small purses or bags are fine. But if you have any water bottles or food they want you to write your name on a paper, tape it to the bottle or container and leave it in the room with everything else, then when you’re ready to leave you can go back and get it.
The museum is three floors and I started on the top floor. I figured it’d be easiest to work my way down. The first part I went to was “Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth” which included jade and some other precious stones.
I learned, in this section, that there are two different types of jade. They’re called jadeite and nephrite. Between the two nephrite is more common and can be found in more places around the world while there are far less places that you can find jadeite. Usually when I think of jade I think of green gemstones, but in reality nephrite can be white, yellow or red as well as different shades of green. Jadeite can be lavender or black as well as green, yellow or white. Jadeite is dense and hard while nephrite is tougher. It was really an interesting thing to learn that these two things made up what we call jade.
But after awhile I got bored of looking at precious jewels and jade. The next section I visited was about incense. I really expected the “Scents of Heaven” to be interactive with locations where you could smell the different scents of wood and was quickly disappointed.
The exhibit was more about Agarwood and the tools and containers for incense. Agarwood comes from a type of aquilaria tree and their resin which covers the wood and is used to make incense.
While there were some things about tools for incense as well as various containers there were also things made out of agarwood, including sculptures, carvings and jewelry.
After leaving the agarwood I visited a section with a long line that tour groups tended to hover around. It turned out to be one of the most famous things on display.
The jadeite cabbage is a beautiful carved piece of jadeite that looks like a head of cabbage and also has some bugs and creatures intricately hidden among the leaves. It was my favorite piece of jade (jadeite/nephrite) that I saw at the museum. I also soon found a nice break from jade and jewels to find a section on illusion and art of optical illusions. It was a bit small but fun.
There were a lot of sections of historical pieces.
On the second floor there was a section on “The Phenomenon of Yixing Ware”
Which essentially was a bunch of interesting looking tea pots. In Yixing County there is a lot of clay that gets used to make these pots and ceramics.
The second floor also held my favorite exhibit which was a collaboration with the local zoos and aquarium. It was for kids but also one that clearly everyone had a lot of fun putting together.
Essentially they had gone through their archives and found their best examples of animals among the art they had and compared the paintings with what the animals actually look like. This included the 12 Chinese Zodiac (+the cat).
And then they had sections of just the animals and information about the animals or the paintings. They also included information about conservation and how we can help these animals or learn more about the dangers they’re facing.
But my favorite paintings included a section where they discussed how historically artists painted animals. It took a lot longer to get around then it does now. Before airplanes and cameras were invented artists had a couple options when someone commissioned them to draw an animal. They either needed to go to where those animals could be found and study them as much as they could. This included days of hiding in the wilderness with paper and trying to commit everything about the animal down. (A great example of this is the beautiful tiger painting I included in the section about the zodiac). But sometimes the artist couldn’t go that far away and would have to instead listen to stories about what those animals look like and use their imagination to draw the animal. And thus you end up with this lovely beast.
It’s a lion. I love it. I love its big floppy dog like ears and concerned face. But it only rivals my love for this mildly accurate but super grumpy toad. The toad was from a much bigger painting but was a close up, and is probably one of my favorite pieces.
After learning about animals and history and art and conservation the section changed to the aquarium’s collaboration which included a ton of really gorgeous pieces.
I really loved this section for kids. It was truly my favorite part of the museum and I’m kinda bummed it was so short lived. It was just up for the summer. I hope they continue to have fun kid content like this. Afterwards I went down to the first floor which included the exhibit: “Compassion and Wisdom: Religious Sculptural Arts”.
And the exhibit I was most excited for: “Rare books and historical documents gallery”.
I guess I’m not sure what I was expecting. I think I was expecting a more in-depth deep dive to why these books are considered rare and a bit about their contents. But a lot of it is government agency documents and books. Which are beyond my scope of understanding on multiple levels. So I mostly just studied the way they were bound and housed.
You also couldn’t take pictures of a lot of them.
I spent most of my day at the museum. A lot of time wandering around looking at things. It was a good way to escape the heat outside. If you get thirsty, while there is no water allowed, there are water fountains on every floor and you can drink there, you cannot carry the water cups with you though, you can only drink in those designated areas.
When I was done I picked up my water bottle from the lockers and then tried to find my way to the restaurant. There’s a cafe in the museum but I wanted lunch.
I ended up going the wrong way. I went down the shaded tree path which led me down into the open courtyard. Instead, I should’ve just walked towards the parking lot and headed in the direction of the library.
I was looking for the restaurant/cafe called Fu-ch’un-chü. The entrance in down the hill behind this sign.
The entrance is here. First when you enter pick your seat, look over the menu and then when you’re ready go back to the front and put in your order and pay. Then it’ll be brought out to you.
I ordered beef noodle soup which a friend was very adamant I have while I was in Taiwan. It was 250NT$.
I also ordered their caramel milk tea iced which was 120 NT$ and came with some crackers. All the caramel flavor seemed to be drizzled on top and not actually through the entire drink which I was disappointed in.
After sitting and eating for a bit I went back to the main museum building, looked around the gift shop then waited for the bus to go back to the train station. Please note that the stop to get off at drops you off a couple blocks away from the station.