Taipei’s National Palace Museum, located in the Waishuanghsi neighborhood of the Shihlin District, is the pride of Taiwan. It ranks as one of the four best museums in the world, in a class with the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The museum holds the world’s largest collection of Chinese artifacts, around 700,000 items in all. Since the museum only has space to display around 15,000 pieces at any given time, the majority of the treasures are kept well protected in air-conditioned vaults buried deep in the mountainside. The displays are rotated once every three months, which means 60,000 pieces can be viewed in a year and it would take nearly 12 years to see them all. Furthermore, the collection continues to grow through donations and purchases.
Some of the oldest artifacts in the collection of the museum are pieces of prehistoric pottery over 5,000 years old. The vast majority of these art objects are from the private collection of China’s emperors.
Included in the collection are artifacts made from jade, bronze, porcelain, lacquerware and enamel. There is also tapestry and embroidery, and many priceless documents and books containing excellent examples of ancient Chinese calligraphy.
There are good tours in different languages and for the handicapped, starting from the information desk in the main lobby. The tours will run even if only one person shows up. A multimedia slide show is presented daily in both Chinese and English languages. In October, there are also special showings of rare and fragile artifacts — and this is the best time to visit.
During the normal times, the museum provides a handheld audio tour system called INFORM. The system enables visitors to create a personalized guided tour of the museum. You can simply walk through the galleries, choose the highlighted exhibits which interest you and learn about them in your own pace.
The museum’s gift shop near the main entrance is worth visiting. Items on sale include calligraphy brushes, T-shirts, books, postcards and scrolls. You can buy excellent reproductions of rare paintings for the low price of NT$50 each — probably the best buy in Taiwan. Photography is prohibited inside the museum and you are requested to check cameras at the entrance.
Just to the east of the museum steps is the Chihshan Garden, which features fine Sung Dynasty landscaping. The museum has its own restaurant. On its fourth floor is the famous San Hsi Tang where you can enjoy coffee and tea.
The National Palace Museum is located in Chihshan Road in Taipei City’s Shihlin District. Visitors can take the Danshui Line of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network and get off at the Shihlin Station, then take the Red 30 bus to the museum.
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