Visit to two 228 museums in Taipei

Relief in the Taipei 228 Museum

The Taipei 228 Memorial Museum (台北二二八紀念館) reopened in February this year after being closed for almost a year for renovations. The reopening created some controversy over how the new exhibits interpreted the events of 228. On Sunday I went to visit the museum to see for myself how it had changed.

I had visited the museum about five times since my first visit in 2007 so I had a good understanding of the previous layout and content of the exhibits. The first thing I found on arriving was that the audio guide, which was previously available in English and several other languages, was not available. The staff said that it wasn’t ready yet and did not know when it would become available. All the exhibits are described in Chinese characters with only a small amount of English and Japanese. Continue reading

Shung Ye Museum marks 15th anniversary

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The Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines (順益台灣原住民博物館) celebrated its 15th anniversary yesterday. The day was marked by the opening of a special exhibition from Japan.  The exhibition contains artifacts from the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan. This marks the first time artifacts from the museum have ever been returned to their country of origin for an exhibition.

In the afternoon speeches were given by Eric Yu (游浩乙), Director of the Shung Ye Museum, Lin Chiang-I (林江義), Deputy Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Director of the Japanese Museum of Ethnology. Indigenous students from Xizhi Primary School also performed a short play. Continue reading

Lee Ming-tiao’s photos at TFAM

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM; 臺北市立美術館) currently has an exhibition of photography by Lee Ming-tiao (李鳴鵰). Lee is one of Taiwan’s most influential photographers and the exhibition provides a comprehensive look at his life’s work.

The exhibition begins with Lee’s black and white photos of Taiwan taken during the late 1940s and 1950s. These provide a unique look into life in Taiwan at that time. Many of the shots were taken in Xindian and along the Danshui River revealing a world now physically lost, but still living in the memories of many Taiwanese and Lee’s amazing photography.

The second part of the exhibition features travel photography, shot in color, from Lee’s travels around the world in the 1980s and 1990s. You can see a selection of the photos on the TFAM’s website. The photos are notable for both their technical excellence and fascinating subjects.

The exhibition runs until 5 April 2009. The museum is closed on 25 & 26 January and every Monday. Admission is free during the month of January.

Museums at NTU

Elephant and cassowary skeletons in the NTU Zoology Museum

The NTU Museums were inaugurated in November 2007 as part of a project to preserve and promote the university’s collections. The various small museums contain some wonderful exhibitions. It’s best to start your tour at the Agricultural Exhibition Hall (農業陳列館) where you can pick up a guide to all the museums. The Hall is located near the Xinsheng South Road gate of NTU. I haven’t visited all the museums yet, but I’ll write about the ones I have.

The Zoology Museum (動物博物館) features the skeletons of four animals. The Asian Elephant and Cassowary are pictured above. There are also Minke Whale and Short-finned Pilot Whale skeletons. There are also nine stuffed birds on display including a Crested Serpent Eagle, Collared Scoops Owl and Brown Wood Owl.

Cockcroft-Walton Linear Accelerator at NTU

The NTU Heritage Hall of Physics (物理文物館) has a Cockcroft-Walton Linear Accelerator as its centrepiece. This museum also has on display many old experimental apparatus and a working Geiger counter that you can test with a collection of rocks. Continue reading

Folk Arts Museum in Beitou

Taiwan Folk Arts Museum in Beitou preserves an old wooden Japanese villa

I have written about Beitou's museums before and now there is a new one to add to the list. The Taiwan Folk Arts Museum (北投文物館) recently reopened after being closed for five years for renovations. The wooden building that houses the museum was originally a club for Japanese officers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs converted it into the Jia Shan Guest House after the war before it was later sold to a private owner and converted into a museum.

The two storey wooden building has been lovingly restored. It maintains all the features that would have been present during the Japanese era such as the courtyards and paper screens. The exhibitions include a range of items from the Japanese era as well as Taiwanese aboriginal artifacts. There is also another building which is a tea house, but it wasn't open when I was there. You can still walk around it and appreciate the Japanese aesthetic in the garden. 

Garden in the Folk Arts Museum in Beitou, Taipei City

The exhibits are all clearly labelled in Chinese and English. I borrowed an English-language audio guide which gives extra information for a self-guided tour. The museum is located at No. 32 Youya Road in Beitou (北投區幽雅路32號). It is open from 10:00 to 21:00 and closed on Mondays. Admission is NT$200. It has a restaurant, but I didn't check the menu. It is quite a walk up the hill to the museum so you might consider taking a bus or taxi. 

covered bridge in Beitou, Taipei City

This lovely covered bridge has been repaired since I last visited Beitou.

Sulphur Valley, a hot bed of volcanic activity on Yangminshan, Taipei, Taiwan

In the afternoon I wandered up to the Sulphur Valley (硫磺谷). It was cold and windy but the volcanic vents were still steaming and letting out sulphur fumes. Note the couple getting their wedding photos taken in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo.

Ethnology Museum at Academia Sinica

Display at the museum of the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan

Last night our Culture and Ethnic Structure of Taiwan class at NCCU went on a field trip to the Institute of Ethnology (民族學研究所) at Academia Sinica (中央研究院). The museum is small but well organised and contains many interesting artifacts and models. Most of the displays are about Taiwan's indigenous people.

Siriya (Plains people) display at the Insitute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

The display pictured above is labelled Pingpu (平埔族) or Plains peoples. The display relates to the Siraya, the people who lived on the plains around Tainan and were the first indigenous people in Taiwan to come into extensive contact with foreigners. Namely the Dutch who arrived in Taiwan in 1624. The red paper on the left is a land contract. It is written in Chinese, although other land contracts from that time can be found written in Sinkang, the romanised language of the Siraya developed by Dutch missionaries. 

Southwest China display at the Ethnology Museum, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

As well as the displays about Taiwan's indigenous people there is a section of the museum about the indigenous people of Southwest China. Academia Sinica was originally founded in China in 1928 and later reestablished in Taiwan after 1949. The museum also has a special exhibition area with displays about folk religion and Mazu in Taiwan. 

The museum is open to the public, but check the opening hours before you go. There is also a library which is open to the public, but we didn't have the chance to see it last night.  

*more photos at flickr.  

Once was a prison

Watch tower of the Jingmei Detention Centre and now Human Rights Park

Taiwan Human Rights Memorial (台灣人權景美園區) was officially opened by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Monday, which was Human Rights Day. The park, located in Xindian, Taipei County,  was formerly known as the Jingmei Military Detention Centre (景美軍事看守所). The centre was used to try and hold political prisoners during the martial law era and was converted to a museum at the suggestion of Vice President Annette Lu. The park is managed by the Peng Ming-min Cultural Foundation.

I visited the park today. It seems they are still working on the main entrance area, but all the other exhibition areas were open. If you plan to visit I suggest waiting a few weeks until the works are finished and it is a bit more organised.

Taiwan’s elite who disappeared during the 228 incident and its aftermath pictured in the Jingmei Human Rights Park

There are four halls of exhibitions in the park in what I guess were formerly administration buildings. They detail the history of resistance to KMT rule from 1947 to 1987. The photo above shows photos of members of the Taiwanese elite who disappeared during the 228 incident. Other points of interest included a screening of propoganda movies from the 1950s or 1960s. There are also many photos and materials related to the Kaohsiung Incident. There are lots of familiar faces among them as most of the current senior members of the DPP were involved in the incident. They all looked a lot younger then!

Inside the main prison area of the Jingmei Detention Centre, now a Human Rights Park

The block that served for holding political prisoners is now open to the public and includes some information about the prisoners that were held there. The gray concrete and reams of barbed-wire maintain a lifeless, oppressive feel to the place.

Door of Room 59 in the Jingmei Detention Centre

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) were held in room 59 following the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979. Shi Ming-teh (施明德) was held there in 1985. The cells are open and you can see what kind of conditions the prisoners were kept under. There was no furniture in the rooms, although I assume they would have at least had a bed in them.

There is another building that served as a court for trying the prisoners on the site. Its display including some newspaper clippings of reports around the time of the trial of those involved in the Kaohsiung Incident.

It was interesting to visit and experience first hand the place where political prisoners were held. It made some of history feel more immediate and real.

*more photos in the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial set at flickr.

Visiting some museums in Taiwan

taichung-fine-arts-museum-panorama

While visiting Taichung on Friday I had some spare time in the afternoon to visit the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (國立臺灣美術館). It was a brilliant sunny day in Taichung and the museum looked fantastic surrounded by a nice park. The space of the museum is very open and well designed.

kids playing on a sculpture outside the Fine Arts Museum in Taichung

The sculpture in the museum grounds naturally attracts the attention of children. The museum currently has an exhibition the history of Taiwanese art from 1763 to 1969. The various artworks show the development of artistic styles in Taiwan from the Qing period up to the early KMT era.

panorama photo of the Shihsanhang Museum in Bali, Taipei County, Taiwan

On Sunday I went to visit the Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology (十三行博物館) in Bali as a class outing for the Culture and Ethnic Structure of Taiwan class in the Taiwan Studies program at NCCU. I visited the museum last year, but it was good to go back again. The architectural design of the museum really is very special. It is worth taking some time to walk around just to appreciate it.

Reconstruction in Shihsanhang Museum of a slate house as built by the Paiwan tribe in the south of Taiwan

At the museum we were given a sneak preview of the new Paiwan exhibition which opens today. The Paiwan (排灣) live in the mountains of Southern Taiwan. The photo above shows a model of a slate house. You can still see buildings like this in Taiwan today in the Maolin Scenic Area in Kaohsiung County.

Taiwan has so many museums and their standards are often very high. I thought I would mention a few of the museums I have visited. I haven’t written about all of them on this blog. You can find the ones I have written about by checking the museums & galleries category.

Saisiat Museum in Nanzhuang, Miaoli County

There are a number of museums devoted to the culture and history of Taiwan’s indigenous people. These include the Wulai Atayal Museum, the Museum of Saisiat Folklore in Nanzhuang, the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines in Taipei, the National Museum of Prehistory in Taidong as well as the Shihsanhang Museum. I am sure there are probably a few more.

Taipei County Hakka Museum in Sanxia

There are also museums that are focused on local history or special topics such as the Ceramics Museum in Yingge, the Tea Museum in Pinglin, the Hot Spring Museum in Beitou, the Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum in Dadaocheng and the Hakka Museum in Sanxia.

In Taipei I like to visit Taipei MOCA and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum regularly to check out some of Taiwan’s contemporary art. There are also some art galleries devoted to Buddhist art: the Huafan Cultural Gallery at Huafan University and Fo Guang Yuan, near Songshan Station. The Museum of World Religions is a chance to learn more about religion and also experience excellent modern museum design.

228 Memorial Museum in Taipei

There are frequent displays at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. The National Museum of History, 228 National Memorial Museum, the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum and National Taiwan Museum are all located not far from each other in Taipei City. And of course this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the National Palace Museum containing the world’s largest collection of Chinese art and artifacts in the world.

What is your favorite museum in Taiwan? Are there any more you would like to add to this list? Please add your comments.