Of course I should have gone there as early as possible. Taipei is famous for its 101 building – a huge skyscraper. However, I did not make it to Taipei 101 during this trip. Instead, I went to National Palace Museum, one of the most important museums in Taiwan.
Early Saturday morning I biked to the High Speed Railway (HSR) station which is located approximately 10km north of ITRI. In Taiwan there are two systems of railroads: traditional and recently built high-speed. Quite contrary to similar networks in other countries, HSR is built as a totally separate network. For example, Pendolino trains in Finland run on the same rails as common trains.
The Taiwan HSR is located approximately 10 meters above the ground. Therefore, when you ride a high-speed train you feel as if you were actually flying on jet. The landscape that you can see through your window is changing so fast! The trip from Hsinchu to Taipei takes only 30 minutes. The train arrives at a station which is combined with a conventional train station. In general it is a very big station, similar to Penn Station in New York. One of its biggest advantages is that it is a very new building, clean and convenient. The prices on HSR are of course higher than on the conventional rail but the quality and speed is also higher. I would say that HSR resembles airport.
Anyway, after I arrived to Taipei I bought an EasyCard according to advice of Steve, a student from Stony Brook who is visiting ITRI as well. This card works in metro (called MRT in Taipei) as well as in buses. The funny thing is that you have to swipe it twice in metro – when you get in and out and on your way out in a bus.
During this trip I proceeded immediately to National Palace Museum. Previously I looked at its web site and got very interested in Chinese painting. After reading book of Ilya Glazunov I could use my knowledge to distinguish Chinese art from for example European art very clearly. The main difference is that Chinese paintings are shape based, there is little volume in them. And the Chinese language is also shape-based. If you cut one part from a Chinese character then it can get a totally different meaning. And so are Chinese buildings. If you take a close look at a Buddhist temple you will see lots of curves and curly things at the roof level. I think that without them a Chinese building looses half of its beauty. In other words, the beauty of a Chinese building is in its silhouette.
Another interesting fact is that Chinese paintings do not have background such as sky, clouds, stars, sun, etc. Only mountains are depicted sometimes. Besides paintings the museum has lots of statues of Buddha – they are so amazing! Most of them were created in 1400s-1600s and they have astonishing level of details! I cannot think of any other sculptures of that period that could compete with Chinese sculptures. For example ancient sculptures are dedicated to human body which is typically naked, whereas Buddha status are vividly decorated in cloths and jewelry.
In the museum I learned the introduction to Chinese history – which dynasties were ruling the country and when. It is so funny that in Russia we barely made it through two dynasties – Ryurik and Romanovs. And people of China made it through a dozen of dynasties many of which ruled a lot more than Russian Tzars. That means that in terms of historical self-consciousness Chinese are more advanced than Russians. Indeed, traces of Russian people are lost at approximately 7th century A.D. (there is still lots of discussion of what is the origin of Russian people) whereas Chinese history is going well beyond the beginning of our millenium.
There is a beautiful gift shop in the museum. I bought a painting, plastic mats, and a few books on Chinese painting and calligraphy. In that shop one could buy the paintings of traditional Chinese scenery. I thought that they were very similar to Russian traditional folk paintings – the same kind of horses, chicken, The colors used in those painting are the following: yellow, red, and black. These are the same colors that are used in Khohloma paintings. Look at the Chinese painting above – it looks like traditional Russian painting. Therefore, I think that there are lots of similarities between Russian and Chinese cultures or more precisely that Russian folk culture was borrowed from the East most likely during Mongol conquest of Russia in 12-15 centuries.
I spent three hours in this wonderful museum. I have visited halls dedicated to bronze artifacts and history of ceramics.
Then I wanted to visit Taipei 101, the primary reason why I was in Taipei but typhoon Fanapi was approaching with lots of rain. It turned out though on Sunday that the typhoon changed its direction and went to the south of Taiwan. So on Sunday we had no rain in Hsinchu, only moderate wind. However, there was lots of rain in eastern Taiwan.
I am planning on visiting Taipei again, it is such an exciting city. Both Hsinchu and Taipei resemble New York to me – they are multi-cultural cities with lots of fun going on 24 hours a day. I am looking forward to exploring other museums of Taipei. They are so different from European museums which I used to attend when I lived in Finland. Chinese museums reflect the long and prosperous history of this nation.