The Zhishan Garden, covering an area of 1.88 hectares, is based on traditional Chinese garden building techniques, and is filled with a literary atmosphere. It reflects the garden styles of the Sung and Ming dynasties. Some describe the Chinese garden as a euphemistic poem or a long unfolding landscape painting. After enjoying the treasures of the National Palace Museum, we invite you to relax in this Acadia of the ancient literati.
Visitors arriving at the Shanxia Square of the National Palace Museum will see the Huabiao Avenue, a magnificent boulevard featuring an imposing archway inscribed with the words "tien-hsia-wei-kung" (meaning "a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky"); giant, guard-like bronze lions on two sides; towering ornamental columns on two sides; and a gigantic square ding (ancient Chinese cauldron) along the central trail, making the Huabiao Avenue the perfect picture-taking location!
Exhibition Area I (Main Building) 1F
Located at the center of the hall is the entrance to the exhibition galleries, with ticket offices available on two sides. On the right side of the hall is the Xian-ju-fu Café and an item storage area; visitors must store their backpacks, travel packs, and luggage in said storage area prior to entering the exhibition galleries. The storage area also offers free wheelchair and stroller rentals. Xian-ju-fu Café sells coffee, tea, cakes, and other light snacks, providing a place for the public to dine and relax. On the left side of the hall is the audio tour service desk, which offers daily guided tours and audio touring system rentals. The carefully planned tour services and products make the museum-visiting experience remarkably rewarding for visitors!
Exhibition Area I (Main Building) B1
Exhibition Area I is the main pick-up and drop-off area for buses and tour buses and the location for purchasing National Palace Museum tickets and group audio tour services. On the left side of the entrance is the Children's Gallery, an art education space designed for children and students between the ages of 5–12; here, they can interact with their parents and learn. Said gallery uses interactive display-based physical and multimedia devices to enable schoolchildren to learn more about the National Palace Museum's artifacts (through observations, thinking, hands-on and experience-oriented activities, and games) and discover the connections between ancient artifacts and modern life. On the right side of the entrance is the B1 museum bookstore, which sells books, artifact replicas, and exquisite cultural and creative merchandise. Also available in Exhibition Area I is a post office, providing services such as mailing and cash withdrawals.
Compassion and Wisdom: Religious Sculptural Arts
Buddhist sculptures arose out of the belief system that produced them. They are derived from the iconography in Buddhist sutras. Buttressed by the popular religious concepts of the time, they aptly convey the spiritual content in which the religion is rooted. Believers thought that the production of these sculptures would bring about good fortune; practitioners meditated with these images in order to bring about a deeper understanding and wisdom. Religious sermons made use of such profound sculptures to align and intensify the believers' conception of the Buddhist realm.
Among single Buddhist sculptures, one often finds sculptures of the Buddha, Buddhist monks, Bodhisattvas and guardian deities. The Buddha is at the core of the belief and represents the attainment of enlightenment. Disciples rendered in the form of monks transmitted his teachings after his death. Bodhisattvas were made in the image of a secular, royal prince—having reached Buddhahood, they chose to stay in this world in order to assist those who have not. Guardian deities look ferocious, but they avert physical enemies and internal demons. Then there are stupas, representing Nirvana. All these come together to compose the fundamental elements of Buddhist art.
Besides the religious content of Buddhist sculptures, these objects also possess their independent artistic merit. Northern Wei sculptures tend to be modest and simple. T'ang sculptures are often rotund and lively. Starting from the Sung era, sculptures became more closely associated with ordinary people. In addition to revealing the technical development of each period, they also reflect their makers' standards of beauty. Thus, appreciating religious sculpture not only imparts their ideological ideals, but also conveys universal concepts of beauty.
A Garland of Treasures: Masterpieces of Precious Crafts in the Museum Collection
"A Garland of Treasures" is the title given in the Qing dynasty by the Qianlong emperor to a curio box in his collection. As the name suggests, it means a group of small but precious artifacts. The cherished crafts in the collection of the National Palace Museum include enamels, clothing and accessories, studio objects, lacquerware, Buddhist ritual implements, carvings, and curio boxes. Covering a wide range of forms and materials, these artifacts are especially numerous and of high quality, revealing an important facet of the Qing imperial collection. This exhibition is divided into the themes of "precious" and "crafts." "Precious" refers to the treasured materials and exceptional workmanship, while "crafts" indicates the consummate skill that went into the design and production of the classical forms, making it difficult for the viewer to stop admiring these objects.
The collection of precious crafts in the National Palace Museum mostly derives from items used in daily life at the imperial court. Some were ritual objects and others diplomatic gifts. There are accessories that were used for ceremonial purposes, while others formed part of the dress and make-up for those living in the ladies' quarters. Some crafts were displayed in palace halls, served as curios to be appreciated at leisure, or found in the scholar's studio. Others are also rare collectibles stored in chests that were all specially designed and marvelously produced.
The materials used in this eclectic grouping of crafts often include composition combinations, being mainly gold or silver, semi-precious stone, bamboo or wood, ivory or horn, and ink or inkstone. They are also skillfully integrated frequently with bronzes, porcelains, and jades, with many different materials often appearing together. And along with a mixture of different techniques, these objects truly reflect the diverse beauty of Chinese arts and crafts. As for the subjects to decorate them, they often interweave auspicious patterns, folk legends, and historical allusions, being profoundly steeped in the essence of Chinese culture to create a sense of dignity, elegance, and delight in life.
The Magic of Kneaded Clay: Ceramic Collection of the National Palace Museum
Ceramics is a sign of civilization. From processing the clay, shaping the forms, applying the glazes to firing the products in kilns, raw materials go through many changes as soft clay becomes durable ceramic. The forms, glazes and decorative patterns on ceramics are diverse and varied due to their being created under different cultural and social conditions. Emperors, officials, potters and users of ceramics all contributed to the formation of various period styles in China. What is attractive about ceramics is that it echoes and records the long course of history, the network development of kilns also reflecting the phenomenon of cross-cultural interactions that took place over time.
Most ceramics in the National Palace Museum collection were inherited from the Qing imperial court and passed through many places before being moved to Taiwan. Originally from the palaces in Beijing, Rehe and Shenyang, these ceramics possess a distinct accession number that can help trace the original location at which each piece was once stored or displayed. It makes the collection of the National Palace Museum unique and distinct from other public and private museums. Even though the Museum does not have many pre-Song dynasty ceramics, it boasts many famous wares unparalleled anywhere in the world, including renowned Song wares, doucaiporcelains of the Chenghua reign in the Ming dynasty, painted enamel porcelains of the High Qing as well as official wares of various Ming and Qing dynasty reigns.
This exhibition illustrates a history of development in Chinese ceramics based on the collection of the National Palace Museum. From the perspective of various glaze colors, it is possible to see how glazes evolved at different kilns and periods as well as how official models of decoration formed over time. The exhibition is divided into four sections: "Neolithic Age to the Five Dynasties," "Song to Yuan Dynasties," "Ming Dynasty," and "Qing Dynasty". "Neolithic Age to the Five Dynasties" represents a long period of time when ceramics evolved from primitive beginnings to a more sophisticated stage. Using the perspective of daily aesthetics, "Song to Yuan Dynasties" explores the decorations and beauty of various wares from different kilns. The "Ming Dynasty" section theme narrates the establishment of the Jingdezhen imperial kilns, as porcelain production became a state affair and local civilian kilns competed for market share. The "Qing Dynasty" section shows how three emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong, personally gave orders for the imperial kilns, the influence of official models reaching a peak at that time. As the dynasty began to decline, the styles of folk art began to creep into late Qing imperial wares.
Ceramics is testimony to the realm of human activities. Apart from allowing visitors to grasp an idea of how Chinese ceramics developed, it is also hoped that the exhibition will generate more interaction and feedback so that this historical collection can continue to inspire new ideas.
Splendors of Qing Furniture
Furniture is an art form combining both aesthetic with pragmatic qualities. Like the features of one's face, once the location and features of the eyes and mouth have been established, a whole range of beauty, expression, and emotion becomes possible within a limited space.
The development of Chinese furniture reached its apex approximately between the 15th and 17th centuries. At that time, carpenters used such hardwoods as "tzu-t'an" (red sandalwood) and "huang-hua-li" (rosewood) because of their firm texture and fine grain. Taking into consideration the taste of scholars, craftsmen designed forms and structures that emulated the graceful contours of calligraphic strokes. Hence, so-called "Ming-style furniture" gradually emerged with a simple yet elegantly succinct style along with a sense of strong charm in its graceful beauty. In the 18th century, following an upsurge in demand for furniture by the court, imperial taste increasingly drove the style of furniture to become somewhat more dignified and majestic, even luxurious and opulent in presentation. Apart from incorporating some elements of Western aesthetics, relatively more emphasis was placed on meticulous decoration, as craftsmen fully utilized clever techniques of carving, inlay, painting, and appliqué to produce the desired results.
The collection of the National Palace Museum includes a set of red sandalwood furniture originating principally from the imperial residence of Prince Kung. Red sandalwood has always been valued for its hardness and density. Though not as brilliant or beautiful as rosewood in terms of color, red sandalwood nonetheless imparts a sense of serenity and stability. Though these pieces of furniture derive from the same source, they were not originally from the same set, the styles actually ranging from the 17th to 19th centuries. However, much attuned to the modern taste of mixing and matching styles together, this exhibition is an attempt to construct two complementary sets of furniture arrangement: one for the more active setting of a living room and the other for the quietude of the scholar's studio. Consulting scenes of Ch'ing dynasty life depicted in imperial paintings, various pieces of painting and calligraphy, curios, and display objects have been included here to provide a more accurate reconstruction of a room at the time. With these objects, whose original meaning may be obscured by placing them in isolation behind glass walls in display cases, we can rediscover their original setting within the simulated time and place seen here.
A Gathering of Treasures in the National Palace Museum North and South
This VR exhibition will take turns exhibiting the following artifacts: Jadeite Cabbage (Qing dynasty), Meat-shaped Stone (Qing dynasty), Gold Chalice of Eternal Stability (Qing dynasty), Jade Candlestick of Constant Harmony (Qing dynasty), Jade Brush Pot with Bokchoy Cabbage Garden Decoration (Qing dynasty), Bronze bear-shaped zun vessel(Han dynasty), and Jade Candlestick of Jade bear-shaped zun vessel (Qing dynasty). Currently, Jadeite Cabbage and Meat-shaped Stone are being displayed.
Rituals Cast in Brilliance: Masterpieces of Bronzes in the Museum Collection
The Bronze Age of China started in the late Xia dynasty (c. early 17th B.C.E.), lasting about 1,500 years through several dynasties from Shang to Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou. Even after the subsequent emergence of iron in Qin and Han dynasties, bronzes continued to be in use.
During those remote eras, only the ruling class was allowed to commission and use the precious bronze vessels. As was said, "worship and warfare are the first and foremost affairs of a state". Bronze was mainly cast into ritual objects, in addition to weaponry, to offer sacrifices to ancestors for their blessing of an everlasting lineage. Further, from the arrangement and quantity of bronzes displayed in a given ceremony, one can discern the specific social status and position of that noble host. Bronzes were thus the most important ritual objects in the aristocratic Shang and Zhou (1600-220 B.C.E.).
In many aspects, these two early dynasties were crucial to the formation of Chinese culture. Politically, with a burgeoning humanistic awareness the rule by theocracy gradually transitioned to that of rituals and proprieties. Materially, the advanced bronze smelting and casting skills initiated a new age of ritual vessels and weaponry; the breakthrough in craftsmanship and technologies gave rise to a wide range of flourishing industries. Spiritually, the two primary affairs of the state, worship and warfare, conveyed via various shapes and patterns of ritual bronzes the awe for and communion with deities as well as ancestors. Last but not least, the bronze inscriptions recorded the ritual occasions these vessels were made for: feast rites, military action, and reward or conferment ceremonies.
The Bronze Civilization, extolled with the "Rites and Music" of bells and cauldrons, in the "Worship and Warfare" honoring ancestors, and by Zhou's "Newly Endowed Mandate" and "Elaborate Textual Repertoire", continued on through the renewed splendors during Eastern Zhou, all the way to the ultimate unification under Qin and Han. Bronzes gradually yielded its central role in the ritual system but transformed into a cultural archetype, deeply imbued into and manifesting the essence of Chinese thought and culture: extensive and elaborate, profound yet moderate.
Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth: Masterpieces of Jades in the Museum Collection
Jade, cool and hard to touch, yet gracefully beautiful and tenderly warm to look at, is the most constant element that withstands time and a culturally rich object that more than anything else holds the deep feeling and profound thinking of the Chinese people.
As far back as over seven thousand years ago, our forebears had learned from the toil of life such as digging and logging that "jade" was a stone of beauty and eternity. With a glistening sheen just like the springtime sunshine, believed to be high in jinqi (vital force or energy), this beautiful jade was fashioned after the concept of yin and yang into round bi discs and square cong tubes, and marked with deistic and ancestral images as well as "encoded" symbols. A power of "affinity" born of "artifacts imitating nature", so they hoped, would enable dialogues with the Supreme God, who imparted life through mythical divine creatures and thus created humans. Out of this early animistic belief, came the unique Dragon-and-Phoenix culture of China.
Humanism arrived with passage of time and social development. Gradually dissociated from animistic properties, jade ornaments in the shape of dragon, phoenix, tiger, or eagle, originally symbolic of a clan-family's spiritual gift, or innate virtue, took on new interpretations as Confucian gentlemen's virtues: benevolence, rectitude, wisdom, courage, and integrity.
During the Six Dynasties and the Sui-Tang era consecutive waves of foreign influences arrived and impacted the Chinese jade art significantly. Free from either spiritual or Confucian undertones of jade, newly formed literati class in Song and Yuan dynasties was keen on both nature and humans; their art was in quest of verisimilitude and ultimately truth. Along with realism, however, archaism existed in support of political orthodoxy, popularizing antiquarian styles for jades. Jade carving exemplified the quintessence of Song and Yuan culture Arts and crafts developed into an age of sophistication in Ming and Qing dynasties. Starting in mid-Ming, the region south of the Yangzi River enjoyed great economic prosperity; jade carvings became ever finer and more elegant under the patronage of literati and rich merchants. In the 2nd half of the 18th century, the conquest of the West Territory further gave the Qing court direct access to and control of the Khotan nephrite mines; jadeite also started to come in from Myanmar with the active development by Qin in the southwestern region. Driven by the imperial house's taste, jade carving experienced an unprecedented thriving period.
Throughout the nearly eight-millennium development, jade carvings have first embodied the Chinese ethic of religion that was in awe of heaven and in reverence of ancestors. Then art in pursuit of verisimilitude in both form and spirit peaked after the medieval China, manifesting the academic heritage of Chinese scholars in seeking the intrinsic nature of things. The two concepts jointly attest to our national character as well as the deepest and most profound connotation of the ancient Chinese jades, the art in quest of heaven and truth.