The National Palace Museum (aka NPM) in Taiwan has one of the largest collections of Chinese artifacts in the world, and perhaps the finest collection of Chinese art in the world. The museum is open year round and offers tours in many different languages. It is a must see spot for any foreign tourist visiting Taiwan.
The National Palace Museum has over700,000 artifacts in two locations, one in Taipei (where most foreign visitors come, northern branch) and another in Chiayi (less visited southern branch). However only 3,000 artificats can be on display at a time, so the museum rotates artifact displays every two months. This way, you will likely be seeing something different every time you come.
Originally the National Palace Museum was established in 1925 when the Republic of China ruled all of Mainland China, after the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty was expelled from the forbidden city. In 1931, Chiang Kai-shek ordered that the artifacts in the forbidden city be moved to Shanghai, and Later Nanking so that they would not fall into the hands of the Japanese until the Japanese surrendered in 1945. After the Chinese Civil War started that same year, Chiang Kai Shek ordered the artifacts be moved to Taiwan between 1948 and 1949, but not all the artifacts could be sent before the communists seized control of some of the remaining collection. Only 1/5 of the original collection from the forbidden city made it to Taiwan, but they were considered the best of the artifacts.
For ten years the items sat in storage in Taichung until a small viewing hall was built in 1957. In 1965 the current site for the palace museum was established, and has been expanded over the years. The museum also plans further expansions in the future.
The museum is a monument to Taiwan's (the Republic of China's) claim to be the true legitimate government of China, as it preserved and protected these artifacts from the communist destruction of heritage during the Cultural Revolution. China of course claims that the artifacts were stolen. However, the PRC's Forbidden City (also know as the National Palace Museum) and the National Palace Museum in Taiwan have exchanged artifacts since 2009.
8:30 AM to 4:30 PM every day (open till 9:00 PM on Friday and Saturday).
350 NT per person.
Click here for the National Palace Museum's official FAQ.
How to get there:
By MRT/Bus: Take the MRT to Shilin Station on the red line and then take any number of busses
By car/scooter: From central Taipei I recommend driving there via the Ziqiang tunnel in Neihu/Dazhi which goes through the mountain straight to the museum. There is free scooter parking to the right of the entrance and paid car parking across the street.
Please see below:
I have been to the palace museum three times, and every time has been incredible. They switch out the artifacts every three months, so you will never see the same exhibits (except for the really famous ones like the jade cabbage).
At the main entrance is a gate which everyone takes a selfie at.
The actual museum itself is a short walk away.
The museum is built into a mountain, with most of it being off limits storage space.
The main walkway to the palace.
The main entrance and stairway strongly resemble the forbidden city's architecture in Beijing.
A replica bronze cauldron or Ding on display, used for ritual offerings to ancestors and deities.
Next the the museum is an appendage that is rarely used.
The main entrance to the palace is through the pillars under the top balcony.
You cannot bring any water or bags into the museum, so you have to check them with the counter before you go in.
There are four floors to explore in the museum, and it should take the better part of a day if you do it right.
Guide map to the exterior.
I haven't been inside the palace in a while (back when any photography was prohibited, now only flash photography is prohibited), but some of the most precious artwork is always on display. My favorite artwork in the whole museum is the Ivory balls, which are balls within balls within balls of carved scenes; I don't know how they made them. They are on the 1st floor.
On the basement floor you can find a statue of Sun Yat-sen, as well as a gift shop, post office, and children's exhibition.
Gift Shop 禮品店
The gift shop has many replicas of the artifacts inside.
An example of some of the works on sale.
Lots of fake crystal artifacts.
A miniature Jade Cabbage can be yours for 6,000 NT.
Or you can get a set of artifacts to send to your relatives.
Jade pork miniature for sale. Food is everything for Chinese people: 民以食為天.
More fake souvenirs on display.
Post Office 郵局
The post office in the basement floor of the National Palace Museum is special because it is the only one in Taiwan that is open every day throughout the year.
Kids Garden 兒童園地
Also on the basement level is a children's garden that has more kid-friendly displays than what is upstairs. The recommended age is 5 and above.
Kids here can also practice their calligraphy.
And learn about ancient ship building.
There is also a number of children's artwork on display.
The Kids Garden is definitely worth a trip after you are done if you are bringing children along.
Zhishan Garden 至善園
The Zhizhan gardens sit right next to the museum on the right side of the entrance. were completed in 1985 and feature Song and Ming architecture and gardens, incorporating the elements of fengshui.
The garden is closed on Monday, but open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
Admission is free for those with a museum ticket, otherwise you have to put 20 NT into the turnstile to get in.
Map of the garden.
Much of the trail has a covered roof.
Waterfall coming out from under a bridge.
A stone bridge over a pond.
Traditional Song Dynasty turning bridge and pavilion.
A Chinese dragon pillar, symbol of imperial power.
Green tunnel walkway to the left of the museum.
Traditional male and female guardian lions in front of the museum, used widely in Chinese architecture to protect from evil spirits and physical harm.
Falun Gong worshipers meditating on the museum grounds.
On weekends you will definitely see people with billboards letting Chinese tourists know about Tienanmen Square and other anti-communist messages.
It's a bit annoying but at the same time I am glad these messages are being shared to any ignorant mainland Chinese people.
So I have been to the museum twice before photography was allowed. Sorry I have no photos of this inside, but that is for you to find out! Or you can watch the above vlog by a loud shouting young foreigner in Taiwan who knows almost nothing about Chinese history or culture (besides it's "awesome" and "beautiful"), Logan Beck.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to stay tuned for more of our adventures in Taiwan.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.