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TAIPEI

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artist village taipei
colorful studio

The weather is in it’s most volatile stage. Leaving the cooler days of spring and entering the humidity of summer leaves the skies open to a sudden down pour. Storms are always rolling in the clouds above. Today the rain is at least consistent. The skies grey since the sun attempted to rise. Lingering in a capsule hotel can bring on cabin fever. I’m not in the mood to shop. I read about an artist village on Treasure Hill and decided to walk in the rain until I found it.

Minutes in my shoes are wet through. I glance into shops in case I spot a very light weight waterproof coat. Traveling in rainy season when the climate is sub tropical means being as light as possible. Taipei has an amazing public transport system so do not be fooled into thinking the only way to this village is on foot. Regardless of the weather I always prefer to walk. Seeing the ‘everyday’ can only  really be done on foot.

artist village taipei
house of blades

The artist village is slightly tucked away. Although a spot frequented by tourist it is not like other commercial art scenes and so not sign posted. I decided to follow the graffiti. After a few uncertain wanderings down alleyways that lead to nowhere I saw the familiar gates to a temple. Having read that a temple resides close by I followed the route. Ascending a narrow path I entered a deserted collection of small buildings. I’m unsure as to how this area would look on a sunny day. It may be bustling with art seekers climbing up and down the many levels but today I’m surrounded in silence.

artist village taipei
world of imagination

The silence eerily suits the first sculpture I come across. A house of blades with a picture of a married couple. The structure is neatly composed of meat cleavers. There are a thousand messages a couple could take from this. The back drop is graffiti on the wall. Strange characters from the minds of creatives. This abandoned village is quite in contrast to its industrial surroundings.

I freely wander the alleys. Although it’s often my preference to wander alone, I’m slightly disappointed that the artist studios are all locked behind closed doors. Maybe it is just the weather or there are certain days that are better to visit. I would still recommend anyone looking to be inspired outside of the usual gallery to find themselves here, in rain or shine. Taipei has a few culture and art parks but this is one place that is unique against the rest.

artist village taipei
lonely bunny

The artist village, although resembling a forgotten place today, is actually a revamped area. Once being home to a community of squatters it is now a collection of studios for artist in residence to occupy for a period of 8-12 weeks. It is like walking through a nature maze intertwined with a haphazard collection of buildings, stacked upon each other and held in place with vines. The site itself is beautiful ground for photographers to walk and capture its quirkiness.

artist village taipei
IV drips and literature

Making my way down the staircases that occasionally end on rooftops, I find a platform overlooking a park. The small bridge crossing is unfortunately closed due to collapsing. I observe the walls of graffiti instead before heading out of this artist oasis back into the city. Although its raining and I haven’t seen a soul for at least two hours, Treasure Hills Artist village has been a perfect break from the bustling city. The area combines history with art and won’t disappoint to inspire anyone with a spark of creativity.

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artist village taipei
cinema
artist village taipei
resident bear
artist village taipei
graffiti walls
National Palace Museum paintings

In my youth museums meant old buildings that commanded silence and obedience. As I gained in curiosity this notion expanded to being transported to a world once only seen on the pages of encyclopedias. Walking under the fossil bones of creatures who no longer inhabit this earth opened my eyes to the wonder of museums and I’ve not looked back since. Museums are classrooms of topics and time periods that would perhaps lay undiscovered to us had we not stumbled into these buildings that often carry their own unique history.

National Palace Museums Ancient sculptures

Taipei, like most cities, houses countless museums. Whether it be the first museum to collect miniatures in Asia that takes your fancy or if you wish to delve into the world of Taiyuan puppet theater, Taipei has it all. Ancient artifacts, modern art, motion graphics and traditional crafts are all accessible in Taipei. If your time here is short and you want to wander through museums at your own pace rather than rush through a check list, the two I recommend are The National Palace Museum and The National Taiwan Museum.

The National Palace Museum

The National Palace Museum as a piece of architecture is just as grand as the collection of artifacts that it holds. The museum is home to the largest collection of Chinese art. It’s vast collection includes paintings, calligraphy, ceramics and jade objects. Much of the collection is on rotation but some of the most popular items are always on display and include the famous Jade Cabbage.

Famous Jade Cabbage

One of the most appealing aspects of this museum is the historical range of its collection. Even within a single category the pieces range over multiple dynasties. It is not just artwork on display here but the culture of the people it belongs to. Originally founded in 1925 in the Forbidden City in Beijing, the museum moved its collection in light of the impending Japanese invasion. After several locations the collection became firmly rooted in Taiwan and has been here for more than 60 years. No matter the age of the artifact presented, each carries a story.

The National Taiwan Museum
National Taiwan Museum

The National Taiwan museum was established in 1908 and is the oldest museum in Taiwan. It’s location is in 228 Peace Park. The museum is the only museum built in Japanese colonial era that, after wars and changes in government, remains open at its original site. Upon entering the museum you will find yourself in an elegant  Renaissance-style hall making for quite a mix in style between the exterior and interior styles. All part of this museums charm.

As with The National Palace Museum, there are permanent collections that are home to the National Taiwan Museum. There are also special collections that exhibit here and I was lucky enough to catch the Exquisite Stones of Formosa exhibit. This exhibition showcases the extraordinary collaboration of nature and artist to produce exquisite literary works on stone for decoration. These stones look like ink paintings of China’s stunning landscapes with vibrant colors that create depth on the smooth surfaces.

Stone art of Formosa
National Palace Museum Ceramics

Across the road stands another example of hybrid architecture. Gliding between 13 stout columns you can observe the blend of classical western and traditional Taiwanese pavilion style design elements of this grand building. Here is the Land Bank Exhibition Hall which is included in the ticket price of the National Taiwan Museum. It is the largest exhibition space of northern Taiwan dedicated to paleo-organisms. There are permanent exhibitions in evolution and architecture, history and ethnic groups and Taiwan’s bio-diversity.

National Taiwan Museum Stone art exhibition

If those museums don’t sound appealing to you you won’t have to go far to come across another. Taipei is a city that presents a perfect example of art and culture. But from one museum lover to another, I promise the museums listed will not disappoint and are but a fraction of what is on offer here in Taipei.

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National Taiwan Museum stone sculpture
National Palace Museum artifacts
Land Bank Exhibition Hall Evolution exhibition

With a skyline of contemporary buildings, crowned by the impressive Taipei 101 skyscraper, it’s hard to envisage a world outside of glass, steal and concrete. And yet Taipei’s modern structures are woven with the greenery of old trees reflecting in ponds. Songs of birds echo on the falling leaves that glide gracefully to sit on the water where turtles camouflage themselves with statuesque poise. A 10 minute walk from my hotel and I reach 228 peace park, one of the many parks you wander across when roaming the steets. Under various ruling this parks name has changed, becoming 228 peace park in 1996 in recognition of one of the pivotal events in Taiwanese modern history, which began here.

parks and pavilions

Strolling the pathways that lead to pavilions and shrines, this park is an eclectic blend of cultural history, modern art and memorials. Dark shadows move in the bushes and reveal themselves to be curious squirrels. Old men exercise among the trees as children point gleefully to every turtle they discover in the ponds. The park holds two museums; the Taiwan National Museum which currently holds a magnificent collection of cut stone art, and a museum dedicated to the 228 incident.

White Terror Memorial

February 28th 1947 was the beginning of an anti-government uprising. Violently suppressed by the government, thousands of civilians lost their lives. The estimated number of Taiwanese who fell is around 10,000. This marked the beginning of the White Terror period where tens of thousands more Taiwanese went missing, died, or were imprisoned. Being one of the most important events in Taiwanese modern history it came up in a conversation with a friend as we wandered through the park discussing Taiwan’s independent movement.

memorial in trees

I had walked in this park alone the first time I discovered it. I looked upon its beauty as I do with every park. I chose the grand building of the Taiwan National museum to explore over the 228 peace park memorial museum. If it wasn’t for exploring this park again with a local friend I would have looked at its memorials and appreciated them only as art and not symbols of the devastation once felt by the people of Taiwan.

The incident, once a taboo topic, is now openly discussed since the early 1990s. It has become the subject for many artists and musicians and stories told in both film and literature. Yet, I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing of it. Visiting as a tourist I feel you can be excused of educating yourself on every aspect of the country you visit, you have

Art of 228 peace park

less time and generally the desire to unwind from your daily life. But as a traveler choosing to call a country home for a period of time it would be reprehensible to neglect enriching yourself with the history that surrounds you and merely look upon the beauty of the places that hold the past.

There are many beautiful parks within Taipei that offer perfect refuge from the bustling city. But when you come across one such as 228 peace park stop for a moment. Look past the modern structures and see the memorial. See the story that lies here and know the people who have gone, not just those who are wandering the pathways along side you.

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Memorial art
modern memorial
228 peace park museum
Taiwan National Museum

One of my last blog posts; Hiking Tiger Leaping gorge, and meeting a friend a few days into landing in the diverse, cosmopolitan city of Taipei, sparked two separate conversations. Both quite sensitive politically and both far beyond my knowledge of the history involved.

Taipei city

I had stated that Lijiang was the start of a new adventure and a fair-well to China. Yet, my feet have landed on Taiwanese soil. My statement wasn’t total ignorance, but maybe incorrect to one and sensitive to another. The Peoples Republic of China is a united ‘One China’ and Taiwan is a state longing for independence. My closest Chinese friend felt that I should alter the sentence. I left it with maybe too little thought given to the notion that it may offend. A few days later I’m walking through Chiang Kai shek Memorial Hall with a Taiwanese friend asking if Taiwan considers itself apart of China. She explained the delicacy of the question and I realized the little knowledge I had regarding the situation.

Taipei winding streets

I wandered through the galleries and museums of Taipei to gain an insight into the history. Walking through the streets alone you become acquainted with the past that still lives here. Taipei is a city that has tremendous pride; in its triumphant and tragic history. Memorials stand proud and the buildings of influence of those that once ruled are restored and reworked in a way to give them life again.

Of course Taipei, being a cosmopolitan city, offers more than just its history. The city is progressive. Its tolerance is something I’ve not experienced in China. The openness of the people and their excepting nature of the LGBT community are just a glimpse of the positivity that Taiwan holds in its uncertain future. The people are the most warm and friendly you could meet. Linger for too long at a map and someone will be beside you ensuring you are not lost.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

Living in Fuzhou, Fujian, I’ve missed turning a street corner and being able to find a gallery or museum. Taipei is full of them. From the vast collection of ancient artifacts held in the National Palace Museum, to the contemporary exhibition of motion graphics at MOCA. For any art lover, historian and culture seeker, Taipei is a city that won’t disappoint.

After a day of drinking in the culture the evenings come alive. Night markets, restaurants, clubs and bars; all are plentiful in Taipei and you are sure to find whatever it is that will satisfy your appetite. For me this is why Taipei is the most perfect blend of cosmopolitan life, warm, proud people and home of some of the most exquisite example of traditional Taiwanese craft. I highly recommend a visit. It was MUIU capsule inn that brought me here. My first experience of a capsule hotel and a revisit to working in design.  I can truly say Taipei offered the perfect environment for inspiration.

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National Palace Museum
MOCA Taipei
Longshan Temple