National Palace Museum, TaipeiI’ve already written an overview of tips  from my vacation with my sons in Taipei, Taiwan last summer.

One of the places you absolutely cannot miss on your visit to the Taiwanese capital is the impressive National Palace Museum (Guoli Gugong Bowuguan).

The museum is considered the world’s greatest repository of Chinese artifacts. The works on display here were once part of the Chinese Emperor’s personal collection, spanning over a period of 5000 years.

National Palace Museum, Taipei, TaiwanOver 600,000 works of art, including precious books and documents, are housed within the National Palace Museum.

At any one time, only a small portion of the art works are on display – they are housed in temperature-controlled tunnels carved into the rocks behind the museum.

The famous cabbage
The famous cabbage

The museum’s crowning glory-at least judging by the crowds of mainland Chinese tourists flocking before it in droves- is the 19th century Qing dynasty Jadeite cabbage with jade insects crawling on its leaves. It was apparently carved to match the colors and imperfections of the jade – a Chinese symbol of purity and virtue.

As my son said, “There are so many more impressive things at the museum, why is this the masterpiece?”

I couldn’t agree more, but since everyone will ask if you’ve seen it, line up in the queue to peer through the glass and judge for yourselves.

2014_June_Taipei5One of the most amazing things about this museum is how the artworks came to be here. The Emperor’s collection was in Beijing, until 1931, when the Japanese invaded. Over 13,000 crates with the most precious works of the collection were snuck out of Beijing and stored elsewhere for safety.

Shortly before Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party fled the mainland, the crates were secretly shipped to Taiwan.

National Palace Museum, Taipei, TaiwanThe vast collection traveled under difficult conditions over 10,000 kilometers from Beijing to its current home in the Imperial Palace, and legend has it that not even one piece of the collection was lost or damaged.

When you finish your visit to the museum, be sure to stop by for a stroll and a rest in the lovely Zhishan Gardens, a 1.5 hectare retreat adjacent to the museum.

Entrance is included with your museum ticket.

National Palace Museum, Taipei, TaiwanZhishan is a classic Chinese garden, filed with colorful carp in the fish ponds. Since fish food is on sale for a few coins, my kids were in seventh heaven feeding the fish and watching them race to the surface to gobble up their snack.

Your kids are bound to love this. Culture and feeding fish, all in one ticket.

The Taipei National Palace Museum is open daily, 9:00-17:00.

To arrive by public transport, take the metro to Shilin, then continue on the 30 bus.