National Taiwan Museum preserves island history, both natural and political
Stars and Stripes March 24, 2023
Taiwan’s oldest museum, established in 1908 with a collection of more than 10,000 items, tells some interesting stories.
At the National Taiwan Museum, you can find out about the island’s history, culture and wildlife within walking distance of Taipei Main Station. Exhibits are spread across a pair of old European-style buildings.
The main building stands in a park the size of several football fields that includes numerous pagodas, a pond, art exhibits and memorials.
Parts of the museum are devoted to indigenous Taiwanese, whose culture has much in common with Polynesians such as impressive carved wooden figures.
One exhibit includes a flag that Japanese troops gave to members of a friendly Taiwanese tribe. The soldiers were deployed to Taiwan after drifting fishermen were killed by indigenous people there in 1874, according to the museum.
Another banner on display is The Blood Flag of the Anticommunist Heroes in Korea. Taiwan didn’t participate in the 1950-53 Korean War but persuaded Chinese communist prisoners of war to defect and come to the island after the conflict ended. The prisoners, according to the museum, wrote hundreds of letters and made flags signed in blood to show their loyalty to Taiwan.
Nearby you can see pens used by Secretary of State John Dulles and Taiwanese Foreign Minister George Kung-chao Yeh to sign the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty on Dec. 2, 1954.
The U.S. military had troops on the island until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter withdrew from treaty. Congress responded by passing the Taiwan Relations Act, which requires the U.S. to sell arms to the island.
Natural history displays include dinosaur bones and a menagerie of stuffed mammals, birds and fish.
A quirky display shows off dozens of statues of Chinese deities abandoned near Taipei’s Lungshan Temple.
Some were likely left by relatives of deceased owners while others may have been dropped off by gamblers whose prayers to win the lottery weren’t answered by the gods, according to the museum.
Most items are in the original museum, but a paleontological collection is housed in an old bank building across the road.
On the QT
Directions: Walk a few blocks south from Taipei Main Station on Gongyuan Road. You will see the museum on your right at No. 2 Xiangyang Road.
Times: Open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Costs: $1 entry fee.
Food: There are numerous restaurants and street vendors on the streets south of Taipei Main Station. Coffee and cake are for sale in the building housing the paleontological collection.
Information: Online: www.ntm.gov.tw/en