National Palace Museum

What does a newcomer to Taiwan do on her first day off, a paid holiday? She gathers some friends and goes to the National Palace Museum, of course!

One 300NT taxi ride and 30 minutes later, we climb out to witness a jaw-dropping sight: a former palace that now houses thousands of years of Chinese art pieces on three of the four floors of the main building. Someone said that if the exhibits were rotated quarterly for the next 23 years, you would see something new every time and still not see it all – and I believe it.

The National Palace Museum at night

No photo-taking was allowed so my mere words will have to suffice to describe the various items. We saw incredible objects carved  out of every imaginable color of jade. My personal favorite was the [calligraphy] brush wash carved to resemble a curved lotus leaf. The showcase piece was no more than 8″ tall carved out of a single piece of white and green jade to look like bok choi with a little green grasshopper on it. It was apparently part of a bride’s dowry and appeared in all manner of much lesser forms throughout the museums many gift shops!

Bronze cauldrons, copper daggers inlaid with gems, porcelain pillows (pillows?), intricate carved jade, ancient documents, ethereal paintings of mountain scenes (one was at least 50″ long!)-  each item more amazing than the next!

At one point we decided to go to the 4th floor tea house for some sustennance; even the food was a work of art.

Lotus tea with spring rolls and sweets

 

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Songshan Temple

Yesterday, a friend and I made our way (bus 235 on Anhe > Technology building MRT on Fuxing > Zhongxiao Fusing (Blue Bannan line) > Taipei Main Station > TRA to Songshan) to Songshan train station. After shopping at the Melaleuca store, walked down Bade road to the Raohe night market and since it wasn’t open yet, stopped in at the nearby Temple.

Songshan Temple

Songshan Temple is on a main street yet once inside, the everyday worlds seems quite removed.  The noise level is significantly reduced as people, mainly groups, carry burning incense sticks and, holding them to their foreheads, bow and pray to various deities, stunningly set into alcoves on all four floors of the Temple.

Yearly hero Gods

I try to be a casual observer but taking in all the gorgeous colors and sights makes that impossible. Every surface is either carved, inscribed, painted, and/or gilded. One can’t help but feel awe and reverence for the 260-year old building and its inhabitants even if the meaning behind it all is somewhat obscured.

good vs. evil?

Contemplation

I wake up to the sound of rain – not the driving pre-typhoon kind, but a wind-blown spattering of drops on the ground, and people, below. The sky is grey and I can see the leaves on the trees on the balcony across the alley and the lanterns hung across the street below moving in rhythm with each other. It’s still quiet out; I smile, remembering that it’s Sunday and that I can sleep in and do a bit of reading (currently David Gunderson’s The Other) before having to clean the apartment and do laundry (my second least-favorite chore).

I do a lot of thinking in my many solitary moments. Some of it practical (how my family and friends are doing back home) and some of it esoteric (the similarities between the native Taiwanese peoples and the native Americans; how people can have so little, by Western standards, and still be so content) or even “deep” (what is the true essence of a family, how we are all connected on some level).

I open my curtains and watch the sky. Now, instead of just a covering of grey, I can discern subtle color changes in the clouds and even variations of the light coming through them. I feel a bit guilty for laying here when I know I should be DOING something useful. I rationalize: I’m following my own admonishment to become more aware of  my surroundings. So, while the buildings aren’t, at first glance, beautiful, they do, after a while, exhibit a staid solidness, as if they know their place in the organization of things. I suppose that part of my journey half-way ’round the world signifies a vision quest of sorts. My place in the world appears to change from time-to-time and I’m okay with that. It feels right to just BE here. Perhaps I have something to offer that will leave a positive mark on my environment.  I know without a doubt that what I’m learning from each new experience is enriching who I am and necessarily changing how I view and interact with my surroundings…

I see laundry swaying on balconies and am reminded of my own chores. The spell is broken and I start my day.

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…