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國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum

December 20th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Profile of seated Buddha

Gilt bronze Shakyamuni Buddha, Taihe reign, 477, Wei dynasty

If you are looking for a wonderful getaway for vacation R&R during the holidays, consider Taiwan. Everyone traveling to Asia should consider putting Taiwan on their travel itinerary.

From Japan, the convenience and moderate air travel costs are notable. We flew from Tokyo to Taipei recently at a cost round trip per person of around $500. Against the headwinds the flight takes 3 1/2 hours to Taiwan from Tokyo, and 2 1/2 hours on the return leg.

On both departure and arrival, the distances to and from the airports are short and convenient. From Shinagawa station in Tokyo a direct train runs to Haneda International airport in about 10 minutes. From Taipei Songshan Airport in Taipei to our downtown hotel, the taxi fare was about $3. Yes, taxi fares are inexpensive and drivers are courteous, as are Taiwanese people in general.

Among the many things to do in Taipei, include a visit to the Taipei World Financial Center (101 Building), the 2nd tallest in the world at 509.2 meters.

And of course there is the fantastic Taiwanese dining ranging from classic Chinese dishes like Peking Duck in plush 5-star hotels to a seemingly infinite variety of low-priced, delicious foods served in food stalls and carts or clean, unpretentious restaurants all around town.

A must-see are the night markets, the largest and oldest Shi-lin, with a carnival-like atmosphere. Here, or in other Taipei night markets, you can savor delicious food delicacies like squid stew and oyster omelets, chou dofu (fermented tofu), dumplings of all kinds, Taiwanese sausage, or dou hua, a sweet desert served with almonds, peanuts, red beans or other toppings.

Nearby Taipei, refresh in a soothing hot-spring bath in the Tatun Mountain Range, as at Yangmingshan Hot Spring, in its mild alkaline sulfuric waters.

Jiufen Village

Or visit Jiufen (Jioufen or Chiufen) Village on the Northeast Coast, once a gold mining center in Taiwan. Several movies were shot here among the closely-packed houses clinging to the steep mountainside, including Hóu Xiàoxián’s A City of Sadness, which won first price in the Venice Film Festival. Sip tea in one of the tea houses of the village’s golden past, including Jioufen Tea House (No. 142, Jioufen Old Street, owned by an artist), savor a yam dish, and take in the gorgeous view of Keelung outer sea.

The crown jewel of Taipei is the National Palace Museum, which ranks among the world’s most magnificent museums, and is unquestionably no. 1 for Chinese antiquities (bronzes, jades, ceramics, rare books and documents, calligraphy, painting). Hats off to Chiang Kai-shek for moving this priceless cultural heritage from mainland China to Taiwan in 1949, to escape being ravaged and destroyed by the Maoist Red Guard.

The museum alone is worth a trip to Taiwan, ensconcing more than 650,000 court treasures from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Approximately 15000 of these treasures are on display at any one time in the museum building, open every day of the year from 8:30 to 18:30.

Aside from a permanent collection, the rest of the pieces displayed are rotated three four times a year. Arrive early to beat the crowds, especially on the 3rd floor (room 302) to view the exquisite Jadeite Cabbage, shown here:

Jadeite Cabbage, Qing dynasty( 1644-1911)

This masterful piece is said to have been part of the dowry of Consort Chin in the late Qing dynasty . The cabbage is a metaphor for purity, and symbolizes the purity of the bride. Large and small grasshoppers are camouflaged in the cabbage leaves. The grasshopper, known for its ability to reproduce, symbolizes fertility, a blessing for the bride to have many children.

We went every day to the National Palace Museum when in Taipei on this trip, and will return.

Its splendors  are unforgettable, a few of which are shown here:

Painted enamel copper vase, Yongzheng reign, Qing dynasty

The art of painted enameling dates back to the ancient Egyptians and was popular in many cultures in the West. In this vase of coiled dragons and peonies decoration, yellow, the choice of emperors during the Qing (and Ming) dynasty, is the base color. The peony symbolized the good things of life and was declared the national flower of China in 1903. The clawed dragon represented the emperor and appeared on national flags during the Qing dynasty.

Lidded Jar with Dragon Decoration, Chenghua reign, Ming dynasty

This porcelain treasure in doucai polychrome bears the Tian symbol for heaven.

Porcelain, Ding ware, Northern Song dynasty (960-1127)

This porcelain headrest (pillow) is in the shape of a recumbent child.

Round box with lotus decoration, Jingtai reign, Ming dynasty

This Cloisonné enameled box is composed of filigree work on a copper body. Cloisonné was extremely popular in the Ming dynasty, and was  known as “Ching-t’ai Blue” ware.

Miniature Boat, Qianlong reign, Qing dynasty

In this olive kernel, a carving by Chen Zuzhang, inside  the boat  are the poet Su Dongpo, two other guests, three boatmen, and the helmsman.  You have to use a magnifying glass to see them.

Porcelain Bowl, Yongzheng reign, Quing dynasty

This painted enamel bowl is one of two in the National Palace Museum with willows and swallows decoration.

Porcelain Flask, Yongle reign, Ming dynasty

The underglaze blue on this flask with leaf scrolls decoration is magnificent.

Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)

Single-handled cup and saucer, Porcelain, Jingdezhen ware

Cappuccino?

Song dynasty, late 11 th - early 12 th century

Lotus-shaped porcelain warming bowl, light bluish-green underglaze, from the Northern Song dynasty

Gold, turquoise and coral Mandala, Qing dynasty

This Mandala art form is a Tibetian tribute presented by the fifth Dalai Lama in 1653.

Jin-Liang Fine Standard Measure

This bronze measure, 25.6 cm x 34cm, was crafted in the Xin dynasty (9-24).

Bronze, Late Shang dynasty (c.1300-1046 BC)

Lei wine vessel  with sheep-head high reliefs and knob pattern

Treasure box, Qing dynasty

This sandalwood square treasure box, 25.2 cms x 25.4 cms, contains 32 curios.

Ding Cauldron of Peng Zuding

Bronze, late Shang dynasty (1300-1046 BC)

Hooked Cloud-shaped Ornament

Ding Cauldron of Duke Mao

Bronze, Late western Zhou dynasty (827-782 BC)

Celadon Water Container, Five Dynasties Period (907-960)

Porcelain, Yue Ware

Cong Tube

Jade, late Liangzhu culture (2500-2200 BC)

Brush holder with letter-reading scene

Bamboo attributed to Zhu Sansong, Ming dynasty

Revolving vase with swimming fish decoration

Porcelain, gold tracery on blue glaze, Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty

Bell of Zong Zhou

Bronze, late Western Zhou dynasty (853-842 BC)

Mdong-mo Butter-Tea Ewer

Qianlong reign, Qing dynasty, gold, cloisonné and painted enamels

Congxing Inkstone, Song dynasty (960-1279)

Duan stone, Su Shi’s poem inscribed

Bixie Auspicious Beast

Jade, Eastern Han dynasty (25-220)

Square Food Container of Ya-chou

Bronze, late Shang to early Zhou dynasty

Hu Vessel with tubular legs, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279)

Porcelain, Guan ware, light bluish-green glaze

Square Gu Wine Vessel

Bronze, Late Shang to early Zhou dynasty

Vase with floral pattern

Lacquer, carved red ware, Yongle reign (1403-1424), Ming dynasty

Square Wine Vessel of Zu

Bronze Mid-western Zhou dynasty (c. 976-878 BC)

Plate with Nine Dragon Motif

Lacquer, carved polychrome ware, Jiajing reign (1522-1566), Ming dynasty

Cup in the shape of a lotus leaf

Jade, Southern Song to Ming dynasty (12th-14th c.)

Bowl with Peony Scrolls decoration

Porcelain, underglaze blue, Hongwu reign (1368-1398), Ming dynasty

Globular vase with arabic script decoration

Porcelain, underglaze blue, Zhengde reign (1506-1521) Ming dynasty

Vase with 100 Deer motif

Porcelain, Wanli reign (1573-1620), Ming dynasty

Zun vessel 15th c., Ming dynasty

Porcelain, Jun ware, lilac purple glaze

Monk's Cup Ewer

Porcelain, ruby red glaze, Xuande reign (1426-1425), Ming dynasty

"Cha-tou" planter with sky blue glaze

Chün ware, Chin to Yüan dynasty (1115-1368)

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

Phantom of the Opera

December 6th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General

Marc Chagall Paysage au Coq 1958

I am reminded of Marc Chagall not only because he is among my favorite artists but also because he painted the ceiling of the Opera House of Paris, about which Gaston Leroux wrote his novel and Andrew Lloyd Weber immortalized it in arguably the best musical ever (Evita would get my second vote).

I have seen Phantom many times in New York and watched the movie version, and it is always a fresh experience to listen to this music. This evening, my wife and I enjoyed the 25th anniversary production of the Phantom performed at the Royal Albert Hall. It was the movie production that we enjoyed in the comfort of the Toho Theaters in Roppongi Hills, in Premier seating, exquisite sound, comfy seats, complete with a glass of wine. For a movie, it can’t get any better.

The most delightful treat of this performance was the encore: teary-eyed, Andrew Lloyd Weber appears to give tribute to the Phantom, and Sarah Brightman from the original London cast sings “Phantom of the Opera.”  In addition four other “Phantoms” sing “The Music of the Night.”

It this performance does not leave you goose bumped, few, if any, musicals will.



©2011 Warren J. Devalier