terça-feira, 9 de outubro de 2012

National Palace Museum, Taipei - Part I

9:30 Arrival at the National Palace Museum. Be sure to be there early so you get a place on the English guided tour.

Our tour guide was very professional and dedicated. Personally, I love History but don't speak Chinese so having the tour guide is a must!

For the purpose of our narrative, we'll call our tour guide Clare. So, Clare started her tour by stating that the museum has China's History that supposedly dates back 8000 years ago. The first period is the Neolithic where we find jade and pottery artefacts. After comes the Bronze period and it's here that we start our tour. Around 1000 AD during the Sung dynasty painters have their names recorded whereas before all were unknown. According to Clare, the Ming dynasty started ruling when Europe was at Renaissance epoch about 1700 AD when we started to create ceramics. The palaces were used by the emperors and in1925 the palace in Beijing saw all of its items being packed and shipped down south due to the Japanese invasion. A civil war between partisans in China also broke out and as a consequence the items were sent to Taiwan, "A ilha Formosa". From now on, people in China would have to travel to Taiwan to see their History.
 So, the National Palace Museum was built and became the home of 680.000 pieces of History made of jade, bronze, ceramics and paper documents. Some of the items are so fragile they are only seen once every four years for about thirty days.

One of the first and most intriguing objects that we see is from the Qing dynasty emperor's toys box, a practical way to show aesthetics and embellishment. At the top centre of the box it's written "u-lu" which means "big luck, fortune" and the fact that coral is used emphasizes that statement. The kind of wood (sandalwood) used to sculpt is according to Clare the best one. The flower represented is the national flower of Taiwan; pine trees, meaning longevity; grapes and seeds, meaning abundant offspring. A lot of double meanings, yes, I know. Another box is shown to us, this time we see deers - in chinese "lu" again meaning "fortune". The next curio box  we see is this one made of sandalwood:
As you can see the box has a jade disc on top and four panels on the sides that move so you can see the inside and its contents. Another box we see it's even more inventive: you can close it in a way to make a circle (cylinder) or a square. Inside you'll find tiny books and scrolls hidden in tiny drawers (yes, where you see the windows at the bottom!). The top is made of bamboo.

Now, we move on to the Ming dynasty paintings. Mr Su Shi was a famous writer, painter and many other things - probably the oriental Leonardo Da Vinci -  from the Song dynasty. He was sent to exile but kept an optimistic point of view, he wrote the "Odes to the Red Cliff" (for more info).

The painting we are looking at has the following description given by Clare: it's October time late in the evening, Mr Su has some friends who came to see him and all is serene. They decide to go out on an excursion but first they need food, so decide to go fishing. We see them at the lake fishing, they come back home, his wife prepares the wine and everything else needed for their picnic. So they go to the "Chibi" - red mountain, it looks very high up. His friends decide not to go up the mountain. Mr Su goes by himself. Suddenly everything moves faster: the wind, water, tree branches. Mr Su feels sad, in panic, it reminds him of the exile. After we see them on a boat and we see a stork flying by. Once home Mr Su dreams of someone asking him how was the excursion, - how do you know, asks Mr Su. The man disappears and Mr Su concludes it must have been the stork that saw them. And voilá!
The landscape paintings are made in scrolls and have several red seals on the left to authenticate to whom they belonged to. They also bear the calligraphy of their owners and personal comments.

Second floor, again we see long landscape paintings that cover the museum walls top to bottom: paint, seals and calligraphy are the 3 main elements.
The "Tang Lady" (Tang dynasty) made of pottery it's a statue that according to Clare is the Mona Lisa of China. She is dressed in a kimono style dress, combed hair, lots of white powder on face and blush on cheeks. Her shoes are pointy so she won't trip over her dress.

 (to be continued...)

quinta-feira, 4 de outubro de 2012

Taiwan - The Outbound Journey

 AMS, Schiphol airport, 12:00 local time: our plane getting ready for take off and more than 11h flight to BKK.

Flight meals

You won't be left on an empty stomach unless you really can't stand the food given on planes. I think I never had so many meals in such a short period of time. It's okay to bring your own empty water bottle and then fill it on the plane, however we didn't use this method, just used the cups provided and the stewardesses were unstoppable offering cups of water.

Meanwhile, crossing time zones

BKK aerial view, ~ 6:15 local time

Finally, off the plane and we can feel the warm, humid air outside. It feels unreal. The signs at the airport are all in Thai and English. First stop is the toilet where we can find these natural beauties:

Next stop is at a snack bar at the airport where they serve mango with sticky rice (yummii!) and fruit salad. We were delighted!

After around 2h wait at the airport finally we will be boarding again the same plane bound to TPE. Most passengers are Chinese/Taiwanese, the Europeans decided to stay in Thailand =) Now our eyelids feel really heavy...

Taipei here we go!

terça-feira, 2 de outubro de 2012

Taiwan - montes de Maokong (hills)

Maokong, em Taipei é a parte mais montanhosa da cidade onde se pode apanhar um teleférico que nos leva por entre o cume dos montes até as plantacoes de chá. Aqui podem-se visitar vários templos e casas de chá e desfrutar de uma waffle com chá local.

Maokong in Taipei is the highest point of the city. It's lush green and you can enjoy the views from the inside of the Maokong cable car that runs through 4km above the hills and on to the tea plantations and temples. Once here you can enjoy local brewed tea with waffles. Be careful if you go at dusk though, because the mosquitos will queue up to check how you taste like.