TAIPEI (Taiwan Today) -- The Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum is the most significant recent addition to Taiwan’s cultural landscape. Opening its doors in December 2015 following more than a decade of planning and construction, the institution in Chiayi County’s Taibao City has received nearly 3 million visitors.
According to Lu Ching-rong, chief curator of NPM’s Department of Southern Branch, the museum was established to balance cultural resources between north and south, as well as stimulate arts, economic, educational, social and tourism development in central and southern Taiwan. “Our aim is to promote the museum’s priceless treasures and local culture on the world stage,” he said.
Founded in 1965, NPM manages a collection of 700,000 antiquities ranging from calligraphy, embroidery, jade and lacquer pieces to books, bronzes, ceramics and paintings spanning some 7,000 years from the Neolithic to modern era. While the museum’s headquarters in Taipei City focuses on displaying Chinese cultural treasures, the Southern Branch showcases artifacts from diverse Asian civilizations.
Traditional Asian creative values encompassed in Buddhist art are spotlighted in an exhibition at the Southern Branch. (Taiwan Today photo/Jimmy Lin)
Of the Chiayi facility’s five permanent exhibitions, four explore cultural evolution across the continent. These comprise a multimedia introduction to Asian art as well as collections of artifacts on the art and culture of tea, Buddhist art and textiles.
In contrast to these macro-level examinations of Asian cultural development, the fifth permanent exhibition zeroes in on the history of Chiayi. Assembled using a multimedia approach, it spotlights the region’s arts, culture and religious customs through animated films, antique maps, artifacts and historical documents.
Exhibitions such as “The Far-Reaching Fragrance of Tea” utilize the latest multimedia effects. (Taiwan Today photo/Jimmy Lin)
Whereas once visitors typically made Alishan National Scenic Area the sole stop on their Chiayi itinerary, the addition of the Southern Branch is encouraging more comprehensive explorations of the region.
According to Hsu Yo-jen, director-general of Chiayi County’s Culture and Tourism Bureau, the inauguration of the museum marked a major milestone in the region’s sustainable tourism development. “It adds a world-class resource that complements existing well-known attractions such as the historic Alishan Forest Railway.”
Lu said that in countries around the globe, constructing world-class museums has proven successful at driving economic transformation and cultural revitalization. “Chiayi County’s aging population, caused in part by the departure of young people to the cities, is imperiling its agriculture-based economy,” he said. “Through leveraging NPM’s extensive collections and international reputation, we want to bolster Chiayi’s cultural tourism sector and promote its economic rejuvenation.”
The Children’s Creative Center at the museum features interactive displays on ceramics, textiles and tea utensils. (Taiwan Today photo/Chin Hung-hao)