English Service host John Van Trieste is curious. There’s nothing about Taiwan’s many cultures that he doesn’t want to know more about. Join him every week as he gets to the bottom of yet another question. What will he be curious about this time?
In the space of just one newly renovated wing, the National Taiwan Museum is attempting to do something difficult—present the history and culture of Taiwan through a relatively small number of objects. We’re not exactly big geographically or in terms of our population, but there is a lot to cover— dozens of cultural groups plus centuries of recorded history. It doesn’t help that the museum’s collection is huge, and only two or three items can stand in for a whole period or an entire people. Still, the museum has done pulled it off, sketching a complete picture of how Taiwan as we know it came to be. Today, museum curator Li Tzu-ning is here to give us an overview of what the museum decided to do for this, its latest long-term exhibit.
At just over 36,000 sq. km around with somewhere over 23 million people, Taiwan is small on a global scale. But it is crammed full of enough treasures to fill a museum—the National Taiwan Museum. Since last weekend, visitors can see these treasures on display as never before on a completely refurbished second floor. Rather than place objects in neat rows behind glass cabinets, this new permanent exhibit arranges them in colorful dioramas that make the objects jump out and inspire the imagination. One of the minds behind the design of this new exhibit is museum curator Hsu Yu-chun, who worked on the half that describes Taiwan’s rich natural history. She joins us today for a journey through the exhibit hall, outlining the dramatic story of how Taiwan formed and the rich array of creatures that call it home today.
At the beginning of the year, the National Taiwan Museum sent me a day planner filled with photos of curiosities from its collection. My friends at the museum tell me these historic artifacts and natural specimens will all be going into a big new exhibit long in the making that will open this weekend. There were a few items, though, that attracted my attention, and the museum’s researchers have been kind enough to humor my curiosity about one set of items in particular. These objects tell the story of a practice once common in Taiwan that would be unthinkable today—footbinding. From the age of five or six, girls would have their feet wrapped in increasingly tight bandages that forced the toes downward beneath the soles and stunted the growth of their feet. By adulthood, their feet would be tiny, hoof-like stumps—the smaller, the more worthy of praise according to the beauty standards of the time. Today, Associate Museum Researcher Li Tzu-ning is here to talk about this famous or infamous practice and the objects from the museum collection that tell the story of its demise.
Curator Batsuren Buyanjargal walks us through a new exhibit at Taipei's Mongolian and Tibetan Cultural Center featuring objects and artworks that examine what she calls Mongol people's "homemaking philosophy".
Pass by any temple or old home in Taiwan and you’ll be struck by the rich decorations that adorn the walls and the rooftops. On some of the more modest buildings, it’s the little details that catch the eye, things like intricately painted tiles used to accent a surface. And then there are the flashy carved stone facades of old townhouses or the soaring dragons and depiction of great legends of temples. All of Taiwan’s historic architectural styles have flourishes like these, and a new exhibit at Taipei’s Museum 207 is now here to celebrate them. It also highlights the threat of demolition that faces many of Taiwan’s beautifully decorated buildings and calls on us to tell the government to preserve them. With me today to walk us through the exhibit is its organizer, Wang Chen-yi.