Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Chinese Treasures on Loan to Taiwan: Part Two

by Kathryn Hadley

Taipei’s National Palace Museum made the news just over a month ago, following the first ever formal visit by a delegation from the museum to its counterpart from Beijing’s Palace Museum. As a result of the visit, China agreed to loan 29 of its national treasures to Taiwan. The exchange was the first such cultural exchange in 60 years, ever since the end of the Chinese civil war, and was viewed as a sign of improved relations between the two countries, in particular since Taiwan’s new President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May last year. The majority of the National Palace Museum’s collection was formed, however, when the nationalist party retreated to Taiwan during the civil war, taking some of China’s treasures with it.

Last week, Reuters reported record numbers of Chinese visitors to the museum, eager to see some of the treasures taken from China. The overwhelming numbers of Chinese tourists notably forced the museum to implement crowd control measures, including a queuing system and rules for the crowds to be silent. The museum has recently received as many as 15,000 visits a day and a record of 63,277 Chinese tourists visited the museum in March. The figures have tripled since the previous month, with just 21,000 Chinese visits to the museum in February.

Museum director Chou Kung-shin explained:

‘We've made some special plans to spread [the visitors] out. Sometimes they talk
loudly, but we have our means of letting them know not to.’

There are also plans for the museum to be expanded by more than five hectares over the next four years, adding structures for more exhibits, as well as a tea house and hotel. The museum is one of the most popular attractions for Chinese tourists.

Anthony Liao, a tour operator and Taipei Association of Travel Agents official described how for Chinese visitors:

'Their first reaction is that these treasures were taken out of China. But for
them Taiwan isn't another country. It's domestic.'

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