sightseeing a little (finally)

Boxing Day is ending here; I suppose most of y’all in the States are still sleeping off the ham or turkey or Chinese food. We finally got around to going out and doing a bit of sightseeing, in a small way. We went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, or rather, as of the beginning of this month, Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. (An unfortunate choice of name; I’m sure they didn’t mean to imply that democracy in Taiwan is deceased and in need of a memorial.) It’s in a nicely landscaped park with the National Concert Hall and National Theater; unfortunately both of those are being renovated at the moment and have scaffolding and draperies hiding most of the buildings. There may have been a protest going on; at least, there were lots of people sitting on the ground in front of the complex and a lot of yellow signs, but no one appeared to be particularly emotional and we couldn’t tell what the signs said. (According to the Wikipedia site linked above, there’s still some disagreement as to who should have jurisdiction over the hall.) The day was cloudy, so we didn’t take many photos; I’ll post one of the few we took if they turn out better than I expect.

We began with the Concert Hall, which turned out to be unexpectedly commercial. In addition to he Hall itself, it houses a restaurant, bookstore (part of the Eslite chain, though it did seem to be specializing in music and theater), silver jewelry shop, gift shop and cafe. There wasn’t a lot to see there, so we walked on to the Memorial Hall. There we saw an exhibition of some very intricate jade and other stone carvings (most of which were also for sale) and a large exhibit of drawings o traditional warriors, students, maidens, and laborers, with the faces and a few other focal points colorized, and calligraphy above each one. I think they were probably meant to tell a story but again, we had no way to tell.

The Chiang Kai-shek exhibit itself was obsequious but surprisingly lackluster. I mean, the National palace Museum can stand next to ay museum in the world for the quality of its exhibits, not just its contents; in contrast, this one looked like something set up in a small town’s museum and not altered since Chiang’s death in 1975. The glimpses into history were interesting: his partnership with Sun Yat-sen, a couple of wonderful etched ivory miniature portraits (one of Sun Yat-sen made entirely of the words of his own will), pictures with assorted dignitaries, and medals presented from what seemed like most of the countries in the world. The presentation was somewhat amateurish, though, and I think some of those artifacts are not quite being protected as well we they should be (the most important documents on display were duplicates, though).

Afterward we walked over to the Chinese Handicraft Promotion Center. We managed not to spend too much money (we still don’t have a bank account here, so we still haven’t gotten paid) but now we know where to go for several different kinds of pottery, leatherware, jade, glass art, paintings, silks, and assorted other souvenirs.

One Response to “sightseeing a little (finally)”

  1. Peg Says:

    *wince* Yes, the new name of the hall is unfortunate, but I’m glad there has been an effort made to remove the general’s name. My mother says that, due to censorship, she didn’t learn the extent of Mr. and Mrs. Chiang Kai-Shek’s misdeeds (including widespread censorship) until she left Taiwan.

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