Saturday, September 03, 2005

Come Saturday morning, I'm spending the day with my friend . . .

This guy is having a nap instead of hawking his wares.

The market is verrrry long.


A fountain with fish in it!


Have you ever seen bromeliads this color?

Today we went to the National Palace Museum after breakfast. In the Palace Museum, with back-up storage in valults carved into the mountains, are the art treasures Chang Kai Shek and his lady love, Madam Chang, carried out of China into Taiwan when they retreated there after being soundly trounced by the Communists. But lest you think they were stolen, it was apparently the custom of Madam Chang to carry these treasures, all 17,000 crates of them, around with her when she vacated the capital city for a bit of R&R or especially when escaping the Red Menace. In the hasty KMT's withdrawal of 1949 about 700 crates had to be left behind in Nanjing but no one was worried because after regrouping on Taiwan the army and its fearless leader would retake the mainland and live happily ever after. The communists later berated the KMT and Chang for "stealing" the treasures, but had the KMT not brought them to Taiwan, the Red Guards would surely have razed them on one of their rampages through the country destroying temples, antiques, books, intellectuals, and other reminders of China's bourgeois past. The Communists virtually extinguished China's cultural heritage except for the small (!) collection in Taipei. Thus the artefacts remain here and the National Palace Museum one sees today in Beijing has many recreations (aka copies) for your viewing pleasure, plus the odd item the Red Guards and Madam Chang missed. For more detail and a heck of a good story, see the book with the red shoes on the cover. One of you Harpies needs to comment and give us all its title.

So what are these priceless treasures from which Madam Chang could not be separated? What was so wonderful the woman could not travel down to the beach for a bit of sun and some tequila without? Well you might ask, as this was uppermost in my mind on our approach to the citadel. And except for the odd wine cup or enameled box, I'm at a loss to tell you. A few court necklaces, which are special necklaces that important people are required to wear to court to show their importance. A few earrings from 8000 year ago which were neither shiny nor comfortable looking. But no wonderful heaps of jewels, not a single woman's garment, or man's either, come to think of it. Some calligraphy. Some pretty nice jade carvings and also wood carvings, but not as nice as the ones I've seen in jewelry shops. A bunch of very old bronze pots for cooking out doors. (Maybe she wanted these for the odd barbecue they would throw the soldiers?) Some fingernail covers, which were really gross. about five inches long and curved the way fingernails are bad to do when you grow them too long. And bejeweled. Made me think of those Fu Manchu movies my grandmother would take me to. (Actually, she would take me to whatever movie was showing, and we didn't bother going at the beginning, so it made them all into mysteries as you had to figure out what was going on since you got there in the middle, and then got to see if you were right when it started over. But that's another story . . .)

They had a gracious plenty of paintings, which pretty much all looked alike: old, grouchy looking fat men, one or two beautiful women, hundreds of flowers and mountains and bamboo and the like. Some of them have been "enhanced" when the owner added to the painting or just put his seal or stamp on it somewhere to sort of say "Look at me I own this and it's really swell" which honored the original painter, don't you see. You don't see? Well, it's a stretch for me too, but Peter thought it made perfect sense.

One room had a collection of antique maps but they were on loan from a Japanese-German physician who collects them and aren't part of the national treasure collection. So I'm not getting the part about needing to travel with this stuff. Frankly, I'm astonished that the bunch of KMT guys got away, what with dragging around 17,000 crates of stuff not useful in any sort of military undertaking that I can conceive. And though I'm not old enough to remember, I'm sure the Americans were helping Chang on account of he was against the godless Communists. Our foreign policy may be lousy but it's tried and true, you have to admit. We used to like Saddam because he hated the godless commnunists, but then he got in the way of our oil bidness, and look at him now. We're so busy taking care of him we can't even rescue our own people in New Orleans. But like Mr.Hastert, the speaker of the house, said, we just need to write New Orleans off because it's so much trouble. What were they thinking of, building a city under water? I guess he doesn't know about Venice.

But I digress. After the dazzlement of the national treasures we decided to go to the Jade Market back in town, and it was a treasure its own self. It's about twenty miles long and thirty feet wide and it's full of orchids, bamboo, bonsai plants, cut flowers even including lotus blossoms, buds, and leaves, magnificent carvings of wood and jade, fountains galore, and many miraculous items. I have included a few shots to illustrate it for you. Aren't digital cameras wonderful?

In a few minutes we are going to dinner again, we liked it so much last night!

Peter read my blog and said I looked culturally ignorant when I said the paintings all looked alike. I hope you all know me well enough to recognize when I am trying to inject humor into something. However, the paintings do look very similar because that's the way the Chinese painters wanted them to look. It's a different culture. They don't value originality and think collective work is better than individual, and sometimes it is. I don't personally care for it in painting, and newer Chinese artists do take pride in original work. Is this good or bad? I don't know. Probably neither one, just different.

One more thing--two of the picture are overlapping and I can't figure out how to fix it. But if you double click on any of the picures they will be enlarged so you can see them better, and if you double click on the one behind the other you can see it unobstructed. Sorry, but I don't really know how to do this; the template does everything so I can't fix a screwup. But I'm not complaining as this is great and free and pretty easy!


At 1:14 PM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Pat --

I removed the spam comment (argh!) but I'm not sure what the problem with the pictures is. The coding looks all right, so perhaps it is some kind of glitch with the system. The problem with the "one size fits all" layout.

I'm learning so much from your posts!

At 12:59 AM, Blogger Taiwan's Other Side said...

Hi! Welcome to Taiwan and welcome to the Taiwan blogshpere!

I've added you to my blogroll. If you haven't already found the major blogs in Taiwan, you can check out the list on my blog.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger eliza said...

I am learning too, we have triple bromeliads like that every year for Christmas in the desert, they probably fly them in, like everything else. It's the high season here November - March and produce and things come in from all over the world.


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