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HOME > CENTRAL TAIWAN > TAICHUNG CITY > ARTS & LEISURE >
C U L T U R E
 

Compass Magazine, September 2002

Chi Mei Museum,
a Family Destination

by Karen Schmitt

       A trip to Chi Mei Museum is like stepping into Grandma's attic, with a mix of cherished items from Europe,Asia and the Americas. And, like Grandma's attic, there are surprises at every corner. The first is location. The Museum is set amidst a sprawl of factories producing everything from polymers to processed foods. This is the heart of Chi Mei Corporation and doors open wide to the founder's collection. Worlds of discovery await young and old alike.

      Musical instruments and medieval weaponry make great starting points. A cello signed by Antonio Stradivari (1730) wins hushed admiration from connoisseurs, but kids are drawn to an assortment of music boxes, upright pianos, banjos and organ grinders playing all sorts of tunes. Melodies from the Nickelodeon (ca 1920, USA) recreate a carnival-like atmosphere and days when the traveling circus came to town. Nearby, a knight in shining armor (16th century), Dutch matchlocks (c.1640), German crossbows (c.1580) and more capture attention.
      Ancient relics stimulate learning, and there are plenty here from dinosaur eggs to mummies. Of particular interest is a Chinese jade burial suit of small tiles knitted together to cover face, body, hands and feet (Han Period, ca 3rd century BC). The overall impression is of an astronaut ready for launch to the moon. Youngsters are surprised to learn that it was used to keep the body whole for afterlife.

      Lions, tigers, bears and more lurk in the shadows of recreated dioramas. Predator and prey appear side by side in startling arrangement, which generates excitement. Other displays feature birds and butterflies, geodes and gemstones, and exotic native wildlife (Formosan Black Bear, Cloud Leopard, and Mountain Badger) for a close-up look at our natural world.

      Chi Mei is most famous for its collection of Western paintings, sculpture and furnishings. But unlike focused museums, with room upon room of artworks, examples are presented in manageable spaces - definitely more accommodating to young visitors. Critics will note the lack of celebrated names, yet pieces are representative and provide an excellent framework for comparing themes, styles and techniques throughout the ages.

      It's said that over 4,000 people come to the Museum weekly. This writer ventured out on a typical Wednesday morning to test the claim and found lines of buses and hundreds of people in queue. Chi Mei is well equipped to handle the crowds with elevators and spacious galleries filled to the brim. The lunchroom serves set menus, drinks, and desserts at reasonable prices (Sirloin Steak Strips with Noodles or Rice, NT$80), and the gift shop is stocked with books, souvenirs and toys. Concert performances are even staged the last Sunday of the month. The only drawback for western visitors is the lack of English language material.

      Chi Mei collections are found outside the Museum as well. "Hero-Adoration-Beauty" is on view until September 8th at Tainan's New Life Square. Anping Fort houses weapons on permanent display, and a branch Museum at Tainan's Science Park shares archaeological remains uncovered at the site along with other goodies. From Oct.16- Jan.19, prints and drawings will be on view at Kaohsiung's Museum of Fine Arts. And this January, Chi Mei will provide loan to Taipei's National Palace exhibit, "Formosa-Taiwan, Holland and SE Asia in the 17th Century".

Address: 59-1 San-Chia, Jente Village, Tainan County
Phone: 06-266-3000
Hours: 10am - 5pm; Closed Mondays and holidays
PARTICULARS
Reservations recommended for groups
English, Mandarin or Japanese-speaking guides may be requested in advance.
Admission: Free
http://www.chimei.com.tw/e-index.htm

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