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U L T U R E
Magazine, September 2002
a Family Destination
by Karen Schmitt
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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".
59-1 San-Chia, Jente Village, Tainan County
Hours: 10am - 5pm; Closed Mondays
Reservations recommended for groups
English, Mandarin or Japanese-speaking guides may be requested