Museums, tracing their roots back to the Greek ‘museion’, have long served as repositories of human culture, art, and history. In Asia, the cradle of some of the world’s oldest civilizations, museums offer a unique window into a rich historical and cultural heritage.
Now, let’s embark on a journey through time and culture as we explore three of the most fascinating museums in Asia.
1. The National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum in Taipei is considered one of the four great international museums of human culture (alongside the Louvre in Paris, The Met in New York, and The British Museum in London, England). The museum houses the largest collection of Chinese artifacts in the world, concentrating 8,000 years worth of artifacts. The depth of the collection is so vast, displays are rotated once every three months and it takes 12 years to display the collection in its entirety.
If you’re wondering why the world’s largest collection of Chinese artifacts are located on the island of Taiwan and not in mainland China, we have to look back on China’s cultural revolution. During the 1940s Chang Kai Shek’s nationalists retreated to Taiwan and carried with them treasures from the Forbidden City in Beijing. To avoid the usual crowds, our Taiwan Tour itinerary is specially designed for an early visit.
Fun fact: When not on display, the pieces are actually stored in steel underground vaults tunneled into the mountain behind the museum.
Two of the best known pieces of art include the Jade Cabbage and the Meat-Shaped Stone.
2. The Itchiku Kubota Museum
Itchiku Kubota Museum is a small gallery dedicated to the intricate works of the textile artist of the same name. At an early age, Kubota was deeply inspired by the ancient tsujigahana (1300-1600AD) style of textile decoration. He made it his life’s mission to recreate this lost art form of textile dyeing and designing.
His most famous work, the “Symphony of Light” kimono display was supposed to be 80 kimonos that when displayed together would appear as one image. Unfortunately Kubota passed away before completing all kimonos. Pieces of the display were exhibited at the Smithsonian in Washington DC in 1995. The display is not to be missed, but even the building and gardens are attractions themselves. Enjoying a refreshing afternoon tea in the beautiful setting is a great way to rejuvenate your mind and body. We visit this museum on our Japan Kanto and Japan Classic Tour.
Fun fact: Itchiku Kubota Museum has been honored with a 3-star Michelin award.
3. The Shaanxi History Museum
The Shaanxi history Museum recreates Tang-dynasty architecture and covers over 700,000 square feet. Shaanxi was the ancient imperial capital of China thus making the area rich in cultural artifacts and relics such as bronze wares, pottery figures, and mural paintings in Tang tombs. The city was the seat of government for 13 feudal dynasties and the museum successfully symbolizes the great extent of Shaanxi’s history.