National Taiwan Museum in Taipei City

One of the most enjoyable experiences I had during my time in Taiwan was visiting museums. It was a great way to escape the extreme heat and occasional rain showers while also learning about the country’s rich history and culture. Taipei, in particular, has an impressive collection of public and private museums that offer a glimpse into various aspects of Taiwan’s past and present.

National Taiwan Museum front view

One of the most noteworthy museums in Taipei is the National Taiwan Museum. Located in the heart of the city, the museum complex boasts an impressive western-style building that is hard to miss. It houses both permanent and temporary exhibitions that showcase Taiwan’s history, culture, and natural environment. The museum is within walking distance of Taipei’s main station and the presidential palace, making it a convenient stop for tourists and locals alike.

Main entrance of National Taiwan Museum

The history behind National Taiwan Museum

The National Taiwan Museum building is a masterpiece of western neoclassical architecture. Despite its appearance, the building was constructed during Japan’s colonial period in Taiwan, in 1915. The Japanese government sent many students abroad during the Meiji Restoration era in Japan to learn about western ways of life and various scientific fields, including architecture. The purpose was for them to bring back their newfound knowledge to Japan to strengthen the country. However, upon their return, they found that their fellow Japanese locals were not particularly fond of western-style buildings, leaving them with no opportunity to practice what they had learned. But Japan had Taiwan, which was a colony at that time, and so the Japanese architects were sent there to express their creativity. As a result, many western-style buildings were constructed in Taiwan, including the National Taiwan Museum.

Initially, the National Taiwan Museum building served as a memorial for two Japanese officials who were considered to be the most important figures in Taiwan’s modernization. In 1908, the Japanese also moved the museum of natural history to the building, renaming it the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office Museum. Since then, the National Taiwan Museum has been the oldest continuous museum in Taiwan, attracting locals and tourists from all over the world.

Taiwan Governor-General's Office Museum (present day Nation Taiwan Museum), at the end of the Qian Guan Road during the Japanese colonial period.
Taiwan Governor-General’s Office Museum (present day Nation Taiwan Museum), at the end of the Qian Guan Road during the Japanese colonial period.

National Taiwan Museum today

Visitors to the museum will be pleased to know that the entrance fee is only 30NT$, which is quite a bargain considering the wealth of knowledge that can be gained from the exhibits.

In addition to the neoclassical architecture, the National Taiwan Museum is also known for its impressive collection of artifacts that showcase the rich history and culture of Taiwan. The museum’s collection is diverse and includes objects ranging from ancient pottery and bronze ware to contemporary art pieces. Visitors can expect to learn about the evolution of Taiwan’s society, economy, and culture through the exhibits.

National Taiwan Museum main hall

One of the most interesting exhibits at the museum is the “Taiwan Aborigines” exhibit, which provides a fascinating insight into the indigenous tribes that have inhabited Taiwan for centuries. The exhibit showcases their traditional way of life, including their customs, beliefs, and art forms. Visitors can also learn about the challenges that these indigenous communities have faced in modern times, such as loss of land and cultural assimilation.

Another notable exhibit at the National Taiwan Museum is the “Taiwanese Customs and Beliefs” exhibit, which provides an in-depth look at the traditional customs and practices of the Taiwanese people. The exhibit includes displays of Taiwanese festivals, traditional clothing, and religious practices, as well as an explanation of the significance behind these customs.

The National Taiwan Museum is also home to a number of temporary exhibits throughout the year, which are curated to highlight various aspects of Taiwan’s culture and history. These exhibits are always changing, so visitors can expect to have a new experience each time they visit the museum.


Main hall of the National Taiwan Museum
Main hall of the National Taiwan Museum

If you’re interested in learning more about the museum, the museum offers English tours every Sunday afternoon, which are free with the cost of admission. The museum may also offer tours in other languages, although there is no fixed schedule, and tours will be organized based on the needs of visitors. To keep up to date with the museum’s schedule, check their Facebook page.

If you’re based in Taipei for work, study, or living, the museum offers a unique opportunity to explore its building by becoming a tour guide yourself. Twice a year, the museum recruits volunteers to become docents. The program requires a two-week training that covers lectures on giving a tour and various topics related to Taipei’s history and museums. After completing an easy written test and a tour trial, you’ll get a chance to give tours in English or any other language you speak to foreign visitors.

Poster from the Summer 2020 International Docent Training program
Poster from the Summer 2020 program

I’ve personally gone through the program and learned a lot about Taiwan that I wouldn’t have found elsewhere. The program is laidback, with only a few hours of classes and memorizing three pages of information for the trial tour. During the actual tour, you’ll have to follow the museum’s guideline, but you’re free to personalize it as long as the information is accurate and fits within 30 minutes. You’ll also get to meet locals and foreigners alike (Taiwanese fluent in English are welcome). The best part? The program is entirely free, so there’s nothing to lose even if you don’t pass the qualifications.

Overall it is a great museum, and you should definitely visit it. This museum is a part of a museum complex that includes 3 other museums; the National History Branch, the Nanmen Branch, and the recently open, Railway Department Branch. I will probably do a review on those 3 other branches in the future.Β 

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