Taiwan Fun Magazine, February 2003   

Beauty from the sea: A visit to the world¡¦s first precious coral art museum

By Cheryl Robbins

       Precious coral (¶Q­«ÂE¹B¬À·ä), which ranges in color from white to pink to deep red, gets its name from the fact that it is not abundant in nature and, thus, very hard to obtain. It is found in deep-sea areas and grows in piece form, usually with fine branches, unlike normal coral reefs (³yÁG¬À·ä), which are typically found in warm, shallow waters and grow out in thick branches. Precious coral is used to make art and jewelry pieces, while some coral reefs are tourist and diving attractions.

       The Lucoral Museum, which opened 18 years ago, was the first of its kind in the world and is one of the holdings of the Lucoral & Lupearl Corporation (¤jªF¤s¬À·äÄ_¥ÛªÑ¤À¦³­­¤½¥q). This corporation was established in 1963 by the Lu family and originally provided precious coral jewelry for the domestic market. During the past 40 years, the Lu family has trained most of the island¡¦s master coral craftsmen, many of whom have contributed works to the Lucoral Museum. Today, Lucoral & Lupearl is a multinational corporation run by the founder¡¦s 11 children as well as their grandchildren, and includes freshwater and saltwater pearl farms in mainland China; R&D centers in Taipei and the U.S.; and two Lucoral museums, the first located in Taipei and the second located in Hawaii.

      Taipei¡¦s Lucoral Museum can be found in the basement of the Lucoral & Lupearl Building on NanJing East Road, near the NanJing East Road MRT station. The first floor of the building looks like a typical jewelry store with its bright displays of pearl, coral, amber, jade, diamond and gold designs. However, if you look closely at the display windows, you will find exhibitions by local artists and jewelry designers.

       To get to the entrance of the Lucoral Museum, head to the back of this showroom to a staircase on the right. Take the time here to notice a framed cross, made up of small round pearls. This is a replica of a cross presented to Pope John Paul II by Lucoral & Lupearl. The basement itself offers the chance to quietly ponder beautiful coral sculptures in a variety of colors and sizes, including the largest precious coral sculpture in the world.

       Many of the works feature traditional Chinese motifs such as dragons, laughing Buddhas, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Chinese historic figures, peacocks, fish, banyan trees and miniature teapots. This emphasis on Chinese designs is no coincidence as coral has been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. It is considered one of Buddhism¡¦s seven treasures and is thought to be able to keep away evil spirits. There are also carvings of scenes from Christianity, including angels and Christ¡¦s crucifixion.

      According to Executive Coordinator Victoria Lu (§fµØ­b/¸gÀç¦æ¾P¤¤¤ß¥l¶°¤H), the first-floor showroom staff has been trained to provide guided tours of the museum to individuals and groups. These tours introduce the use of coral in different cultures throughout the world, the differences between precious coral and coral reefs, and coral carving techniques. Many school groups come for the unique opportunity to learn about coral and coral art, but the Lucoral Museum is also a major stop for Taiwan¡¦s foreign dignitaries.

       Lu notes that Lucoral & Lupearl has a very important education function. In addition to the museum, seminars and classes are offered in the building¡¦s second-floor classroom. Past seminar topics have included Egyptian jewelry, jewelry as an investment, birthstones, and coral art in Taiwan. Classes include do-it-yourself (DIY) jewelry making and gemstone identification. This classroom is one of only two locations in Taipei that offer courses leading to certification from the Gemmological Association and Gem Testing Laboratory of Great Britain (­^°êÄ_¥Û¨ó·|¹{µo¥þ¥@¬É»{©w¯]Ä_Ų©w°ê»ÚÃÒ·Ó).

       Although Taipei does offer several options for viewing coral handicrafts, the Lucoral Museum is the pioneer in coral art exhibitions. This museum is a labor of love for the Lu family who wish to share the beauty and rich history of precious coral with all who come to visit.

Lucoral Museum (¤jªF¤s¬À·äÄ_¥Û³Õª«À])
90, NanJing East Rd., Section 3, Taipei (¥x¥_¥««n¨ÊªF¸ô¤T¬q90¸¹)
Tel: (02) 2506-9191
Hours: 9:30 am-7 pm Mon-Sat ; 1-7 pm Sun
Free admission
Website: www.lupearl.com