Taiwan Folk Arts Museum

Makes yet another comeback

By Josie Wu Translated by Ann Lee

Sometimes it is easy to forget that Taiwan isn't just an endless vista of cement buildings and crowded roads. It's even easier to forget that access to some of the most beautiful natural scenery you'll pretty much find anywhere is just a short MRT, bus or train trip away.

A short MRT ride takes Taipei-ers to Xin BeiTou (New Beitou), the famous town filled with hot springs and Japanese colonial architecture. All you have to do is allow yourself enjoy all of it at your own pace and take in the unique surroundings. Recently, the Taiwan Folk Arts Museum reopened here after a five-year renovation hiatus. Once again, museum visitors can peruse the historical artifacts and learn about folk art in a beautiful, restored facility.

The museum itself is housed in one of Taiwan's largest surviving Japanese-style wooden structures, taking up about 800 pings of space. The main display areas and exhibition rooms were built in 1920. Back then, this structure was more like a Japanese officers' club and during World War II, it became a rest house for members of a kamikaze squadron. After Taiwan reverted to Chinese rule, it was taken over by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and renamed the Chiashan Guest House, where it served as a retreat for government dignitaries and foreign guests. In 1966, the ministry sold this property to a private owner and, finally, in 1984, the building was converted into what is now the Taiwan Folk Arts Museum.

With such a rich history, the museum is a great venue for displaying its collections of early Taiwanese artifacts and aboriginal art, costumes and textiles. In 1988, the Taipei City Cultural Affairs Bureau appointed this establishment as one of the city's designated historical sites and officially gave it its current name.

With its most recent reopening, the museum now displays several new artifacts. Besides the newly-installed, poetic introduction to the "Great Eight Scenes of Chiashan", the building also houses about 5,000 pieces of folk art, including about 1,000 pieces of aboriginal art such as ancient glazed beads, ancient books, pottery, clothing, ornaments, carvings and musical instruments. The display catalogs the time period from 1900 towards the end of Qing dynasty, to 1940. Apart from some regular exhibitions that are held at the museum, there are also themed exhibitions which focus in on a particular time period or trend in Taiwanese history.

If all of your browsing makes you hungry for more than a look into the past, one of the display areas now has a little cafe, where Japanese-style tea and snacks are served. Another restored area of the museum is home to a banquet hall that's suitable for performances or large dinners. The museum often invites groups to perform folk dances and other cultural shows.

At the moment, the museum's cultural relics center is promoting an exhibition titled "Wedding Traditions & Arts"; this exhibit focuses on the mix of Taiwanese aboriginal and Japanese cultures when Taiwan was ceded to Japan, and shows several different perspectives on wedding traditions. The Taiwan Folk Arts Museum also offers free language-guided tours and, on weekends, they even have personal tour guides to lead groups through the museum.

Although it may seem like the city never ends, Beitou is a great destination in which to enjoy the hot springs and architecture, as well as learn a little more about the traditional arts of Taiwan. The Taiwan Folk Arts Museum, coupled with a Japanese tea service, is sure to make for a relaxing, enlightening afternoon.

32, YouYa Rd, Beitou District
(02) 2891-2318
How to get there:
1: MRT: Take Danshui Line, then transfer to the public bus.
*Beitou Stop: Take the red #25 light bus in front of the train station, or the #230 large bus, which will go straight to the Taiwan Folk Arts Museum.
*The New Beitou Stop: Take #230 bus from the train station and exit at the Taiwan Folk Arts Museum stop.
2: By car: Take the Zhoumei Expressway to Beitou. Merge with DaYe Rd and continue until the road ends. (You'll see the Xin [New] Beitou MRT Station). Go straight on ZhongShan Rd, and turn left onto the main road (WunCyuan Road). Finally, turn right onto YouYa Road.
Taiwan Folk Arts Museum
Hours: Tue-Thu, Sunday & national holidays 10 am-5:30 pm; Fri/Sat & one day prior to national holidays, 10 am- 9:30 pm.
Admission: Museum only/NT$200; Tea service+museum entry/NT$600; Museum admission+ programs+ snack package/NT$650
Guided tours: Tue-Fri: free voice guide machines; Sat/Sun/national holidays: personal guided tours and free voice guide machines.