Home to over 300,000 artifacts dating from 3,000 BC to the early 19th Century, the Museum of the Institute of History and Philology (
Located on the southern peripheries of Academia Sinica (
Established by the Institute of History and Philology (
A combination of poor funding and shortage of both manpower and space, however, led to the private museum's sudden closure just over a decade later.
"The storage and research environments weren't very good and the display areas were small, cramped and rather unsightly. To make matters worse there was only one custodian to look after the entire building," said Wu Cheng-shang (
Reopened in 2002, the institute sets out to exhibit an eclectic collection of some of the most archeologically and historically important artifacts in its possession, regardless of their esthetic nature.
The redesign has allowed the museum to paint a succinct picture of the history and archeology of China. While the building remains too small to exhibit all of the hundreds of thousands of pieces in the collection, there are at least 5,000 artifacts on display at any given time.
There are: small pieces of chariots excavated from the royal tombs of the Shang Dynasty (14 BC to 11 BC); Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) wooden military documents relating to the supply of frontier posts discovered in Mongolia; Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) documents from the archives of the Grand Secretariat; and Ching Dynasty (1644 to 1911) maps of Taiwan.
While the institute continues to amass material and work in close cooperation with historical and archeological institutes in China, much of the material on display has been in the ownership of the institute since its founding in Canton, now Guangzhou, in 1928 -- the year that saw the establishment of anthropological and historical studies in China by scholars like Fu Ssu-nien (
In addition to the archeological and historical material the museum gives patrons an insight into how these pioneers of archeology managed to work against a backdrop of the constant threat of banditry and with the most basic equipment.
The section many scholars and historians consider to be the most important of all the institute's artifacts are those on display in the first floor's archeology exhibition halls. Excavated by the founding fathers of Academia Sinica between 1928 to 1947, the items include pottery from the Neolithic Lung-shan Culture (2,600 BC to 2,000 BC), a collection of mortuary utensils employed by shamans during the Eastern Chou period (771 BC to 221 BC), as well as artifacts unearthed from a Western Chou tomb (1122 BC to 770BC).
"With the exception of the National Palace Museum this is the largest collection of such material on public display in Taiwan," said Shih Pin-chu (
The museum's second floor houses a selection of the institute's most important and remarkable historical documents. Here visitors can gaze upon rare Tang (618 to 907) and Sung Dynasty (960 to 1280) texts, as well as collections of 18th century paintings of Taiwan's plain-dwelling Aboriginal tribes. The most striking piece of documentation is a map created by cartographers in 1760 illustrating the boundaries that divided the early Han Chinese settlers and the threatening indigenous
The Museum of the Institute of History and Philology (歷史文物陳列館) is at 130 Yenchiu Yuan Rd, Sec 2, Nankang District, Taipei (台北市南港區研究院路3段130號). The museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9:30am until 4:30pm. Call (02) 2652 3180. Admission is free.
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