Thu, Feb 06, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Splendors of Islam

The Exhibition of Islamic Life and Culture, currently on view at the National Taiwan Museum, is a must-see for anyone interested in Islamic culture

By Jason Pan  /  Staff Reporter

Some objects currently on display at the National Taiwan Museum in an exhibition that showcases the history and culture of Islam.

Photo courtesy of National Taiwan Museum

The splendors of Islamic civilization and Muslim culture are on display at a not-to-be-missed exhibition at the National Taiwan Museum (國立台灣博物館), located on the grounds of the 228 Peace Park in Taipei.

The Exhibition of Islamic Life and Culture (伊斯蘭:文化與生活特展) is an excellent way to become acquainted with Muslims in Asia and around world said Chen Chi-ming (陳濟民), the museum’s director, at the show’s opening. He added that it is the first comprehensive exhibition of Islamic objects in Taiwan.

“It is an event to promote international exchange, to help people understand that Islam is not just about the religion and its worship rituals, but encompasses a full living culture and lifestyle with religious belief at its core.”

The exhibition is divided into three sections: The Sacred Space introduces rituals and festivals, historic hand-copied Koran manuscripts, the aesthetics of Muslim art and architecture and religious articles in the mosque.

The second section, Life and Culture, provides an inside look at Muslim households through calligraphy and handicrafts, bazaars, tea houses and cafes, clothing and music.

The third section, the History of Islam, looks back to the Golden Age of Islam (Umayyad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate and other notable dynasties from the 7th to the 15th centuries), and forward to its modern iterations as well as to the history of Muslims in Taiwan. It is a multi-media presentation with videos and wonderful rhythms of Muslim music.

The Music from Heaven section familiarizes visitors with the muezzin’s call to prayer singing-chants, Uighur music with hand drums, the bowed string instruments of North Africa, along with tabla and other percussion instruments from the Middle East.

An audio-visual presentation of Sufi mysticism emphasizes that creed’s esoteric knowledge and celebration of life through music, dancing, poetry and art. The video includes Sufi dervishes, who continue to perform their swirling and mystical dance in today’s Turkey and Morocco.

Settings for a Turkish cafe and Muslim tea house include chairs and sofas, bronze coffee pots, tea sets and smoking pipes. Several sets were replicas of tea and coffee table utensils from the imperial court of the Ottoman Empire, provided by the Turkish Trade Office in Taipei, which also contributed religious artifacts, household items, Islamic ornaments and paintings.

The embroidered clothing, Arabic keffiye headwear, fez caps, veils and hijabs, prayer mats and other Muslim ornaments clearly fascinated visitors.

Wu Se-hwa (吳思華), president of National Chengchi University, which helped organize the exhibition, said he hopes the event will help the public gain more insights into the Muslim way of life.

“The history of Islam dates back a long time, but it remains unfamiliar to most Taiwanese. There are many things for us to learn from the rich and diverse cultural attributes of Islam,” Wu said.

Exhibition notes

What: The Exhibition of Islamic Life and Culture (伊斯蘭:文化與生活特展)

Where: National Taiwan Museum (國立台灣博物館)

Located on the north side of the 228 Peace Memorial Park, Taipei City

When: Until June 22. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30am to 5pm

Admission: NT$20 (adults)

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