This post is dedicated to this Monty Python clip and Ben.
Well it turns out it went to Taiwan to be filled with delicious strawberry cream and get baked.
This post is a bit out of order, but I figured I’d save it for a stand alone post. Yes! We’re going back to Taiwan for one last hurrah! My initial flight there on March 6th got canceled, so Fulbright brought me in a day earlier which gave me a day to myself pretty much. I started the night in by getting some Japanese curry with Tenzin, and then the next morning went to the National Palace Museum. It’s a beautiful complex, and home to some amazing pieces, many of which I have pictures of below.
The ones I’d first like to call your attention to though are some of the ceramic pieces. I’ve written about ceramics before, but I had some new thoughts. Mostly I noticed the stark contrast between the two styles present during the Qing Dynasty. Some, you’ll notice, are the classic blue and white pieces most westerners associate with “china”.
The other type though, is this super bright, almost garish or gaudy aesthetic that sometimes features western figures. I really wondered if it had taken influence from Rococo, which was coming into popularity during the reign of the Qing Dynasty. I would have bet that Rococo influenced this type, but a quick Google search actually claims it was the other way around. Point one for my Western-centric worldview. The more you learn.
Both are a huge departure though from Tang 三彩 (sancai, san-tsai, three colors) which I’ve mentioned before, and as you can see has a much more austere aesthetic. I learned this time around that the three glazes run when fired which gives it the unique look.
I’ve saved some food posts, such as Coco. Coco has been my favorite bubble tea chain ever since I had it in Nanjing three years ago, so when I saw it here in Taipei, I knew I had to have the original. And it really is better. Like omfg so good. As their slogan says, don’t say you’ve had bubble tea if you haven’t had Coco.
I realize I forgot to include a picture of the mango shaved ice (Fruit. Cream. Ice. Heaven) in my prior post, so here it is now. Gaze upon its glory.
Here’s the rest of the museum pics. First up is some pretty things I would love to have in my house.
One cool exhibit was one on comedy in ancient China, and I found out that there previously wasn’t a word for “humor” in Chinese. Nowadays they use the word 幽默 (youmo) which first appears in an ancient poetry classic and is made up of the characters for “calm” and “silence”. So how the hell does that relate to humor? Well, quite simply, it’s a very rough phonetic translation. Then the translator Lin Yuntang went back to justify it by saying, “For those who are skilled at ‘humor’, their wit is invariably calmer and concealed. And for those who are skilled at judging ‘humor’ their appreciation lies in the silent realization of the heart, which is often difficult to describe to others. Unlike crude jokes, the more ‘calm’ and ‘silent’ the humor is, the more marvelous it is.” I’ll take it, I love that explanation.
The plaque went on to explain that one who has a sense of humor, the ability to employ and understand it, indicating a high degree of intelligence and an open-minded attitude. It requires keen powers of observation and imagination to convey life experiences in an amusing way via association, metaphor etc.
Quite a new way of looking at humor, and all the more interesting from a linguistic perspective! Lastly I’ll share this in it’s original form that my college roommate sent me. The poet in question is named Su Dongpo if you’d like to learn more.
Moving on, there was a great visiting collection from a Taiwanese painter Fu Chuan-fu. Before I went to Taiwan, people on the mainland were always telling me that traditional Chinese culture is much stronger there. This is because while the mainland was going through the Cultural Revolution and generally trying to scrub away any trace of feudalism and bourgoise (word I can’t spell) influence, naming pretty much anything traditionally Chinese as a sign of such, Taiwan was actively trying to preserve it to prove they were more “Chinese” than the mainland. As a result, you get all this beautiful artwork channeling traditional Chinese culture, produced under government subsidy while the mainland was busy destroying everything they could get their hands on.
Interestingly though, these days Taiwan is becoming much more progressive, which in itself breaks away from “traditional” Chinese culture (I take issue with this argument, as the vast majority of Chinese rulers took male lovers so I still fail to see how same-sex marriage messes with that). Taiwan seems to have become more complacent as well, and now it’s the mainland drumming up traditional culture to drive nationalism.
I’m off topic, here are the paintings, the first of which I really want a print of.
And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed.