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Taipei
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Chinese civilization flourished along the Yellow River Valley at least 5000 years ago simultaneously with the Mesopotamian civilization in Western Asia and the Egyptians in North Africa. The Chinese are credited with inventing gunpowder, printing, the compass and paper and achieving significant early strides into astronomy, medicine and machinery, well in advance of Europe. In Taipei, the National Palace Museum (see photo) has an extremely large and diverse collection of historical and cultural relics representing the spectacular accomplishments of the ancient Chinese. As early as 2000 BC, they were crafting intricate receptacles and statues out of bronze, an alloy of 70% copper and 30% zinc. These extraordinary national treasures, originally displayed only by Emperors, were very carefully moved across the Taiwan Straits prior to the Communist takeover of mainland China. We marveled at magnificent pieces from the Bronze Age, intricate centuries-old carvings of teak, ebony, jade and ivory and perfectly elegant porcelains. Chiang Kai-shek is honored in an enormous majestic white marble Memorial Hall (see photo), from which his bronze replica peers out over the spacious plaza, which includes their National Theater (see photo) and their National Concert Hall. The CKS Memorial provides an expansive space of tranquility in the midst of bustling modern Taipei. Even though one may see Taiwan is a bastion of traditional Chineseness from the exquisitely intricate and colorful Chinese architecture of her museums, shrines and temples, there is another side to the story. East and West merge as the Taiwanese themselves are neatly dressed in smart western attire. Instead of a parasol and fan, today's Taiwanese woman carries a laptop, and instead of using a rickshaw, she drives to her office on a motorbike! Taiwan ranks 13th among major trading nations and has the busiest container harbor that we've seen thus far in our journey. At night, street market shopping is lighted by a blazing neon display of signs in Chinese characters, whose gaudiness could rival Las Vegas (see photo). Food stalls provide a strange variety of culinary delights being cooked over charcoal or in woks producing exotic aromas, all crowded together with other booths that offer acupuncture-while-you-wait (see photo) or sell all sorts of western clothing, bejeweled necklaces and hair clips, and at least a million wrist watches.

 

"Acupuncture While You Wait!" Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial National Museum
National Theater Street Market at Night War Memorial

Taipei

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