Most of the foreign travelers have been to National Palace Museum. After a full day visiting, with sore legs and tired feet, it’s likely that you haven’t seen all the dazzling collections in the exhibitions. Even if you have viewed all the exhibitions at a fast pace, what you have seen is just the tip of an iceberg. About 90 percent of the treasures, including the treasures that have never been revealed to the public, are stored in hidden warehouses of the mountain cave.
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Let’s jump into the scene of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. When the governors of ROC were about to lose control over mainland China, they planned to retreat to Taiwan. The government fled to Taiwan not just with the officers and employees, but also with the precious treasures of the Beijing Forbidden City so the treasure of Chinese civilization can be away from the turbulence of the war and the history.
During the war, the treasures were moved out from the Forbidden City
During the Civil War, the governors only have limited time for transporting the treasures and limited shipment space for the items. Therefore, they only choose the most priceless ones in the Forbidden City.
When the museum was still under construction in 1960.
It was the 1960s when the situation between Taiwan and China was intense. To prevent the treasure from being bombarded by the enemy and to store a large number of collections, the museum was equipped with a very solid warehouse built in the mountain cave. The concrete walls of the warehouse are 70 centimeters thick. And the concrete walls are cover by 20 meter thick mountain wall.
Only the staff can step in to the warehouse. There were no exceptions until 2007 when the administrator of the museum-approved National Geography to film a documentary about the hidden warehouse.
The secret tunnel connecting to the cave is extremely mysterious. You can never find it without guiding. The tunnel is hidden behind an unremarkable staff-only door. Only staff with the special card key can open the first gate. Follow the routine and take the elevator to the 3rd floor and you can see an alumni-framed glass door. Beyond the glass door, there’s a 26 meters long suspended passage. At the end of the corridor, there are two stoned lions guarding the 3-meter high red gate. To open the gate, the guests have to be accompanied by the staff who have the password and the key. (The password and the key are kept separately by different staff.) There are two more doors behind the red gate.
Behind the doors is a curved tunnel. That’s exactly where the treasures of the emperors from Song, Ming to Qing are stored. Just a century ago they were still lying in the Forbidden City peacefully. After drifting for 10,000 km in the Chinese Civil War, they are now deeply asleep in the 1028 iron boxes which lay on both sides of the tunnel. No more than 50% of the treasures in this cave have been exhibited.
The curved tunnel and the iron boxes
There’s another tunnel leading to the storeroom of calligraphy and painting. The tunnel is cut into several sections. Each section is separated by a fireproof door. In the 580 square meters room, there are 189 camphor wood boxes. To prevent the damage from the light, the room is dark. People who enter the room must wear masks so that their breath will not damp the artworks. To protect the fragile cultural relics, the authority concerned has to spend 1.6million NTD to keep proper temperature and humidity.
There are three jade-cabbages in the National Palace Museum. Two of them are store in the iron box.
The paper works of calligraphy and painting are very vulnerable. Generally speaking, they are not allowed to be borrowed oversea. Even if they are just shown for 90 days in the National Palace Museum, they have to be back to storage for at least 1.5 years and get repaired after the short term exhibition.
According to the official statistic, it takes more than 60 years to show all the collections in the NPM. A lot of treasure can only be seen once in your lifetime. So if you are coming to the museum, take every glimpse of the collections as your last glance.
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