National Palace Museum

The National Palace Museum[note 1] (Chinese: 國立故宮博物院; pinyin: Guólì Gùgōng Bówùyuàn) is a museum in Taipei, Taiwan. It has a permanent collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of Chinese artifacts and artworks, the majority of which were moved from the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City as well as five other institutions in mainland China during the ROC retreat. These collections had been transferred to several locations before finally being established in 1965 at its present location in Shilin, Taipei. The museum building itself was built between March 1964 and August 1965, with many subsequent expansions making it one of the largest of its type in the world, including a southern branch located in Taibao, Chiayi.

National Palace Museum
National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Interactive fullscreen map
Established10 October 1925 (in Forbidden City, Beijing)
12 November 1965 (in Taipei, Taiwan)
LocationShilin, Taipei
Coordinates25°6′8.47519″N 121°32′54.56958″E / 25.1023542194°N 121.5484915500°E / 25.1023542194; 121.5484915500
TypeNational museum
Collections698,856 (as of February 2022)[1]
VisitorsNorthern branch: 3,832,373 (2019)[2]
Southern branch: 1,049,262 (2019)[2]
DirectorHsiao Tsung-huang
ArchitectHuang Baoyu (Northern Branch) Kris Yao (Southern Branch)
National Palace Museum
Traditional Chinese國立故宮博物院
Simplified Chinese国立故宫博物院

The museum's collection encompasses items spanning 8,000 years of Chinese history from the neolithic age to the modern period.[3] The National Palace Museum shares its roots with the Palace Museum of Beijing, whose extensive collection of artwork and artifacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties.



Establishment in Beijing and relocation

The National Palace Museum treasure fleeing Japanese forces in the 1930s

The National Palace Museum was originally established as the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City on 10 October 1925, shortly after the expulsion of Puyi,[4][5] the last emperor of China, from the Forbidden City by warlord Feng Yuxiang. The articles in the museum consisted of the valuables of the former imperial family.

In 1931, shortly after the Mukden Incident Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Government ordered the museum to make preparations to evacuate its most valuable pieces out of the city to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army. As a result, from 6 February to 15 May 1933, the Palace Museum's 13,491 crates and 6,066 crates of objects from the Exhibition Office of Ancient Artifacts, the Summer Palace and the Imperial Hanlin Academy were moved in five groups to Shanghai.[6] In 1936, the collection was moved to Nanjing after the construction of the storage in the Taoist monastery Chaotian Palace was complete.[7] As the Imperial Japanese Army advanced farther inland during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which merged into the greater conflict of World War II, the collection was moved westward via three routes to several places including Anshun and Leshan until the surrender of Japan in 1945. In 1947, it was shipped back to the Nanjing warehouse.

Evacuation to Taiwan


The Chinese Civil War resumed following the surrender of the Japanese, ultimately resulting in Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's decision to evacuate the arts to Taiwan, which had been handed over to the ROC in 1945. When the fighting worsened in 1948 between the Communist and Nationalist armies, the National Beijing Palace Museum and other five institutions made the decision to send some of the most prized items to Taiwan.[8] Hang Li-wu, later director of the museum, supervised the transport of some of the collection in three groups from Nanjing to the harbor in Keelung, Taiwan between December 1948 and February 1949. By the time the items arrived in Taiwan, the Communist army had already seized control of the National Beijing Palace Museum collection, so not all of the collection could be sent to Taiwan. A total of 2,972 crates of artifacts from the Forbidden City moved to Taiwan accounted for only 22% of the crates originally transported south, although the pieces represented some of the very best of the collection.

Three shipments from Nanjing to Keelung between 1948 and 1949[8]
Institutions Number of crates in shipments Total
1 2 3
National Beijing Palace Museum 320 1,680 972 2,972
National Central Museum 212 486 154 852
National Central Library 60 462 122 644
The IHP of Academia Sinica 120 856 976
Ministry of Foreign Affairs 60 60
National Beijing Library 18 18
Total 772 3,502 1,248 5,522
The exhibition hall and gallery in Beigou

Joint Managerial Office in Taichung


The collection from the National Beijing Palace Museum, the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum, the National Central Library, and the National Beijing Library was stored in a railway warehouse in Yangmei following transport across the Taiwan Strait and was later moved to storage in a cane sugar mill near Taichung.[8] In 1949, the Executive Yuan created the Joint Managerial Office for the National Beijing Palace Museum, the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum, and the National Central Library, to oversee the organization of the collection.[4] For security reasons, the Joint Managerial Office chose the mountain village of Beigou, located in Wufeng, Taichung, as the new storage site for the collection.[8] The following year, the collection stored at the cane sugar mill was transported to the new site in Beigou.[9]

With the National Central Library's reinstatement in 1955, the collection from the National Beijing Library was simultaneously incorporated into the National Central Library.[8] The Joint Managerial Office of the National Beijing Palace Museum and the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum stayed in Beigou for another ten years. During the decade, the office obtained a grant from the Asia Foundation to construct a small-scale exhibition hall in the spring of 1956.[10] The exhibition hall, opened in March 1957, was divided into four galleries in which it was possible to exhibit more than 200 items.

The main building in Taipei was completed in 1965 and two wings were added after two expansions.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei


In the autumn of 1960, the office received a grant of NT$32 million from AID.[10] The Republic of China (ROC) government also contributed more than NT$30 million to establish a special fund for the construction of a museum in the Taipei suburb of Waishuanxi. The construction of the museum in Waishuanxi was completed in August 1965.[5] The new museum site was christened the "Chung-Shan Museum" in honor of the founding father of the ROC, Sun Yat-sen, and first opened to the public on the centenary of Sun Yat-sen's birthday. Since then, the museum in Taipei has managed, conserved and exhibited the collections of the National Beijing Palace Museum and the Preparatory Office of the National Central Museum.



A number of Chinese artifacts dating from the Tang and Song dynasties, some of which had been owned by Emperor Zhenzong, were excavated and then came into the hands of the Kuomintang General Ma Hongkui, who refused to publicize the findings. Among the artifacts were a white marble tablet from the Tang dynasty, gold nails, and bands made out of metal. It was not until after Ma died that his wife went to Taiwan in 1971 from America to bring the artifacts to Chiang Kai-shek, who turned them over to the National Palace Museum.[11]

In August 2022, PLA drills around Taiwan raised concern over the potential safety of the museum's artifacts. Former director Chou Kung-shin suggested creating a plan to store them in the mountain tunnels nearby. When they were originally shipped into Taiwan, the artifacts were stored in tunnels in Taichung during the 1950s before being moved to Taipei, where the museum was eventually built.[12]

In October 2022, it was revealed that three artefacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties, reportedly worth a US$77 million, had been damaged. In response to inquiries, the museum admitted that two teacups were found broken in February and April that year, and a plate was dropped in May. Director Wu Mi-cha suspected that the teacups might have been damaged due to unsatisfactory storage practices, which the museum is working to improve.[13]

Relations with the PRC


During the 1960s and 1970s, the National Palace Museum was used by the Kuomintang to support its claim that the Republic of China was the sole legitimate government of all China, in that it was the sole preserver of traditional Chinese culture amid social change and the Cultural Revolution in mainland China, and tended to emphasize Chinese nationalism.

The People's Republic of China (PRC) government has long said that the collection was stolen and that it legitimately belongs in China, but Taiwan has defended its collection as a necessary act to protect the pieces from destruction, especially during the Cultural Revolution. However, relations regarding this treasure have warmed in recent years and the Palace Museum in Beijing has agreed to lend relics to the National Palace Museum for exhibitions since 2009.[14] The Palace Museum curator Zheng Xinmiao has said that the artifacts in both mainland and Taiwan museums are "China's cultural heritage jointly owned by people across the Taiwan Strait."[15]

Museum building

Main Hall of the Northern Branch of National Palace Museum.

Northern Branch


The National Palace Museum's main building in Taipei was designed by Huang Baoyu and constructed from March 1964 to August 1965.[16][17] Due to the insufficient space to put on display over 600,000 artifacts, the museum underwent expansions in 1967, 1970, 1984 and 1996.[18] In 2002, the museum underwent a major US$21 million renovation revamping the museum to make it more spacious and modern.[16][19] The renovation closed about two-thirds of the museum section and the museum officially reopened in February 2007.[20][21]

Permanent exhibitions of painting and calligraphy are rotated once every three months.[22] Approximately 3,000 pieces of the museum's collection can be viewed at a given time.[23] Although brief, these exhibitions are extremely popular. In 2014, the museum organized the top three best-attended exhibitions worldwide, including paintings and calligraphic works by Tang Yin, as well as depictions of the Qing dynasty's Qianlong Emperor reinterpreted by contemporary artists.[24]

Southern Branch


The Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum is located in Taibao, Chiayi County, Taiwan, and set on 70 hectares (700,000 m2) of land. There is also a lake and Asian style garden on the grounds. Planning for the southern branch began in 2000.[25] The building was to be designed by architect Antoine Predock and began construction in 2005. However, due to serious construction delays and disputes between the contractors and the museum, the firm pulled out in 2008.[26] Museum director Chou Kung-shin stated in August 2010 that new architects Kris Yao for the project would commence, with construction completed in 2015.[27][28] The project cost NT$7.9 billion (US$268 million) and spread over 70 hectares (700,000 m2).[29] The museum itself, 9,000 square meters in total,[25] was designed by the Taiwan-based firm Artech Inc. and is both earthquake resistant and flood resistant.[29] After its grand opening on 28 December 2015, the building was plagued by water leakage, which forced its closure in April 2016. The Southern Branch then reopened on 23 August 2016, after repairs to address the water leakage issues were completed.[28]


Collections (as of December 2023)[1]
Categories Numbers
Bronzes 6,241
Ceramics 25,595
Jades 13,478
Lacquerwares 773
Enamel wares 2,520
Carvings 666
Studio implements 2,379
Coins 6,953
Miscellaneous objects
(religious implements,
costumes and accessories,
and snuff bottles)
Paintings 6,745
Calligraphic works 3,743
Calligraphic model books 495
Tapestries and embroideries 308
Fans 1,882
Rubbings 900
Rare books 216,507
Qing archival documents 395,551
Textiles 1,626
Total 698,857



Complete inventory inspection has been taken three times in 1951–1954, 1989–1991 and 2008–2012 since the museum started to bring collections to Taiwan in 1948.[30] According to official report, the museum houses Chinese calligraphy, porcelain, bronzes, paintings, jades and many other artifacts, with 22% (2,972 out of 13,491 crates) of the boxes originally transported south from the Forbidden City.[5] Other additions include transfers from other institutions, donations, and purchases made by the museum. A large number of these artifacts were brought by Chiang Kai-shek before his Kuomintang forces fled the mainland in 1949.[31] The museum has accumulated nearly 700,000 artifacts of significant historical or artistic values. With a collection of this size, only 1% of the collection is exhibited at any given time. The rest of the collection is stored in temperature-controlled vaults.[19]

Notable items


The museum houses several treasured items that are the pride of their collection and famous worldwide. The antiquities in the National Palace Museum span over thousands of years with a variety of genres.[32]



Among the collections of bronzes, Zong Zhou Zhong (Bell of Zhou), commissioned by King Li of Zhou, is the most important musical instrument cast under his royal decree.[33] Mao Gong Ding (Cauldron of Duke of Mao) of the late Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BCE) carries the longest Chinese bronze inscriptions so far extant.

In 1995, the museum acquired the Taihe Shakyamuni, a statue of The Buddha from the Northern Wei Dynasty, that represents a pivotal shift from early Indian style towards Chinese Buddhist style.[34][35]



With 21 pieces out of fewer than 80 surviving, the museum has the world's largest collection of Ru ware,[36] one of the rarest Chinese ceramics, made exclusively for the court and one of the Five Great Kilns of the Song dynasty (960–1279), along with Ding porcelain, Jun ware, Guan and Ge;[37][38] the museum has major collections of all of these. Those from the official kilns of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties, such as the doucai porcelains of the Chenghua reign during the Ming dynasty and painted enamel porcelains from the early Qing, are also of excellent quality.[39]



One of the most popular pieces of jade carvings in the museum is the Jadeite Cabbage,[40] a piece of jadeite carved into the shape of a cabbage head, and with a large and a small grasshopper camouflaged in the leaves. The ruffled semi-translucent leaves attached is due to the masterful combination of various natural color of the jade to recreate the color variations of a real cabbage.[41] The Meat-shaped Stone is often exhibited together with the Jadeite Cabbage.[40][42] A piece of jasper, a form of agate, the strata of which are cleverly used to create a likeness of a piece of pork cooked in soy sauce. The dyed and textured surface makes the layers of skin, lean meat, and fat materialized incredibly lifelike.

Other various carvings of materials such as bamboo, wood, ivory, rhinoceros horn, and fruit pits are exhibited.[43] The Carved Olive-stone Boat, carved by Chen Zuzhang, is a tiny boat carved from an olive stone.[44] The incredibly fully equipped skilled piece is carved with a covered deck and moveable windows. The interior has chairs, dishes on a table and eight figures representing the characters of Su Shih's Latter Ode on the Red Cliff. The bottom is carved in minute character the entire 300+ character text with the date and the artist's name.

Painting and calligraphy


The paintings in the National Palace Museum date from the Tang dynasty (618–907) to the modern era.[45] The collection covers over one thousand years of Chinese painting, and encompasses a wide range of genres, including landscape, flower and bird, figure painting, boundary painting, etc. Among the most popular paintings in the collection is the Qing Palace Version of Along the River During the Qingming Festival by five Qing dynasty court painters (Chen Mu, Sun Hu, Jin Kun, Dai Hong and Cheng Zhidao).[46] Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (Wu-yung version) by Huang Gongwang of the Yuan dynasty is one of the rarest and most dramatic works.[47] Walking on a Mountain Path in Spring is another significant work. The museum has a vast collection of calligraphy works from the hands of major calligraphers, scholars and important courtiers in history. The calligraphy works date from the Jin (266–420) and Tang (618–907) dynasties, with a variety of styles.

Rare books and documents


Rare books in the National Palace Museum range from the Song (960–1279) and Yuan (1271–1368) dynasties to the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties, amounting to over 200,000 volumes.[48][49] Yongle Encyclopedia and Complete Library of the Four Treasuries are among the examples.[50][51]

Historical documents in the museum include Jiu Manzhou Dang, a set of Manchu archives that are the sourcebook of Manwen Laodang and a primary source of early Manchu history.[52] Other official documents such as the court archives are available for research in the history of the Qing dynasty.

The One Hundred Horses: A painting done in 1728 by Giuseppe Castiglione by implementing a mixture of western artistic skills and utilizing eastern materials to realize a sense of realism to this native theme.[53]

Overseas exhibitions

Paifang of the Northern Branch of National Palace Museum.

Due to fears that the artifacts may be impounded and claimed by mainland China due to the controversial political status of Taiwan, the museum does not conduct exhibitions in mainland China. Since the museum's 1965 establishment in Taipei, the National Palace Museum has only made six large overseas exhibitions in countries which have passed laws to prevent judicial seizure of the treasures: the United States in 1996, France in 1998, Germany in 2003, Austria in 2008, Japan in 2014 and Australia in 2019.[54][55][56]

The past overseas exhibitions are as follows:[4]

Other visitor facilities


Zhishan Garden

Zhishan Garden

Housed within the compound of the National Palace Museum, this classical Chinese Song and Ming style garden covers 1.88 hectares (18,800 m2).[58] It incorporates the principles of such diverse fields as feng shui, Chinese architecture, water management, landscape design, and Chinese folklore and metaphor. It contains numerous ponds, waterworks, and wooden Chinese pavilions. It was completed and opened in 1985. There is also another Chinese Style Garden nearby called the Shuangxi Park and Chinese Garden.

Chang Dai-chien residence


The National Palace Museum also maintains the residence of renowned Chinese painter Chang Dai-chien. The residence, known as the Chang Dai-chien Residence or the Abode of Maya, was constructed in 1976 and completed in 1978.[59] It is a two-story Siheyuan building with Chinese-style gardens occupying approximately 1,911 m2. After Chang's death in 1983, the house and gardens were donated to the National Palace Museum and turned into a museum and memorial.


Administration building of the Northern Branch of National Palace Museum

The National Palace Museum operates under the Executive Yuan as a level-two agency.[60] It has been headed by many directors over the years:[61][62][63]

Directors of Palace Museum

  • Li Yü-ying (the first appointed Director-General)
  • I P'ei-chi (October 1925 – October 1933)
  • Ma Heng (October 1933 – August 1949)

Directors of National Central Museum Preparatory Office


Directors of the Joint Managerial Office of the National Palace Museum and National Central Museum


In 1949, the Joint Managerial Office of the National Central Museum and National Central Library was established. In 1955, the Joint Managerial Office of the National Palace Museum and National Central Museum was established.

Directors of National Palace Museum


See also



  1. ^ Distinguished from the Palace Museum in Beijing. In Chinese, the National Palace Museum is commonly known as the "Taipei Former Palace" (臺北故宮), while the Palace Museum is known as the "Beijing Former Palace" (北京故宮).


  1. ^ a b "List of Categories in the Collection". National Palace Museum. Retrieved 20 March 2022.
  2. ^ a b 國立故宮博物院: 108年度參觀人數統計. National Palace Museum. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  3. ^ Peter Enav (12 May 2009). "National art collection evokes hard history". The China Post. AP. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Chronology of Events". National Palace Museum. Archived from the original on 21 December 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  5. ^ a b c "Tradition & Continuity". National Palace Museum. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  6. ^ Chiang, Fu-tsung (1979), "The Transfer of the National Palace Museum Collection to Taiwan and Its Subsequent Installation", The National Palace Museum Quarterly (in English and Chinese), 14 (1): 1–16, 37–43
  7. ^ "The National Palace Museum: Timeline of the NPM". National Palace Museum. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d e Hang, Li-wu (1983). 中華文物播遷記 (in Chinese) (2 ed.). Taipei: The Commercial Press.
  9. ^ Han Cheung (7 November 2021). "Taiwan in Time: Hiding national treasures in a cave". Taipei Times. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  10. ^ a b "A Brief History of the National Palace Museum", The National Palace Museum Quarterly (in English and Chinese), 1 (1): 29–32, 85–89, 1966
  11. ^ China archaeology and art digest, Volume 3, Issue 4. Art Text (HK) Ltd. 2000. p. 354.
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  15. ^ Mark McDonald (2 March 2009). "Top bid on disputed Yves Saint Laurent bronzes was a protest from China". The New York Times.
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  17. ^ Huang, Bao-yu (1966), "中山博物院之建築 [The Architecture of the Chung-Shan Museum]", The National Palace Museum Quarterly (in Chinese), 1 (1): 69–78
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  31. ^ Multiculti roots, The Economist, 12 March 2016
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