What did you see in the museums you have visited that impressed you?

The Mask of an Average Man

Last April, shortly after the pandemic was under control, a friend and I visited the Shaanxi History Museum and saw a group of burial figurines unearthed from a Ming Dynasty noble tomb.

The general idea behind these figurines was to display the tomb owner’s grandeur and pomp during their lifetime, as shown in the image.

When I first laid eyes on this collection of artifacts, I was truly stunned by the extravagance. It seems that human creativity in satisfying vanity knows no bounds. After recovering from the shock, I became immensely curious about the central character in the group. I wanted to see what a person of such wealth and status would look like.

However, as I got closer, I was greatly disappointed. It turns out that this royal figure looked so ordinary, completely and utterly like any average middle-aged man. (I guess the so-called appearance of wealth and status is nothing more than a facade, just like the sweet talk of fortune-tellers.) It reminded me of the Didi driver I encountered when I visited the museum in the morning, the owner of the noodle shop where I had lunch the day before, and many other middle-aged men whose faces are deeply etched in my memory. Suddenly, I understood why nobles always emphasize etiquette, grandeur, and dignity… because without those, they are just ordinary individuals. Perhaps for most nobles throughout history, they see themselves as supporting characters in their own lives, while the pomp, privilege, and pageantry take on the lead role, and they spend their entire lives trying to play their part.

Characteristic Restaurant at the National Palace Museum in Taipei - Crystal Palace Restaurant

I have visited quite a number of museums, but what left the deepest impression on me was not a certain collection, but a uniquely characteristic restaurant within the museum - The Crystal Palace at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

This is because at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the Crystal Palace restaurant perfectly replicates the collections in the form of food.

One of the three treasures of the National Palace Museum is the meat-shaped stone called “Braised Pork Belly”. Originally, this piece of meat-shaped stone was contributed to the palace by the Alxa League during the Kangxi period of the Qing Dynasty, and later it followed the army to Taiwan, where it is currently housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

According to records from the Qing dynasty, this meat-shaped stone originated from the Alxa Left Banner in Inner Mongolia. Skilled craftsmen used the technique of jade carving to process and polish the richly textured stone, and dyed the surface of the stone to create this artwork with distinct layers of skin, fat, and lean meat, and clear textures. The craftsmen also delicately carved fine pores on the skin of the meat, making this piece of meat-shaped stone almost lifelike, and installed a golden base at the bottom.

The most astounding experience in the museum is undoubtedly encountering this braised pork belly “once again” at the Crystal Palace Restaurant located on the west side of the main building, after visiting the museum’s collections.

Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to encounter the legendary “Jadeite Cabbage” during my visits to the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Therefore, out of helplessness, I could only capture this large cabbage at the Crystal Palace Restaurant.

Collection of the Museum in Iceland

Some of the collections of a museum in Iceland

Bizarre Exhibits and Quirky Attractions

Here comes my answer to reveal my peculiar taste.

Most museums are quite formal and grand, but there are also some offbeat and amusing exhibits that have left a deep impression on me.

All kinds of cats:

Serious and dedicated at work in the morning.

Lethargic and mentally declined in the afternoon.

And here are the most impressive treasures I’ve encountered at two attractions:

“Fierce Tiger” and “Entertaining Tiger”…

Porcelain Cats with a Textured Fur

The porcelain cats at the Guangdong Museum have a textured fur, as if they are made of real hair.

The History and Development of Snuff Bottles

It must be the “snuff bottle” in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

For many young students in Taiwan, there are quite a few who have the experience of using “green balm” or “white flower oil” when they feel drowsy in class. Just apply some green balm to the philtrum below the nose, and you will immediately feel refreshed and awake. Surprisingly, a similar item called a “snuff bottle” existed in the Qing Dynasty, a hundred years ago!

A False Consolation

The door was partially closed, and a little girl peered out from the gap, curiously looking around.

What was behind her?

It was probably a courtyard, not very big, but complete with all the essential elements: trees, artificial mountains, flowing water, and ladies strolling. The courtyard was adorned with many flowers, and when the wind blew, their fragrance seeped through the gap in the door.

But in reality, behind that door was nothing but boundless yellow earth.

This was a mural, adorning a burial chamber, guarding the owner’s coffin for thousands of years.

The burial chamber never saw daylight, and it was empty, lonely, and cold. The owner must have felt a heavy sense of oppression. However, with this mural, the owner could find some solace, comforting themselves with the illusion that there was a large courtyard on the other side of the wall, where they could go and play whenever they felt suffocated.

Even though they knew it was fake.