Beitou’s Museums: Cultural Showcases of Past Worlds

Monday, January 2nd 2012
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By Rick Charette

An enclave with a deep-flowing stream of history and nostalgia, it is only appropriate that the Beitou hot-springs area has a number of fine museums amidst its many inns and resorts. Beitou’s numerous cultural sites run like a string of pearls up the valley.

At valley’s top is my choice as Taiwan’s prettiest museum, Taiwan Folk Arts Museum. Housed in a former Japanese hot-spring inn (built in 1921) that served as an imperial officers’ club and once entertained kamikaze pilots on their final nights of mortality, the complex is among Taiwan’s largest examples of Japanese wood-built architecture, measuring about 2,500 square meters. Built in Chinese Tang Dynasty style, it was renovated top to bottom 2002~2007, and is a work of art in itself.

Taiwan Folk Arts Museum stages exhibits on early Taiwan life and culture

The museum stages exhibits on early Taiwan life and culture, with a Beitou focus. Beitou was once a key area in Taiwan’s ceramics production, the mineral-rich local earth much appreciated, and many exquisite high-end works are displayed, with historical background provided. I, avid history buff, particularly savor another exhibit, presenting b/w photos from the area’s Japanese colonial-period heyday, when the developed valley looked nothing like it does today.

The two other major local museums are far below, at valley’s mouth. The Ketagalan Culture Center (www.ketagalan.taipei.gov.tw) is focused on Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, and tells the tale of the flatlands people that once inhabited the hot-springs area. Beitou Hot Spring Museum (beitoumuseum.taipei.gov.tw; Chinese) is housed in an attractive Japanese-built building of red brick, stucco, and stained wood that has many original public-baths facilities intact. It’s focused on the flourishing of the Beitou hot-springs culture in Taiwan’s first developed resort area.

Souvenirs
Your best Beitou memento-item location is the colorful cabin-corner gift shop at Taiwan Folk Arts Museum, with quality selections of artistic value, including hand-painted oil-paper umbrellas (NT$960), fans (NT$1,880), and stone-pendant necklaces (NT$600), mounted glove-puppet costumes (NT$1,980), and craft necklaces (NT$250). Shann Garden restaurant/teahouse next door has a clutch of cutesy knick-knack items that is being steadily built up; the Ketagalan Culture Center’s shop offers arts and crafts with indigenous themes.

Taiwan Folk Arts Museum (北投文物館)
Add: 32 Youya Rd. (幽雅路32號)
Tel: (02) 2891-2318
Website: www.folkartsm.org.tw (free shuttle bus to/from Beitou/Xinbeitou MRT stations)