Yingge Ceramics Museum

A Showcase for Ceramic Art

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Standing on the northern bank of the Dahan River southwest of Taipei City, the town of Yingge at first glance seems an unlikely magnet for tourists both local and foreign, looking just like many other low-rise towns studding the flat plains of western Taiwan. However, on the southern edge of town beside the main road, a huge, imposing building of striking modern design is the first sign that Yingge is something different. This is the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum , which opened in the year 2000, built as a showcase for the ceramic craftsmanship that has set Yingge apart from other towns in Taiwan for two centuries.

Yingge Town

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Pottery-making came to Yingge in 1804, when a man named Wu An emigrated here from mainland China and set up the first pottery business. Owing to its strategic position close to a plentiful supply of good-quality clay and the Dahan River (which in years past was deeper than it is today and offered convenient transport downriver to Taipei and the sea beyond), the pottery industry, and later the production of finer-quality ceramics, flourished. Today, exquisite objets d'art produced by the town's artisans are highly regarded by collectors. Indeed, one of the town's producers, Taihwa Pottery , regularly makes artistic pieces for the Presidential Office, which find their way in the form of gifts for visiting dignitaries to the world's four corners.

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The Yingge Ceramics Museum was opened on November 26, 2000, its establishment costing NT$6 billion, as part of a plan to rejuvenate the town and attract tourism. This blueprint also included a major facelift for what is now informally called Old Pottery Street , a section of Jianshanpu Rd. lined with businesses selling ceramic works of both practical and decorative function, and the developing of the adjacent Yingge Ceramics Park , with its eyecatching works of contemporary art. The three-story steel-framed glass building housing the museum is as striking as the exhibits inside, reached from the busy road by crossing a wide bridge over an elaborate water-art feature.

Visiting the Museum

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The museum exhibits comprehensively cover the surprisingly wide number of applications for which ceramics are used. While the first hall features fine examples of exquisite vases, plates, and other ornaments, many of the remaining galleries are devoted to the history, production, and use of ceramics, the displays continually managing to rivet visitors' attention with their surprising diversity.

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The development of ceramics in Taiwan, from peoples of prehistoric times through historical-era aboriginal artisans, mainland Chinese immigrants, and the Japanese during their occupation of the island (1895-1945), is illustrated in a skillfully designed series of exhibits that includes multimedia installations. Elsewhere, the fascinating adaptability of ceramics is made clear through novel displays of newer techniques and modern industrial usages, ranging from electricity insulators to bathroom sinks and even use in Taiwan's booming high-tech industry. Other rooms are devoted to kilns and their different types, ranging from the ancient "snake kiln??? design through to today's high-tech models, and even delves into the types of wood used to fuel kilns.

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To get more out of the experience, audio guides in Chinese, English, and Japanese are available for a small fee, while groups of between twenty and eighty can reserve a guided tour with one of the official docents at the museum. For a deeper understanding of the art of ceramics, the museum has a full educational program, including daily workshops for both adults and children and, for the serious student or researcher, a large library, an auditorium with occasional seminars, and a well-equipped ceramics studio where workshops are offered.

Following a visit to the museum's galleries, relax for a while in the Front Art Cafe, on the level below the main floor, which features huge plate-glass windows that look out onto a large pool and a stylish artificial waterfall. Before leaving Yingge, be sure to walk round the corner to Old Pottery Street, to shop for your own work of art to take home. The overall quality is very high, and the low price of many beautiful pieces will likely come as a surprise. For something really special, look for the stunning one-of-a-kind pieces that are the specialty of several of the artisans. These true works of art are, of course, far more expensive than the average, but ensure a unique and special memory of any visit to Taiwan.

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Practical Info

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Mondays and two days at Chinese New Year).

Address: No. 200, Wunhua Rd., Yingge Township, Taipei County

tel: (02) 8677-2727

website: www.ceramics.tpc.gov.tw

Getting There

By Train:
Yingge can be reached by train from Taipei in about thirty minutes. From the station it's a ten-minute walk or a short taxi ride.
By Car:
Yingge lies beside National Freeway 3, a thirty-minute drive from downtown Taipei. Take the Sanying Interchange . After crossing the Sanying Bridge, you will soon see the museum to the left.