Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a vibrant blend of traditional culture and cosmopolitan life. As the political, economic, educational and recreational centre of the country, Taipei is home to large numbers of significant cultural sights located throughout the city. The city is situated in a basin in the north of Taiwan that was originally inhabited by aboriginal peoples until settlers from China moved into the area about 300 years ago. These two western districts, being the first permanent settlements of Chinese migrants, retain many of the old customs as evidenced in the architecture, sculptures, and ceremonial activities that take place in the old streets and temples.
More recent cultural focal points in the city include the National Palace Museum, which houses hundreds of thousands of Chinese antiques and art works, and the Taipei 101 Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. The eastern section of the city was developed from the 1970s onwards as a financial and commercial district. Today, its glass and steel skyscrapers prove to be the modern face of Taipei.
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Things to do in Taipei
China's treasures at National Palace Museum
Regarded as the best collection of Chinese art and antiques in the world, the exhibits of the National Palace Museum in Taipei were brought to Taiwan by the Koumintang forces in 1949, when other ancient treasures in mainland China were suffering the ravages of the Cultural Revolution. The collection in Taipei remained intact, and any visit to Taipei should make time to explore the museum halls and the nearly 700,000 pieces in the collection, which covers the entire 5,000 year history of China. Highlights include some exquisite paintings from the Sung dynasty, jade carvings, painted ceramics, bronze ornaments, rare books and samples of calligraphy.
Cultural landmarks of Taipei
Resting on the slopes of the Chingshan mountain and overlooking the Keelung river, the Martyrs' Shrine was built in a grand architectural style and has a serene atmosphere, which emphasises its solemn and stately character. The shrine commemorates the 330,000 men who sacrificed their lives to the revolution before the establishment of the Republic of China and who fell during the Sino-Japanese war and the Chinese civil war. There is also an elaborate daily changing of the guard ceremony. The National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (formerly the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall), was constructed in memory of the former president of the Republic of China; it is located in the heart of Taipei City, and is one of the city's major landmarks. For a final overview of the cityscape, visit the observatory on Taipei 101, one of the world's tallest skyscrapers, for a breathtaking view over the city and the surrounding countryside.
Volcanic scenery of northern Taiwan
North of Taipei is Taiwan's wild and spectacular north coast, home to the Yangmingshan National Park. Named in honour of the Ming dynasty philosopher Wang Yang-Ming (1472-1529), the park features volcanic geography and hot springs, and is bordered by various mountain ranges. The magnificent mountain scenery and comfortable weather have made the national park a perfect summer resort for local Tawianese seeking to escape the city, and is also ideal for travellers wishing to see what lies beyond Taipei but with limited time.
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