Tainan's Chimei Museum - A Must-Visit

On our family holiday back to Taiwan in December, I finally managed to take my two children down to Tainan for an overnight trip, with the primary goal of visiting Chimei Museum. If the name "Chimei" seems familiar to you, that will be because you have eaten or used a product or two made by Chimei Corporation.

Company founder Shi Wen-long is one of the richest self-made businessmen in Taiwan. Born in 1928, he was one of ten children in a poor family, and his childhood escape was a small museum in Tainan. Shi has fulfilled his dream to build a museum that is accessible to all. Practicing his belief that art should be a public good and not something hidden away in private collections, Shi has created a huge museum where people can see Western art without having to travel abroad. Entry to the museum is NTD200, but free to Tainan residents and to students.

In this video, Shi Wen-Long (now 90 years old) talks about his dream as a ten-year-old and making it come true:

This museum looks as good in real life as it does in that video. It is a journey into beauty and design. It is completely accessible. It is 100% child-friendly, and has many objects and spaces that are designed to encourage active exploration by children (and adults). The staff are knowledgable and proactive in getting everyone close to the exhibits.

Our Experience:

We took the train to Tainan and then transferred to Bao-An Station. This is a well-preservered station and we took time to take some photographs.(OK, my daughter took great photographs, which I don't have access to, whilst I managed a few snaps on my phone.)  It was a ten-minute walk for us to the museum. It was quite hot and there is little shade, so if you have young children, you might prefer to take a taxi.

The museum is set on sprawling grounds, with vast open space to run and walk and sit, with sculptures and fountains and open-air theaters to experience.

The temporary exhibit "Beyond the Shadows" has been extended until August 31st. We had A LOT of fun in this exhibit! From the more serious political statements to the frivolous fairytale dressup shadow roleplays, we spent nearly an hour in this section alone.

Playing with special effects created by shadows and tech.

Works by artists from all over the world on display. The introductory materials are all bilingual, and there is a lot of multimedia used to allow artists to introduce themselves and their work.

Using shadow puppet props, everyone can get involved in retelling the story of Alice in Wonderland. Become a shadow puppet yourself!

Chimei Museum not only displays the largest and most complete violin collection in the world. It also has a full introduction of all of the instruments in the national orchestra, complete with video introductions by members of the orchestra. Instruments are cut open so you can see the inside workings. Several times during the day, there is a STUNNING performance, where you can walk right up to the players while they perform, and experience music from right inside the "orchestra pit". The quality of the recording and the whole production blew my mind.

There are reproductions of European period rooms, where you can see how living rooms were set up during different eras, so people could enjoy musical performances in their homes.

The museum's permanent exhibits include "The Evolution of Arms and Armour" and a "Journey of Evolution". Notice how everything is displayed so even young children can get close.

There are two cafes in the museum. We chose the more family-friendly one. My teenagers sure did enjoy the pizza!
Umbrellas available to use outdoors.

We spent nearly the whole day on site. You could use the high speed rail and try to do a day trip, but why not spend a night or two in Tainan? We stayed at a very special hostel, Book Inn. I will write more about that experience later, but I recommend it, for adults, and families with older children who enjoy calm, quiet spaces. (They don't accept children under 7 years of age, and you must book one bed per person.)

Chimei Museum's multilingual website has comprehensive English-language information, including videos and virtual museum tours. Due to the changing nature of Covid-19 and related rules, please check there for travel and opening information: 


National Taiwan Museum Nanmen Park - History of Camphor

If you have been following my blog for a while, you will have figured out I am a little obsessed with the restoration of heritage buildings in Taiwan. My children still humor my fascination, and are willing to follow me as I check out sites, exclaiming, "Oh, that's from the Japanese Occupation!" Or, "Look at that Portuguese influence!" Luckily for us, government and individuals have embraced restoration and development of cultural and historical spaces within the buildings.

View from the street.
Quiet garden and fountain, nice for a picnic lunch, but take your own, there's not much to buy nearby.

We had not visited the Nanmen Park branch of the National Taiwan Museum before. The description of the building on the museum website naturally pushed me into going to check it out:

"The Nanmen Park is part of the historical monument reuse program which combines the historical architecture with the museum exhibitions.
 This exhibition hall retains the impression of the original camphor warehouse, so to make connection between the processes of camphor production with the history of industrialD development in Taiwan.
 The mottled red bricks that lined the walls of the exhibition hall whisper softly about the stories of the Nanmen Factory."
You can read the full history of Nanmen Park here.
The museum is off the main road and very quiet. It has a lovely park with a fountain and fabulous toilets! Due to the coronavirus threat, the children's activity room and cafe is closed right now, but the main exhibit is still open. The exhibit space is fairly small, so young children can feel a sense of accomplishment in walking the "entire" museum, including stairs up one floor and back down the other side. Entry is NTD20 "regular" and NTD10 "discount". There are lockers available.

History of Camphor Exhibit:

This is the permanent exhibit of the museum. In this section, you can learn about camphor, early trade, and some of the developments and troubles this brought to the island. There is a fun setup where you can sit in an old street scene and "ride" around the district on the back of a wagon. I was more infatuated by this than my 13-year-old, who spent more time reading the history on the walls and studying the art than I did...

Temporary Exhibit: Drawing Nature

On the second floor, you can surround yourself with beautiful drawings of nature, drawn by Taiwanese and international scientists over generations. One of the treasures in a huge book of drawings of birds. There are also stories of explorers and naturalists who visited Formosa long ago, recording their "discoveries". It is a multimedia exhibit, with films, documents, and hands-on activities. There is enough material up close and down low to make it accessible for young museum-goers. (I always encourage families to take young ones to museums and galleries. Don't worry if young children seem to whip through the place, they are taking in what they need with all of their senses, and absorb much more than we adults can in very short amounts of time, with their whole bodies!)

Drawing tools and paper are supplied, so you can attempt to draw what you see in these beautiful containers.

The exhibit material is in Chinese and English, and there is enough detail to make learning meaningful in either language.

With the pandemic meaning there could be sudden changes to opening times, conditions, etc, it is advisable to check the website before heading out so you are not disappointed. It's multilingual. Click here for the English link.

Google map link here.