Hello from the land of eternal warm weather! It’s another sunny, 75 degree Friday in November, something I’m not used to in Walla Walla or my hometown in Minnesota (where there is apparently already snow).
Last Friday my art history class took a field trip to the Taipei National Palace Museum. This class, Understanding and Misunderstanding Art of China, is my only class taught in English and taken with other international students and Taiwanese students, and we’ve most recently been learning about art produced in the imperial court in China, especially during the Song dynasty. So the National Palace Museum was a great place to go to supplement the lectures in class. It’s a huge museum that houses a lot of art objects from mainland China, because in the 1930s Chiang Kai-Shek and his government in China had all of this art moved to Taiwan to prevent it from being taken by the Japanese, and it just stayed here in the museum. It’s pretty interesting because these imperial art pieces can be said to represent the history of mainland China, so some think they should be returned to China, but then there’s also the question of if Taiwanese relate to this art history of China, which raises a lot of political debate about the relationship between Taiwan and China that I won’t get into now. At any rate, this art is all here in Taiwan now, and it was neat to take a look around the museum!
Our final essay for the art history course is to write about court paintings and to examine the National Treasure paintings, which were displayed when we visited the museum (they’re not displayed all the time—they’re actually rotated out to protect the paintings, because I guess they fade/deteriorate with more exposure to light and air or something?). We also have finals coming up (for both this class and the Chinese language class) in just one week (ONE WEEK) and I can hardly believe it. The end of the semester is fast approaching, and I just want to slow down time. This also means more time studying for finals, and more time in the library, which isn’t terrible—the library is quite peaceful, with four floors of books and quietly studying students. That’s actually something that’s struck me—the silence in the library. In Penrose library, people will study in groups and talk and brainstorm together, but here in NCCU’s library it’s pretty quiet. If people want to work on group projects, I think they meet in cafes or empty classrooms. And if we thought the Whitman quiet room was intimidating—the quiet area in NCCU’s library (there is one section on each floor) is ten times more intense: you’re not allowed to make ANY noise at all, which means no computers, calculators, notebooks, writing—even the sound of a pencil marking paper is too loud. I tried to study there once because the windows there have a pretty good view, but when I saw the signs saying this area was for reading only, no notebooks or calculators or computers, I left because I can’t handle that sort of pressure.
I actually kind of like the general quietude of the library here. It’s a big university in a big city, so we’re constantly surrounded by people, which, as an introvert, definitely took me a couple of weeks to get used to. Finding a quiet place, whether it’s in the library or in a café, is really nice. I also noticed that the culture here in Taipei is more friendly towards introverts in general. Going to restaurants and to the campus cafeterias, I often see people eating alone. There also isn’t an inclination towards small talk here, so waiters/waitresses and cashiers won’t ask you personal questions and when waiting for class to start local students don’t usually talk to people they don’t know. It’s been interesting to observe how different this is from the U.S., where there’s often this feeling of a need to fill any silence!