Taiwan welcomes China’s tourism boom. But Chinese tourists, not so much
China’s tourism to Taiwan, once banned, is now growing fast as bilateral ties improve. But with the influx of visitors comes a culture clash.
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That was only a minor hiccup, though, as a visit to Taiwan's National Palace Museum shows. The museum is a mandatory stop for Chinese tour groups, as it contains imperial treasures taken (Chinese would say, “stolen”) from Beijing's Forbidden City when the Kuomintang fled from the Japanese and, later, the Chinese communists. The KMT later brought the treasures to Taiwan and stuck them in a hillside palace in the lush hills on the city’s north side.Skip to next paragraph
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Now, Chinese tourists make up more than half of the 5,000 to 7,000 foreign tourists that visit every day, say museum staff – or up to 10,000 on weekend days. They come to gaze at curios, calligraphy, rare books, landscape paintings, and jade carvings that were out of reach to Chinese for nearly six decades.
At the museum, the tour guide said that sometimes Chinese tourists jokingly ask her to “help us get our treasures back.” They may have a chance to at least borrow some of them soon: Taiwan’s palace museum has been cozying up to its counterpart in Beijing with exchanges and, last year, a joint exhibit. Still, China hasn’t yet been willing to give Taiwan a written guarantee it will get its art back if loaned.
The tour guide said groups first came over from China's Zhejiang Province, then Jiangsu, then the Dongbei (northeast) provinces, and most recently, Inner Mongolia. “They want to know, are there more treasures here, or in Beijing,” she says. The answer: Beijing's museum has a numerical edge in possessions, but Taiwan’s collection is viewed as far better.
Lingering nearby, the Jiangsu tourists waited for their wayward compatriots and chatted among themselves. A Taiwanese ticket-taker wearing a surgical mask stood nearby, next to a sign saying “Please keep your voice down.” She said, with a tone of relief, that there weren’t so many Chinese tourists at this time of day. “They’re so noisy,” she says, with a quick shake of her head and a giggle.
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