Described by Forbes magazine in 1996 as “one of the world’s most surprising art collections,” the Chimei Museum (奇美博物館) is located in southern Taiwan’s Tainan City. It was established in 1992 by renowned Taiwanese entrepreneur Shi Wen-long (許文龍), founder of the Chi Mei Corporation and an art lover and amateur violinist. It features the world’s largest violin collection.
Covering an area of about 10 hectares (24.7 acres) in Tainan Metropolitan Park (臺南都會公園), the Chimei Museum is an eye-catching European-style structure. It is by far the largest private museum in Taiwan and is referred to as the Louvre Museum in Taiwan. It took four years to construct at a total cost of NT$1.85 billion (US$61.6 million), and the building was donated to the Tainan City government when completed in 2012.
Situated in front of the Chimei Museum compound is a replica of the Fountain of Apollo (阿波羅噴泉) at the Palace of Versailles (凡爾賽宮) in France, which depicts the Greek sun god Apollo rising from the sea at daybreak in his four-horse chariot.
Please watch the following video of the Chimei Museum:
Before the replica was transported to Taiwan, it took three years to make the mold of the sculpture in France, and another three to carve the marble in Italy. The Fountain of Apollo is magnificent, but its water fountain only erupts at a fixed time due to water conservation.
Between the museum and the Fountain of Apollo is the Olympus Bridge (奧林帕斯橋), where the statues of 12 gods and goddesses from Greek mythology are mounted on each side. The Olympus Bridge and the Muse Plaza (繆斯廣場) are hotspots where many people like to take their wedding or graduation photos.
Over the past decades, the museum has expanded its collection to over 13,000 pieces, mainly in the categories of Western art, musical instruments, weaponry, and natural history. Currently, between 6,000 and 7,000 items are on display, roughly half of its entire collection.
The Chimei Museum currently has six permanent exhibitions and one temporary exhibition on various themes. The hyperlinks of the Google 720° virtual reality images of some of these exhibitions are as follows: The Beauties of Simplicity — Henk Helmantel, Life’s Grandeur — A Journey of Evolution, Attack and Defense — The Evolution of Arms and Armour, Breaking New Ground for the Future — Rodin and His Circle, The Sense of Beauty — The Western Arts from 13th-20th Century, The Sound of Music — Making, Playing and Recording, Early Violins from Various Schools — Great Makers and Their Works.
The museum boasts one of the largest collections of violins in the world. As of 2015, the museum had over 1,362 violins, including those made by Antonio Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesu, Nicolo Amati, Amati, Rogeri, Jacob Stainer, Joseph Guarneri Filius Andrea, Seraphin, Gagliano, Vincenzo Rugeri, Guadagnini, and other famous artisans. Among them is one called “Ole Bull (奧雷‧布爾).” It was made by “King Joseph,” Guarneri del Gesu (耶穌‧瓜奈里, 1698-1744) in 1744 and named after Norwegian violinist Ole Bull. “Ole Bull” was declared a national treasure by Norway, but Mr. Shi made a successful bid for it in 1992. It is the most valuable piece in the Chimei Museum, and its value is estimated to be about NT$300 million (US$10 million).
These treasured violins and cellos are not only exhibited in the Chimei Museum for the general public to appreciate, but more than 220 of them have been borrowed by over 3,000 performers over the years, including world-renowned Yo-Yo Ma (馬友友) and Cho-Liang Lin (林昭亮), free of charge.
Additionally, the beautiful garden and the magnificent lake outside the museum make the museum compound look like a fantastic painting. The Chimei Museum is truly an ideal destination for anyone who appreciates art or simplely is looking for a weekend getaway.