China tourists deluge, daunt rival Taiwan's museum

Wed Apr 1, 2009 1:40am EDT
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By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Chinese tourists eager to see art treasures heisted from China decades ago have swamped a famed Taiwan museum, forcing it to deploy crowd-control measures and fuelling a huge expansion.

As many as 15,000 visitors per day have pushed time and space limits at the National Palace Museum, which holds ancient art treasures that Taiwan's Nationalists (KMT) took from China in the 1940s when they fled to the island in the middle of civil war.

Last week, one of the Chinese guides died of a heart attack.

To control the noisy, excitable tourists, as well as preventing wall-to-wall crowds, the world-renowned 24,000 square-meter museum housing some 654,500 exhibits has asked the Chinese to step into line.

Tourists must queue outside the most popular exhibit, a jade cabbage, and must observe the keep-quiet signs, said museum Director Chou Kung-shin. Tour guides are also asked to break up larger groups.

"We've made some special plans to spread them out," Chou told Reuters. "Sometimes they talk loudly, but we have our means of letting them know not to."

Chinese tourists are often told ahead of arrival in Taiwan to avoid spitting, shouting and other behavior common in China, local travel agents say.

To further ease crowding, the museum will install an escalator across its vast promenade and staircase.   Continued...