I’ve been. Mixed feelings about it. It’s about NT 200, if memory serves. Founded by a Buddhist monk from China (who BTW got caught with the Chinese herbal equivalent of viagra!). His disciples run the place.
It made me feel a little creepy–they wait for you to get off the elevator, and “escort” you to the ticket-buying counter with a hush-hush look on their faces. The lights are all turned low. I think they want you to have a religious experience when you go inside. Or at least not back away when you find out how much it costs.
The entrance takes you past a wall of running water which invites you to mentally cleanse yourself (anybody remember the Beavis and Butthead movie, where they discover the self-flushing toilet? now THAT’s a religious experience) and then a wall where “peace” or something is written in eight or ten languages. There’s a “wall of philosophers” (just their names written on the wall), and a big metal ball with some astrology stuff around it. No golden calf, alas.
And on the way you walk past black-and-white life-sized photos of a bunch of people bowing and scraping. (If you look carefully you can spot our very own Father Jonah! Look for the picture of an Orthodox monk, with the beard.) Setting an example for us, no doubt. The presumed object of their genuflection is this digital wall that does a sort of Kirlian photography of your hands, or whatever other warm body parts you slap against it. Very spiritual, I’m sure.
Then they show you a film on God creating the world. Or was it the Buddhist equivalent? Sorry, I’m blanking out on this part. Maybe that’s where they brainwashed me to KILL KILL KILL…!!! and this is the cover memory.
There was supposed to be something called “Avatamsaka World” (a depiction of Indra’s net, from the Hua Yen Sutra?) but it was closed when I went there.
The museum was designed by the same people who did Washington DC’s holocaust memorial. Translation: the monk in charge wanted the best of everything, and associated “brand name” with quality. Or maybe the local rabbi steered some business their way…? Anyway, it looks like something from a sci-fi convention. The set of the Starship Enterprise?
It’s got two floors. One floor is organized according to stages of the life process–birth and death and so on. It’s pretty sparse, considering the subject. There’s also a center room with a variable display–when I went, it was Tibetan Buddhist stuff. Pretty.
Upstairs there are separate (mostly permanent) displays for about ten religious traditions. Let’s see if I can remember them all: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese religions, indigenous religions (Mayan for now–it rotates), ancient religions (Egyptian for now), and one other. One of the signs mentions “Baha’i” “Voodoo” and “Christian Science” but they’re nowhere represented. Neither is Yiguandao, the third-largest Taiwanese religion.
The displays are very “Generation X”–lots of TV screens, headphones, and computer gimmicks. The objects themselves are colorful enough but not very abundant–maybe a dozen to each religion, on a display case about three meters long.
The emphasis is on big, international religions–which means that if you belong to a religion not on their list, or with any local characteristics at all, they’re not very interested in you. No Mormons, no Quakers, no ghulat Muslims, no Caodaists, no Wicca, no Javanese forms of Islam–just the plain vanilla, thank you very much. Even the “Buddhism” section doesn’t pay much attention to the local Taiwanese form of it, as opposed the professional kind run by monks.
The gift shop, as usual for museums, is full of expensive kitch. I was hoping for a book section, but the only books they had were all in a series of publications by Bedi’uz’zaman Said Nurcu, a 20th century Turkish Sunni teacher who founded that country’s answer to the Moral Majority. Very strange…