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Legacies of NTU - No. 12
Life in Prehistoric Taiwan: Remarkable Painting in Museum of Anthropology

This image of what life was like in prehistoric Taiwan was created by two NTU ethnology professors.
This image of what life was like in prehistoric Taiwan was created by two NTU ethnology professors.
(Image: Museum of Anthropology)

If you’re a student from Taiwan, you might find this image to be quite familiar. This remarkable painting of what is supposedly a reenactment of life of prehistoric Taiwan was once featured in Taiwan’s elementary school textbooks. But did you know that the painting was produced right here in the NTU Campus?

Back in 1948, after the Retrocession of Taiwan, NTU’s Professor Shao-Xin Chen (陳紹馨) was put in charge of organizing the ethnology display for the first Taiwan Exposition. With this mission in mind, Chen sought assistance from his colleagues Professor Kokubu Naoichi and Professor Kanaseki Takeo to create this image of “Life in Prehistoric Taiwan.”

The two professors first created an outline of the image based on records of prehistoric Taiwan in collaboration with their expertise in ethnology. Professor Kanaseki Takeo then decided on the theme and delineated the content using a sketch of the image’s scene and setting. The image’s theme, with the help of the sketch, was then handed over to painter Tateishi Tetsuomi, who transformed the piece into the image above. The image stages a miniature society depicting up to 25 everyday life activities in prehistoric Taiwan.

The activities include the obtaining and preparation of food, culture and weaponry, and even an image of early dentistry where a boy is having his teeth pulled out by an elder. To help the characters be livelier, the painter even had Professor Kokubu Naoichi pose topless so that he could capture the each and every sinew with the utmost accuracy.

The most remarkable aspect of this image lies not just in its details, but also in the many research and creative efforts placed into giving life to the characters, activities, and scenes of prehistoric Taiwan.

This article was originally written by the Museum of Anthropology HERE (06/18/2014).

You can learn more about the Museum of Anthropology’s rich ethnological collection at their Facebook page.

National Taiwan University is home to an abundance of educational and cultural artifacts that bear the history of the campus’ past. As a result, the NTU Museums project, a campaign that integrates the university’s ten individual museums, was launched in 2005 and officially inaugurated in 2007 so that the school’s hidden treasures could be introduced to the public. To honor the school’s past, the “Legacies of NTU” series will feature the stories of NTU’s hidden treasures by taking you through the most precious items among the university’s collection.

Chinese version