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Monday, April 14, 2008

Disappointing Old Buildings in Taichū

The above subject title was suggested by my wife, who was less than thrilled by the pair of old buildings we visited this afternoon in T'aichung (Taijhong) 台中. Come to think of it, I wasn't particularly overwhelmed by what we saw either, at least not until the very end. First stop was Wenying (Wunying) Hall 文英館, which is listed in 地球の歩き方台湾 ('05-'06 edition) as 台湾伝統版印特蔵室. However, we didn't see any Taiwanese seals, traditional or otherwise, on display. Instead, there were two galleries with some mildly interesting paintings and scrolls (of modern vintage). The building only dates from 1976, yet was declared an Historic Structure by the city of Taichung in 2002. Like many things put up in the Seventies, it isn't particularly attractive, and IMHO, is one structure that could've been torn down, and replaced with something more modern. At least the galleries are free of charge.

Next, we crossed the street to visit the former residence of the mayor of Taichung:

Dating from 1929, it's a surprisingly small building, considering its stature as a high-level politician's home. That's probably because it was originally the residence of a Japanese ophthalmologist by the name of Takekuma Miyahara (or 宮原眼科, as he is listed on the plaque in front of the building), and was taken over by the city after the end of the Second World War. Aside from a cafe, there isn't much to see or do, but it's certainly more pleasing to the eyes than Wenying Hall.

Upon leaving the mayor's residence, we took a stroll through the extremely crowded area known as 台中一中街, packed with food stalls and people. I'm not sure what my daughter made of the sea of humanity.


Our last stop of the day was Taichung Park, aka Chungshan (Jhongshan) Park 中山公園. Opened by the Japanese as Taichū Park in 1903, the pavilion pictured below is considered to be the symbol of Taichung, and appears in most tourist brochures:

What caught my eye, however, was the site of an old Shintō 神道 shrine 神社 that once stood in the park. The main hall 本殿 is gone, having been replaced by a statue of Confucius 孔子, but other aspects are still in place: the row of stone lanterns leading up to what was the main building (the lanterns themselves are gone, but the posts remain, with the names of the Japanese donors still etched in place - 清水, 石川 etc.), and the pairs of koma-inu 狛犬 guardian lion-dogs and horses.

And to think there are some naive souls who come to Taiwan to experience "traditional Chinese culture" :)

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