The Taipei Metro

After our short visit at Shandao Temple, Jandy, Isha and I now entered the Shandao Temple MRT Station where we plan, for the first time, to try out the Taipei Metro, more commonly known as the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit or Metro Rail Transit) or formally as the Taipei Rapid Transit System, to get to Taipei City Hall, the gateway to the iconic Taipei 101 Building.

Shandao Temple Station Entrance

This rapid transit system, Taiwan’s first metro system, was built and operated by the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) and it first began operations on March 28, 1996.  It consists of 96 stations and 110.1 kms. (68.4 miles) of revenue track. The system, an essential part of life in Taipei, carried an average of over 1.66 million passengers per day in December 2011.

Token vending machines

The Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) System operates in all 69 stations of the network. We  purchased our IC Single Journey RFID (radio frequency identification) tokens (in our case, blue as we were traveling along the Blue Line) from a token vending machine (NT$30 each).    They are valid only on the day of purchase.  These tokens replaced the existing magnetic single journey cards in 2007 (turnstiles were also replaced with speed gates during this time). We then have our tokens scanned at the speed gates to enter the station.  Upon reaching Taipei City Hall Station, our tokens were retrieved, again at the speed gates, once we exited the station.

IC Single Journey RFID token

The MRT system operates daily, from 6 AM to midnight, with extended services during special events such as New Year festivities. The trains operate at intervals of 1.5 to 15 mins., depending on the line and time of day. Stations become extremely crowded during rush hours, especially at transfer stations such as Taipei Main Station, Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and Minquan West Rd.

Station speed gates

Automated station announcements are recorded in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and English. High-traffic stations, including Taipei Main Station, Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and Taipei City Hall Station, have platform gates to prevent passengers and other objects from falling onto the rails.

Taipei City Hall MRT Station

Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC): 7, Lane 48, Sec. 2, Zhongshan North Rd., 10448, Taipei City, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 2536-3001.  Fax: (+886-2) 2511-5003. Website: http://english.trtc.com.tw

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Taipei City: Shandao Temple

At the end of our half-day city tour, Jandy and I opted to visit the renowned Taipei 101 Building, once the highest building in the world, with Isha also joining us.  After Reto and Gabriella were dropped off at their hotel (they were leaving Taipei in the afternoon), Mr. Pang dropped us off at the Shandao Temple MRT Station where we were to take the MRT to Taipei City Hall Station (free shuttles to Taipei 101 can be taken there).

Shandao Temple

Next to the MRT station is the elegantly simple Shandao Temple, the largest of Taipei’s Buddhist temples.  We made a short visit here first.  Established in 1926 by Sera Yoshinari and Tamura Chigaku, two monks from the Japanese Pure Land School, the temple was originally called the “Pure Land School Taipei branch site.” After the defeated Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, the Taipei City government’s Department of Education expropriated the site.

Mercy and Kindness Building

The Shandao Temple originally comprised the Mahavira Hall (Precious Hall of the Great Hero), the Amitabha Hall (Maitreya Hall), the Hall of Observance and  the Merit Hall. In 1986,  the 9-storey Mercy and Kindness building was constructed over the original site of the Hall of Observance. Its 4th floor houses the Taixu Library while the 5th to 7th floors contain a museum of Buddhist history.  The museum’s collections include Buddhist artifacts from  the Northern Wei and Song Dynasties  to the present. The Amitabha Hall was converted into a 7-storey building in 2002.

The Three Treasures Buddhas at Mahavira Hall

We visited the Mahavira Hall, converted into a 10-storey building in 2003.  Its structure and feeling is very different from those built by the Taiwanese, the austerity and solemnity being the biggest differences.  Its pared down architecture is truly a soothing change from the bright colors and opulence of other temples. Inside its main hall, large enough to accommodate several hundred people, are the Three Treasures Buddhas.

Shandao Temple: Zhongxiao East Rd., Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan.  Open Tuesdays-Sundays, 9 AM-5 PM.

Taipei National Palace Museum

After our visit to the Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine, we were next driven to the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center for some souvenir shopping.  On sale were porcelain, cloisonne, oil paper umbrellas, painted fans, wood carvings, crystal, etc.  Reto, Gabriella, Jandy and I just browse around while Isha bought some souvenir gifts for her friends.

Taipei National Palace Museum

We next proceeded to the final destination in our half-day city tour – the 198-acre Taipei National Palace Museum.  The national museum of Taiwan, it houses one of the world’s largest and most valuable collection of Chinese art treasures, with over 677,687 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts and artworks, most of them high-quality pieces from the Chinese imperial collection of China’s ancient emperors, began over 1,000 years ago in the early Song Dynasty.  The collection encompasses over 8,000 years of Chinese history,  from the Neolithic Age to the late Qing Dynasty.

Taipei National Palace Museum

As it was a weekend, the museum was packed with visitors and we had to queue in line.  We weren’t allowed to take photos of the collection.  Donning our headphones, Mr. Pang gave us interesting descriptions of the 1,700 artifacts on display which, incidentally, is only 1% of the total collection which numbers some 93,000 items of Chinese calligraphy, porcelain,  6,044 cast bronzes,  5,200 scroll paintings, 12,104 pieces of jade, 3,200 examples of lacquer and enamel ware, figurines, assorted carvings, fans, rubbings, coins, textiles and many other artifacts from Beijing’s Forbidden City as well as 562,000 rare, traditional books and documents. The rest of the collection is stored in temperature-controlled basement vaults. The displays are rotated once every 3 months, which means 60,000 pieces can be viewed in a year but it would take us nearly 12 years to see them all.

L-R: Jandy, Gabriella, Reto and Isha

The most famous and notable pieces on display at the museum are the Jadeite Cabbage (part of the dowry of the Qing Dynasty concubine Jin), the Meat-Shaped Stone, Agate Finger Citrons, White Jade Branch of Elegant Lychee, T’ien-huang Stone Miniature Mountain, the Jiu Manzhou Dang (a set of Manchu archives), the Carved Olive-stone Boat, the Jadeite Screen Insert and “One Hundred Horses,” a painting done in 1728 by Giuseppe Castiglione.

During the civil war, these important treasures were transferred, in 2,972 boxes, to Taiwan to evade damage.  This transition brought the re-establishment of the National Palace Museum (it was first called Chungsan Museum).  Designed by Huang Baoyu, its construction was started in 1962 and the museum was inaugurated on November 12, 1965, the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925).

A sitting statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen

The museum has 4 floors, the first, second and third floors are used for exhibitions while the fourth floor is a lounge where visitors can rest.  On the left side of the museum hall is the Chih-shan Garden (showcases many of the elements of traditional Chinese gardening art) while on the right is the Chih-te Garden. Also part of the Taipei National Palace Museum is the Chang Dai-ch’ien Memorial Residence, the home of the celebrated painter Chang Dai-ch’ien (1901-1984).

Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center: No.1 Hsu Chow Rd., Taipei, Taiwan. Tel:(+886-2) 2393-3655. Fax: (+886-2) 2393-7330. Email: thpc@handicraft.org.tw.  Website: www.handicraft.org.tw.

National Palace Museum: No.221, Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd., Shilin District, Taipei City 11143, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 2881-2021. Website: www.npm.gov.tw. Open daily, 9 AM-5 PM. Admission: NT$160.

How to Get There: take the MRT Danshui Line to the Shilin Station then take bus R30 (Red 30 – Low-floor bus) to the National Palace Museum. Other routes that will take you to and near the Museum plaza are buses 255, 304, 815 (Sanchung – NPM Line), Minibus 18 and Minibus 19.

You can also take the MRT Wenhu Line to the Dazhi Station then take bus B13 (Brown 13) to the National Palace Museum, alighting before the Front Facade Plaza of the Museum. Alternatively, visitors may choose to take the Wenhu Line and get off at Jiannan Rd. Station, then take bus B20 (Brown 20) to NPM’s front entrance (Main Building).

Taipei City: National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine

After the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and photo ops at Liberty Square, we all returned to the van for our next destination, the 5,00 sq. m. National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine, dedicated to the war dead of Taiwan.  Built in 1969 on Chingshan Mountain, overlooking the Keelung River, our visit to the Martyrs Shrine again recalls the architecture of the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing’s Forbidden City as the buildings on the site were skillfully crafted and designed to look like Ming Dynasty palaces.

Gate at National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine

The structure houses the spirit tablets of about 390,000 persons killed, among other engagements, during the Xinhai Revolution, the Northern Expedition, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War and the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crises. It was also the site of the funeral of President Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek, on January 13, 1988.

The main sanctuary

Every March 29 (Youth Day, commemorating the Huanghuagang Uprising) and September 3 (Armed Forces Day) of every year, the country’s president  leads the heads of the five Yuans (branches of government) to pay their respects to the martyrs by bowing and offering incense.

One of the shrine’s pavilions

A changing of the honor guard (the last one at 4:40 PM), from the various branches of the military, similar to the rituals we saw at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, also takes place at the shrine (and at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall)  but it wasn’t going to happen a second time.  Soldiers who have the honor of being guards at these shrines must be 1.75-1.95 m. (5′-9″-6′-3″) tall, weigh at least 65 kgs. (143 lbs.), have, at least, a high school education, have no criminal record and have lots of discipline as they have to stand still, even under the scorching sun, for an hour.  The guards on duty at this shrine, with their gleaming steel helmets, shiny leather boots and blue uniforms, were from the Air Force, 2 posted at the main shrine and 2 at the main gate along Beian Rd..

Jandy and I posing with the guard on duty

Although the Martyrs Shrine is located in Taiwan, most of the soldiers honored served China and were born in Chinese provinces. The main sanctuary was modeled after the Taiho Palace in Beijing. Plaques, paintings and friezes in the arcade surrounding the main sanctuary describe the details of various 20th-century rebellions and battles. A bell tower and drum tower are used during memorial ceremonies. Next to the shrine is the 12-storey, 490-room Grand Hotel, one of the world’s tallest Chinese classical buildings.  It was designed by Taipei-based architect Yang Cho-Cheng and completed on October 10, 1973.

National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine: 139 Beian Rd., Shilin, Taipei, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 2349 1635 and (+886-2) 2885-4162. Open daily (except Saturdays), 9 AM-5 PM. Admission is free.

How to Get There: take a taxi from Jiantan or Yuanshan MRT stations or take the free shuttle bus from Yuanshan MRT station to the Grand Hotel, then walk 15 mins. east, alons Bei-an Road (ask for directions at The Grand Hotel).

Grand Hotel: No. 1, Section 4, Zhōngshān North Rd., Jhongshan District.  Tel:
(+886-2) 2886-8888.  Website:  www.grand-hotel.org.

Taipei City: Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – Changing of the Honor Guard Ceremony

Soon the memorial was officially opened and we were led up to the main hall where a crowd of tourists were already gathered.  The hall’s main feature is the massive 3-storey high bronze statue of a smiling Chiang, in traditional Chinese dress, sitting on a  dais. An elaborate caisson is set into the ceiling  which is also decorated with the emblem of the Kuomintang (KMT).  Chinese inscriptions on the walls are the characters for Ethics, Democracy, and Science.

The bronze sitting statue of Chiang Kai-Shek

Five members of the Taiwan Marines , in immaculately white uniforms and helmets, were guarding the main hall with rifles with fixed bayonets. The branch of service represented here changes periodically according to a rotating schedule  (every 4 months).  The Army wears green uniforms, the Navy wears  black in summer and white in winter, and the Air Force wears blue.

The Main Hall’s ceiling

The much anticipated, impressively synchronized Changing of the Guards ceremony soon took place at the appointed time (it takes place every hour). At this formal, elaborate and precisely choreographed ceremony, the ceremonial guards are relieved by a new batch of sentries. This ceremony is also conducted at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony

Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall: 21 Zongshan South Rd., Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan.  Tel: (+886-2) 2343-1100. Open daily, 9 AM-6:30 PM. Admission is free.

How to Get There: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station then transfer, via Taipei MRT, to Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall Station.

Taipei City: Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Cultural Center

Liberty Square

From Tung Ho Zen Temple, we again boarded our van and went on our way to our next destination, the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, erected in memory of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (October 31, 1887-April 5, 1975), Taiwan’s long-time leader.  Here, we were to observe the 9 AM Changing of the Honor Guard ceremony.

Presidential Office Building

Along the way to the hall, we passed the Neo-Renaissance-style Presidential Office Building, an elaborate red brick edifice built in 1919. It was already drizzling when we arrived at the Memorial Hall’s tremendous, 30 m. (98.4 ft.) high and 80 m. (262.4  ft.) high arched main gate  (which faces Chiang’s beloved China) – the Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness.

Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness

The main gate opened into Liberty Square with its grand vista reminiscent of my visit to Beijing’s Forbidden City, with the massive and ornate National Theater (on the south) and National Concert Hall (on the north) flanking it.  Both, completed in 1987, were modeled after the Forbidden City’s Halls of Supreme Harmony and Preserving Harmony and painted in the same brilliant Ming Dynasty style.

National Concert Hall

Added to it are immaculate grounds featuring lovely traditional Chinese sculpted gardens, miniature hills, an ornamental bridge, waterfalls and serene ponds (filled with colorful koi), truly a scene from the 1987 Bernardo Bertolucci classic film The Last Emperor.  The Gate of Great Loyalty also stands at the north side (along Xinyi Rd.) while the Gate of Great Piety stands at the south side (along Aiguo East Rd.).

National Theater

From the gate, we all walked along the Boulevard of Homage (bordered by manicured bushes), to the east end of the square where the magnificent, 76 m. (250 ft.) high 240,000 sq. m. memorial hall stands.  It has a marble facade and octagonal (the octagonal shape picks up the symbolism of the number 8, a number traditionally associated in Asia with abundance and good fortune), twin-eaved roof of brilliant blue tiles crowned by a golden spur.

Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

The memorial’s design was based on the winning competition entry of the late, internationally renowned Chinese architect Yang Cho-cheng. Yang’s design incorporated many elements of traditional Chinese  architecture.  Started on October 31, 1976 (the 90th anniversary of Chiang’s birth), the hall was officially opened on April  5, 1980 (the fifth anniversary of the leader’s death). The hall has 2 sets of stairs, each with 89 steps, representing the age of Chiang Kai-shek at the time of his death. We didn’t climb the stairs. Instead we entered the hall via a huge doorway by the side of the stairs.

Jandy at entrance hallway

We arrived early, still minutes before the hall’s opening, so we first listened to Mr. Pang’s narrative of Chiang’s life.  Also at the ground floor is a museum with exhibit related to the late president’s life including his personal effects, photos, a mock-up of one of his offices and his bulletproof Cadillac.

Part of the ground floor museum exhibit

Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall: 21 Zongshan South Rd., Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan.  Tel: (+886-2) 2343-1100. Open daily, 9 AM-6:30 PM. Admission is free.

National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center: Tel: (+886-2) 3393-9888.

How to Get There: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station then transfer, via Taipei MRT, to Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall Station.

Taipei City: Tung Ho Zen Temple

Jandy and I woke up by 6:30 AM as our half-day city tour was scheduled this morning.  After our buffet breakfast at the Golden Ear Restaurant, we proceeded to the hotel lobby to await the arrival of our tourist guide, Mr. Pang of Edison Travel Service, who arrived by 7:45 AM.  We boarded a van and made short stopovers at 2 hotels to pick up Swiss couple Reto and Gabriella Conrad and Ms. Ishani Dave, a Marketing & New Product Development  Manager at Hannover Milano Fairs India Pvt. Ltd.

Tung Ho Zen Temple

The first item in the tour itinerary was a visit to the century-old Tung Ho Zen Temple, a Soto Zen monastery.  The temple was first started in 1908 and originally covered an area of 4,500 pings (14,850 sq. m.).  It then consisted of the Soto Zen Center, the Kuanyin Zen House, the Taipei Junior High School and the bell tower. The bell tower (designated a municipal historic landmark in 1997) and the Kuanyin Zen House are the only two remaining buildings in the area of the complex that has gradually shrunk to 700 pings (2,310 sq. m).

Interior of temple (in the foreground is the censer or incense urn)

The Kuanyin Zen House was renamed as Tung Ho Zen Temple in 1946, about the same time that the complex and the land it was built on were donated by the Japanese colonial owners to the temple’s former master, the Master Hsin Yuan.  Upon the death of  Hsin Yuan on March 1970, aged 89, the central government took over the complex a month later.

Interior of temple (at right, a devotee prays to the goddess Mazu)

Tung Ho Zen Temple: cor. Linsen South Rd. and Jenai Rd., Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan.

Taipei Story House

Immediately adjacent to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is the half-timbered Taipei Story House (old name Yuanshan Mansion), the only faux Tudor-style heritage building in Taiwan.  Built on the Yuanshan section of the Keelung River from1913–14 by Chen Chao-chun, a Dadaocheng tea merchant, it was originally a guest house for rich merchants and other important local people.   In 1998, the Taipei City Government designated this building as a Heritage Site and, in 2003, Miss K.C. Chen sponsored the establishment of Taipei Story House as a mini-museum to showcase historic cultural life in Taiwan, as well as to promote the re-use of historical buildings.

Taipei Story House

The ground floor is built of load-bearing brick while the upper floor is made of wood with English Tudor-style beams and woven branches on the exterior wall.  The staircase was constructed to look like a pagoda. The entrance portico is in the Classical style with Ionic columns.  The Gothic-style house tower and chimney are made of brick, and the curved gable is covered with bronze tiles, on which the verdigris caused by aging reveals the trace of time.

The Gothic-style tower

The tower above the entrance is inlaid with green, yellow and red-stained glass. Inside the house are two fireplaces and Art Nouveau tiles featuring natural and floral patterns. The overall configuration of the interior space, together with the outdoor balconies and terraces, exhibit a Classic style and are closely integrated with the surrounding landscape.

The European-style garden

The European-style garden, consisting of more than one hundred kinds of flowers, has a pond, red brick dwarf wall and curved paths.  Now a museum, it has exhibits related to tea and local history. Also within the grounds is the Story Tea House, a chic French fine dining restaurant opened in 2003 and operated by The Landis Taipei Hotel group.  We climbed up its view deck for a bird’s eye view of the complex.

Story Tea House

Our visit to Taipei Story House capped our walking tour of the city and, quite tired from all that walking, opted to take our first Taipei taxi ride (NT$100) back to the hotel. Later in the evening, we again had dinner, also along Changchun Rd., this time at a Burger King outlet.  Our half-day city was scheduled the next day.

Taipei Story House: 181-1 Zhongshan North Rd., Section 3, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan.  Tel: (+886-2) 2587-5565. E-mail: story@storyhouse.com.tw. Website: www.storyhouse.com.tw. Open Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 AM-5:30 PM.  Admission: NT$50 (adults) and NT$40 (students and groups of 10+).  Free admission for children under 6 years of age, seniors over 65, and disabled person with one companion.

Story Tea House: Open daily, 11 AM-7 PM (11 AM-9 PM, Saturdays and Sundays).  Tel: (+886-2) 2586-8628.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum

From the Lin An Tai Historical House & Museum, Jandy and I proceeded to a 7-Eleven outlet for some ice cream before making our way to the 6-storey, 20,442 sq. m. Taipei Fine Arts Museum.  Shaped like a pound sign, it is a traditional siheyuan courtyard with a modern edge and its shape plus the creative sculptures (notably Ju Ming’s “Taichi Arch” and Lee Tsai-chien’s “Homerun”) in front made the museum easy for us to identify from afar.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Opened on December 24, 1983, it was the first purpose-built museum in Taiwan to host modern and contemporary art exhibitions.The museum has an actual constructed exhibition area of 11,741 sq. m. with more than 4000 pieces of art works. It consists of 24 galleries and is said to be larger than the National Palace Museum in terms of interior space. The art exhibits, which include the work of international and Taiwanese artists, change every few months.

Lee Tsai-chien’s “Homerun”

Each building floor has different arrangements, with the second floor displaying permanent collections while the third floor displays theme exhibitions. The basement is organized into 4 zones (D, E, F and G) for exhibitions and major art competitions.

Suspended gallery

Symmetrical and suspended gallery spaces are spread on each floor to form a new space where visitors can view and appreciate art. The grand windows also allow museum visitors to take in the beauteous views that overlook Yuan Shan, the Fine Arts Park Area and the surrounding environments. The building also houses audio rooms, art classrooms, gift shop (sells artwork and numerous souvenirs) and a library.

Another suspended gallery, this time glass-encased

The museum’s architecture, a local adaption of the Japanese Metabolist Movement (espouses large scale, flexible and expandable structures that evoked the processes of organic growth), is infused with elements borrowed from traditional Chinese architecture, which are presented via the structure of piled brackets in the form of suspended corridors, that, together, form a tubular-shaped composition. This tube-shape is identical to the Chinese character for “fountain,” hence fostering the museum’s analogue as a live source of culture. The task of designing and construction was given over to local architect Kao Er-Pan.

The Julian Rosefeldt “World Making” solo show

We didn’t view the paid exhibits but I did visit Julian Rosefeldt‘s  “World Making,” a free solo show of this much celebrated contemporary German new-media artist’s lavishly-produced 16 mm. and 35 mm. films and photo works (2001-2011).  Projected onto several screens to create a panorama-like effect, his films carry the viewer off into a surreal, theatrical world whose inhabitants are caught in the structures and rituals of everyday life.

The museum library

Taipei Fine Arts Museum: 181 Zhongshan North Road, Section 3, Zhongshan District, 10461 Taipei City, Taiwan.  Tel: (+886-2) 2595-7656. Fax: (+886-2) 2594-4104.  E-mail: info@tfam.gov.tw.  Website: www.tfam.taipei.gov.tw. Open Tuesdays-Sundays, 9:30 AM-5:30 PM (8:30 PM on Saturdays).  Admission: NT$30 (for adults) and NT$15 (discounted), 30% discount for group with more than 20 members.

How to Get There: Bus routes 203, 218, 220, 260, 277, 279, 310, 40, 42, 612, all exit at Taipei Fine Arts Museum station.  Via MRT, take the Danshui line and exit Yuanshan Station.  From here, it is a 5 min. walk to the museum.

Taipei City: Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

Within walking distance from Xinsheng Park is the Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum,  one of the few traditional courtyard complexes preserved in northern Taiwan and the best-preserved and maintained ancient house in Taipei City.  This traditional Chinese courtyard house, famous for its delicate carvings, was built in the southern Fujianese style which incorporates 3-sided courtyards, woods and gardens, all natural and shaped to embody the pristine elements.

Entrance to Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

In 1754, Lin Chin-Ming (also known as Lin, Yao-Kung), a native from Anxi County of Fujian Province, sailed across the strait to Taiwan with his family. The Lin family engaged in trade in northern Taiwan and, with the money they made, they built this big, very refined 5-annex house with a square at where No.141 of Siwei Rd. now lies. The main building was completed between 1783 and 1785 while the side buildings were completed, one after the other, between 1822 and 1823.  In memory of his hometown, the fourth son, Lin, Chin-Neng (also known as Lin, Hui-Kung) named the house as “An Tai,” representing Anxi County and Rong Tai Company, the company he founded in Bangka.

Paved Front Yard of Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

In 1978, due to its being located within the range of the project to expand Dunhua South Road plus its rejection as a historical site, the house faced demolition.  To save it, local activists petitioned to have the building spared as a cultural site. A blueprint containing every single measurement of the building was saved. The building was then meticulously dismantled, from decorations to bricks; stored safely and then relocated, piece by piece, to its current site at Binjang Park, in the shadows of the Jiankuo Expressway, in 1986.  In May 2000, it was opened  to the public as a museum and, in 2010, after its courtyard was extended, the museum became one of the exhibition halls of the Taipei International Flora Exposition.

Front Yard of Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

The house’s landscaped courtyard, layout of buildings, waterscapes (“the proportion of water, bamboo and house is 30%, 20% and 10% respectively”), artificial hills and plants are all done in accordance with feng shui and Taoism,  reflecting the ancient Chinese’s multi-directional views of nature and life. In the past, the house had a Toad Peak in front of it as its “Mountain of feng shui,” plus shielding hills on both sides and a wind-gathering flat square in front of the semi-circular pond. Today, to reinstate the feng shui landscapes of the old house, an artificial hill, called Gu Zhu Ming Shan (Artificial Clay Modeling Hill), was created, using wire-mesh concrete, in front of a flat square and 2 slightly raised grasslands were used to surround the square.

Gu Zhu Ming Shan (Artificial Clay Modeling Hill)

Past the imposing front gate is the large, crescent-shaped (the best shape for bringing wealth in terms of feng shui) lotus pond, another feng shui device. Its shining surface deflects negative qi from sweeping through the main portal.  It also had practical purposes as it was used as a defense line if under attack, for raising fish, to fight fires, supply water, keep a moderate temperature by cooling incoming breezes and adds to the splendor of the old house’s surroundings.  Flowers grown all have their own symbolism – noble character (plum, orchid, bamboos and chrysanthemum), eternal youth (pine and cypress), wealth (peony), self-respect (lotus) and relief (lily).

The crescent-shaped lotus pond

This 34-room, stone and brick house has elegant decorations; beautiful, sloping swallow-tail roofs (this flouted imperial rules as this roofing style was the exclusive privilege of high-level mandarins) and the stone and artwork used were brought by ship from Fujian.  The roof ridges arch upwards to form a swallowtail structure. The mansion has a south-north axis, with rooms on the right and left side of the courtyard.

Courtyard of Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

Its front door has creative carvings of 6 dragons, representing the 6 sons in the family while the carvings of vases and bats carry the meanings of good luck, wealth and safety. Pillow-shaped stones, gate pillars and hollows for the door axles are all carved from a single piece of stone. Each door was equipped with a hidden lock. The front yard is paved with red, moss-free and non-slip stones that were used by mainland merchants to stabilize their big sailing ships

Elaborate wood carving

Carved on the pillars, made of Chingtou stones, is a couplet “To live with a kind heart and maintain the achievements of ancestors.” Chinese characters, signifying good fortune and longevity, are printed on the two sides. By adding anti-termite agents, the original Guanyin stone, Fuzhou fir wood, and local bamboo, reed and bricks have been kept intact.

The main hall

Beyond the entrance is an intricately carved screen wall to divert evil. The main hall consists of a colorfully adorned altar depicting scenes from Chinese mythology. The ancestors depicted at the altar are worshiped in an annual ceremony. Walking through the house, we directly experienced the lifestyle of the Taiwanese people 200 years ago as the interiors of the house are full of decorative details and antiques such as an earthen rice grinder, a stone mill, cupboards, a huge cooking hearth in the kitchen, an intricately carved wooden bed and a dresser.

Intricately carved wooden antique furniture

Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum: 5 Binjiang St., Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 2599-6026, (+886-2) 2720-8889 (ext.6239) and (+886-2) 2598-1572. Fax: (+886-2) 2599-6521.  Open daily except Mondays and folk holidays (Chinese New Year, Tomb Sweeping Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival), 9 AM-9 PM (5 PM on Sundays). Admission is free.

How to Get  There:  take the MRT to Yuanshan Station (Exit 1), then hop on the bus 222 to the Xinsheng Park stop.