The Chungshan Building 中山樓 on Yangmingshan above Taipei is one of the most famous and important neo-classical Chinese buildings in Taiwan. It was completed in 1966 (at the exact 100 years anniversary of Sun Yat-sen's birth) in order to serve as the venue for the National Assembly of the Republic of China 國民大會. It took this role away from the older, yet smaller Zhongshan Hall in central Taipei. The national assembly is defunct since 2005, but the building still serves for occasional meetings and gatherings by various government entities. It's open to public since 2006 (source).
The history of the Chungshan Building
The Chungshan Building was built on Yangmingshan north of Taipei City and next to a sulphuric stream, that supplies the hot springs in Xinbeitou with water. The location is said to have very good feng shui, but the sulphur in the water is very aggressive, it speeds up the corrosion of iron, for example (source). It's also said, that the location was chosen, because it was aligned with the Shilin Official Residence (where Chiang Kai-shek lived), the Grand Hotel and the Office of the President (see photo on the left, click to enlarge). During out visit we were told, that around 1200 veteran soldiers were working on the construction 24h a day in a period of 13 months to complete the building before Sun Yat-sen's centennial birth anniversary on November 12th, 1966. The building was designed by the architect Xiu Ze-lan 修澤蘭, who is female, which was quite a novelty in the 1960s. The design incorporates classical Chinese palatial elements from the Ming and Qing dynasty. You will see a lot of ornamentation and attention to every detail. There is a large number of Chinese characters for good fortune 福 (fú) and longevity 壽 (shòu) incorporated in various elements inside the building as well as in the garden. What was perhaps most challenging was the ground base, which is composed of a mix of hard and soft soil, rocks and mud and is located close to sulfuric gas spurting pits. The nearby Seven Star Mountain 七星山 is Taiwan's highest dormant volcano (source).
Our visit of the Chungshan Building
As an avid history and architecture buff, it's been one of my long time wishes to see the Chungshan Building in real, but since it's located on Yangminshan and has very specific opening hours, it took some time, before I could finally see it. I was lucky a week ago, because we had beautiful sunny weather in Taipei (after 3 weeks of rain) and my wife was free and willing to accompany me. What is important to remember, is the fact, that they only let visitors in 4 times per day, because there are 4 guided tours by volunteers at 8.30, 10.00, 13.30 and 15.00. If you come by bus from Taipei, you better be at the main gate about 10 min before the tour starts, because walking from the gate to the Chungshan Hall might take you a good 10 minutes. You will need to sign your name at the security and show ID. The tours are unfortunately only in Chinese language, so unless you're not fluent, bring a Taiwanese friend, who can translate for you. I was lucky to have my wife with me. And by the way, I was the only foreigner in the group, which consisted of another Taiwanese couple and the rest were visitors from China.
Let me show you my photos from the Chungshan Building, December 2012:
The Chinese Culture Hall
The State Banquet Culture Hall
The Chungshan Hall from outside
Visiting the Chungshan Building was definitely a very special adventure, it was unlike anything I've seen before in and around Taipei. A big part of that was the remote location on the volcanic ground - that specific smell is hard to forget. Another fascinating thing were the hundreds of small design elements and architectural particularities; the amount of thought, that was put behind them, was extraordinarily big. It was also very interesting to tour the building with tourists from China. They were very eager and interested to learn about this part of history they knew very little about - they had a lot of questions and were seemingly impressed. One has to know, that the year 1966 in China was the beginning of the Cultural Revolution 文化大革命, the year where Mao Zedong called for the "Four Olds" (old customs, old culture, old habits, old ideas) to be destroyed. This included the destruction of classic Chinese architecture, literature and paintings, even Chinese temples were desecrated (source). At the same time Chiang Kai-shek launched a counter-movement called the Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement 中華文化復興運動. Those were the times of the Cold War and where the ROC on Taiwan was seen as Free China and the KMT still hoped to retake the mainland. This was also the period of White Terror and martial law in Taiwan, one of the worst times for native Taiwanese, who unwillingly got mixed up in this "clash of two Chinas". Keep all that in mind, if you visit the Chungshan Hall.
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Map and useful information
▷ RELATED INFORMATION
• Pinyin: Zhōngshān lóu
• Related website: Homepage
• My useful tips: Transportation in Taipei
▷ NEARBY SITES
• Chinese Culture University
• Lin Yutang House
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