Monday, August 27, 2012

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Liberty Square, Taipei

8/27/2012 Taiwan Explorer

The Liberty Square 自由廣場, formerly known as Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Plaza or Memorial Square, is Taipei's and Taiwan's biggest public square. The square with all its famous neo-classical Chinese landmarks, gates and gardens was designed and built between 1975 and 1987 on the former land owned by the Taiwan Army 台灣軍, a branch of the Japanese Imperial Army on a land size of 250.000 m² located in Zhongzheng District, which is famous for its various governmental institutions.
On the photo above you can see one of the most popular tourist attractions in Taipei City: The monumental Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall 國立中正紀念堂, a huge 70m tall memorial hall dedicated to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, former President of Republic of China (click to enlarge the map on the left to see the square's disposition). The building was designed by the famous architect Yang Cho-Cheng 楊卓成, who got his inspiration from the Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum in Nanjing. Two very important buildings were constructed after the memorial hall: The National Theater 國家戲劇院 and the National Concert Hall 國家音樂廳, who are today Taiwan's prime venues for classical concerts and plays by renown domestic and international musicians and artists.

See some of my photos of Liberty Square from 2010-2012:

Read more about the National Theater>>

Read more about the National Concert Hall>>

CONSTRUCTION OF LIBERTY SQUARE 1975-1987

Images of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in the making.

Liberty square on old photos and without the theater and concert hall.

The construction of today's Liberty Square was already discussed in the early 1970s, where plans for a Memorial Hall of the late president Chiang were openly discussed by Kuomintang officials. However, the construction materialized in 1975 after the president's death. Here's an overview of key historic events (source):

Apr 5, 1975: The long-term President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek dies
Jul 2, 1975: The Preparatory Committee chose the site for a memorial hall
Oct 31, 1976: The groundbreaking ceremony, construction works started in November 1977
Mar 31, 1980: Completion of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Apr 5, 1980: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall opens to public
Feb 1, 1985: The Preparatory Committee for the National Concert Hall and Theater was established
Oct 6, 1987: The National Concert Hall and Theater officially open
Mar 16, 1990: Students demonstrate for democratic reforms, start of the Wild Lily Movement
Dec 24, 1998: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT Station is opened
May 15, 2007: President Chen Sui-bian announces the renaming of the CKS Memorial Hall
May 19, 2007: CKS Memorial Hall was officially renamed to National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall
Dec 7, 2007:「大中至正」on the Gate of Integrity was changed to「自由廣場」Freedom Square
Dec 10, 2007: The Freedom Square was formally opened to public
May 20, 2008: The newly elected President Ma Ying-jeou officially takes office
Jul 20, 2009: CKS Memorial Hall name is reestablished, however the name Freedom Square stayed

Photo source: Archives of ROC
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Freedom Square as seen from the National Theater.

The Gate of Integrity.

Read more about the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall>>

Freedom Square is a must-see site, if you happen to visit Taipei and even if it's just for a day. The colossal neo-Chinese architecture is one of the finest in the world, while the place itself bears a lot of historic significance for Taiwan's transition from totalitarianism to democracy. You will frequently see masses of people gathering here, from Falun Gong members to young people practicing dancing. A lot of couples take their pre-wedding pictures in the garden, that surrounds the Memorial Hall, while older men play mahjong on the benches in the evening. To visit the square, go out at the Chaing Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT Station Exit 5.


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