Tuesday, November 06, 2012

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Zhongshan Hall, Taipei

11/06/2012 Taiwan Explorer

When I visited Taipei for the first time, there was always one building in Zhongzheng, that stood out from the rest and I wasn't sure what to think of it. The design is utterly different for any other structure in the area and initially I thought it was ugly. As time passed by, I became interested and the more I've read about it, the more fascinated I became. I'm talking about the Zhongshan Hall 中山堂, which was known as Taipei Public Hall 台北公會堂 during the Japanese occupation (1895-1945). It was constructed in 1936. This building became very important after World War II: On October 25th, 1945 General Rikichi Andō 安藤 利吉, the governor-general of Taiwan and commander-in-chief of all Japanese forces on the island, signed an instrument of surrender, which had the result, that Kuomintang's forces officially took over the control of the island. General Chen Yi 陳儀 was representing the Kuomintang on that day (source). The Zhongshan Hall was used as a venue for the meetings of the National Assembly of the ROC between 1949 and 1966, when a new building with the same name was completed on Yangmingshan Mountain. Another important historic event took place here on 28 April 1952: The signing of the Treaty of Peace between the ROC and Japan. There were several cultural events taking place here after 1966, check the full list here.

The General Assembly sessions from 1954.

From past to present

Zhongshan Hall looks a little bit abandoned today. The big public square is mostly empty, which is quite unusual for the usually very crowded streets in its neighborhood. If you need to take a break from Ximending, this is where you can sit down and rest. That's what I did on a sunny afternoon, but I was completely unaware, that one can enter the building and that there are two cafés and even a tea house inside. It was my wife, who told me that and a few days later we decided to have coffee there. So in case you haven't yet been inside, check my photos below to see what you can expect.

The Zhongshan Hall from the southern side.

The architecture features Arab elements.

A monument of Victory and Taiwan's Retrocession stands opposite of the hall.

A view from the northern side.

A closeup on the green tile facade.

Golden hanzi, you have to read from right to left.

The arched entrance looks like it was built for cars.

The main entrance.

Let's go inside

If you want to have a drink in the Zhongshan Hall, this is the choice you have:

2F - Fortress Café 堡壘咖啡
3F - Tea House 茶坊
4F - Director Tsai's Café Gallery 蔡明亮咖啡走廊

We chose to go to the 4rd floor to Tsai's and I think it was a good decision.

This is what you see when you enter.

We passed by two young girls at the reception and went up.

This is the 2nd floor. In the middle is the Fortress Café.

The menu on display at the entrance.

This brought me back to the 1960s.

This is the 3rd floor and the entrance to the tea house, which looked empty.

We went another floor up.

We had to walk across this hall to go to the other side.

I snuck a peak out of the small window and saw the public square.

Director Tsai's Café Gallery

Very simple and quiet little café, we were delighted.

You have to go to the counter to order, the coffee will be brought to you.

Wife had mocha latte, I had a normal latte. Both drinks were pretty good.

We came here on a Saturday afternoon and the café was mostly empty, which was very refreshing. It's sometimes hard to find such a quiet and cozy place in central Taipei, that is not full of loud and chatty teenagers. In addition, the building is full of history, you can feel a special atmosphere inside, that can't be described. And it was very cool and I haven't seen any air conditioners. They have free wi-fi and if I was a writer or a poet, this is where I would compose my works. We paid around 300 NTD for the two drinks.

After leaving the café, we passed by a small exhibition.

I definitely recommend visiting the Zhongshan Hall, if you're a history buff and if you like quiet places. This building is not as stylish as The Red House or as upscale as the Story House, but it has its own indefinable charm. I like it.


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Pinyin: Zhōngshān táng
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