Monday, December 17, 2012


Grass Mountain Chateau, Yangmingshan, Taipei

12/17/2012 Taiwan Explorer

The Grass Mountain Chateau 草山行館 on Yangmingshan was built in 1920 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan by the TTL company as a hot-spring villa for Japanese celebrities. Some sources say, it was also built in preparation for the visit of the Japanese crown prince Hirohito, who visited Taiwan in 1923 (he stayed in the house just briefly, source). The house became significant after the World War II, when generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek relocated the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan and used the house as his first presidential residence (from 1949 to 1950). He later moved to a newer house in Shilin (read also Shilin Official Residence). As glorious as the past of this house is, the recent times were quite tumultuous. In 2007 the house was nearly completely burned down (see photos of the destruction). A politically motivated arsonist is suspected to be behind it, but the investigation is not yet concluded. In 2009 the restoration works begun in order to restore the house's past glory initiated by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The renown architect Hu Tsung Hsiung 胡宗雄 (check the reconstruction plans here). In December 2011 the fully reconstructed building was reopened to public again, offering an upscale restaurant two main exhibitions: One of the history of the house and another displaying Chiang Kai-shek's cultural relics. Both of them are definitely worth to see.

Here are the photos of me and my wife's visit a few days ago:

Signboard showed us we are going into the right direction.

There are several wooden houses of the former staff in the area.

They reminded me of my home country's houses.

My wife was marching very fast.

Another house meant for the staff.

And finally we saw the Grass Mountain Chateau.

The first glance.

A shot from the side.

A beautiful view on the northwestern Taipei.

The yard near the house offers a beautiful view on the Chinese Culture University .

Statue of a man facing upwards named 仰天.

We decided to go inside.

History of Grass Mountain Chateau exhibition

The admission fee was 30 NTD per person (about 1USD), but we could deduct the sum from the bill for the lunch in the restaurant. Although it was very expensive, it was quite nice of them to offer a little discount.

This beautiful calligraphy caught my eye.

This is the exhibition room, full of old items from the first half of the 20th century, such as old radios, sewing machines and other utensils.

This old telephone is a true treasure.

This beautiful Japanese mini garden is located inside the house.

The restaurant

The restaurant only offers four lunch sets, all of them were priced close to 500 NTD (around 12 Eur), which includes small dishes, a soup, main dish, dessert and a drink. I think it's a pretty good deal. I have to say the service was very professional, the food was delivered quickly, and what I liked a lot was the fact, that the waiters were not intrusive. Actually it's better to book in advance. We didn't plan to eat there and we were lucky, that there was a free table available. People who came later were less fortunate.

The restaurant pays great importance to details.

The menu.

The backside of the dining hall.

A beautiful lamp.

Two sets of starters.

Both sets together.

This was the chicken I ordered - very tasty.

My wife's beef soup - very rich in taste.

A view on our lunch from wife's perspective.

The desserts were interesting: Notice the cooked yam and a cake.

The tragic incident from 2007 is memorized here.

The main dining hall.

There are also tables outside on a small terrace with a view over Taipei and few other smaller rooms at the back of the building, where people were eating. All in all we were very satisfied with the food, it was just the right portion and although the price is much higher than your average Taipei meal, it's still worth it, because you're dining in a very unusual setting. I definitely recommend this restaurant to visitors.

The former president's relics exhibition

Right at the end of a small hallway is a room, that used to be the living room of Chiang Kai-shek. It has a fireplace, that remained almost fully intact after the fire in 2007. The room is full of old photos and offers a glimpse of how it used to be here in 1950s.

The Japanese styled hallway leads to the exhibition room.

The famous fireplace with brand new marble.

A bust of the former president is the focal point of the room.

Photos like these from Time magazine are on display - the president's private moments.

An image on top of the fire place.

A peek through a window reveals another terrace.

A wooden walkway connecting the terrance with the main entrance.

This is the Grass Chateau Mountain as we saw it when we left.

If you're visiting or living in Taipei, I would recommend this historic house as one of the must-see places in the city. There's so much to see on Yangmingshan and if you happen to make it there, be sure to check the Grass Mountain Chateau. You won't regret it.

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Pinyin: Cǎoshān Xíngguǎn
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Chinese Culture University
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