Taipei itself has numerous worthwhile sights, though our experience was that it is often rainy and cold. We still enjoyed several days in the city as we decompressed from our 11 months of travel.
Sun Yat-sen Redux
The “father of the nation” and first President of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen has at least two memorials in Taipei. These are the third and fourth Sun Yat-sen sights we have visited on our trip. We also saw museums to Dr. Sun in Hong Kong and Penang, Malaysia. Dr. Sun is celebrated quite a bit in Taiwan, and is on the money:
Aside: I would later visit a fifth Sun Yat-sen site, his statute in St. Mary’s Square, San Francisco.
The large Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall features a giant statue of a seated Dr. Sun, plus small museum exhibits. It also has a large overhang that teenagers use for dance practice when it rains (which was the case when we visited). Several metro stops away is the house where Dr. Sun stayed when he visited Taipei. When Sun visited Taiwan, it was under Japanese rule. Sun died in 1925, not knowing that Taiwan would eventually implement his program, the Three Principles of the People (democracy, economic development, and national identity) and his government structure (five branches of government, as opposed to the American three branches).
While Taiwan’s relationship with Dr. Sun’s legacy is mostly positive, if complicated — how does one celebrate Dr. Sun as “father of the nation” if Taiwan and China are not one nation? — the relationship with Chiang Kai-shek is more fraught. Chaing was Generalissimo and President of the Republic of China when Mao’s communists won the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Chiang, his military and political party (the Kuomintang), and many professionals (including chefs) retreated to Taiwan. He never made a serious attempt to retake the mainland, but ruled Taiwan as a dictator until his death in 1975. Today the violence under Chiang is now well-known and openly discussed in Taiwan, and there have been proposals to re-purpose his memorial. We visited that memorial, which has a beautiful plaza, though the monument appears less impressive when observed up-close.
Chiang’s government followed Sun’s five-branches design. For some reason, four of the five keep their main offices in central Taipei, while the fifth —the examination Yuan, descended from the Chinese competitive examination system — is miles away. So we saw four of the buildings on a walk through central Taipei.
National Palace Museum
Apparently the retreating Republic of China took a lot of great works of art with it in 1949. So those are on display in Taipei. They include a famous Jade Cabbage. It is the most popular exhibit at the museum. I’m not kidding.
We like to wander, so we tried to do a walking tour suggested by Lonely Planet. But it rained. We ended up splitting parts of it into multiple outings, and took some nice pictures in some shops and neighborhoods known for being interesting.
There’s plenty to see in Taipei. It doesn’t have the world famous sites like Beijing, St. Petersburg, or Madrid, but it has more than enough to keep you busy. And, as I’ll discuss in the next post, it’s also pleasant for day-to-day life, even in the rain.
[This blog post describes our sightseeing in Taipei, Taiwan, March 8-10 & 23-27, 2017.]