Sightseeing in Taiwan, Part 2: Taipei

by Michael

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:

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Dr. Sun Yat-sen on the hundred dollar bill (New Taiwan Dollars)

Aside: I would later visit a fifth Sun Yat-sen site, his statute in St. Mary’s Square, San Francisco.

In 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).

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A very large father of the nation at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

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Very slow changing of the guard at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. So slow.

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View of Taipei 101 from front steps of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

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Now at the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial House, near Taipei Main Station. This was Dr. Sun’s desk when he visited Taipei.

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.

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Gate to the plaza at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.

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The National Concert Hall (left background) and National Theater (right foreground) at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial plaza. These have a much more traditional Chinese look than the main monument.

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The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. Also, Taipei 101 (background left) and the wet sidewalk shows typical Taipei weather.

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Inside the memorial, where the blocky design is more apparent.

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Looking up at the roof with the KMT/Republic of China logo.

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.

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The fourth branch of government, which I admittedly don’t understand.

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The Presidential Palace and main plaza.

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The Presidential Palace, previously the home of the Japanese Governor-General.

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The Judicial Yuan. This building houses courts including the Constitutional Court. While we were in Taiwan, the Court heard argument on same-sex marriage. We didn’t go; it’s not like I understand the language so it probably wouldn’t have been particularly interesting.

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.

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The Jade Cabbage. It is also tiny.

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Context for the Jade Cabbage.

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Also in the National Palace Museum

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Crowd in the museum. Tour groups are the worst.

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Me outside the museum. Still sporting my argyle.

Other Walks

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.

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These figurine things are apparently quite a hit. We saw them a few times without really looking for them. This one has cats. They were bizarrely expensive.

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Selfies with the selfie statue. So meta.

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An older, preserved street.

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Longshan Temple.

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Flowers at the Longshan Temple.

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Taipei 101.

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.]

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One thought on “Sightseeing in Taiwan, Part 2: Taipei

  1. Pingback: Time for Taiwan | two backpacks, no plan

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