On my first trip back in Taiwan, I went with a group of expats to see the Zhongshan Hall and the Lin Yutang House in Yangmingshan National Park.
Zhongshan Hall is part of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall complex in Yangmingshan National Park. There is a very interesting story behind this building. From the outside, the hall looks just like another beautiful, well-maintained state building.And Zhongshan Hall has served as a location for hosting state visits or conferences and ceremonies by the President of Taiwan since it was built. It only opened for tours by the general public in 2005.
In 1965 to commemorate Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s 100th birthday and to display traditional Chinese culture, Chiang Kai Shek appointed architect Ms. Xu Zelan to design Zhongshan Hall. But he insisted that it be built in a certain location in Yangmingshan that had the best feng shui, which just happened to be on top of a sulfur vent (fumarole.)
Apparently, the feng shui was perfect at this site, because it lined up with Chiang Kai-shek’s residence in Taipei. So the architect had to come up with an innovative design that could support a building on top of a sulfur vent! Half of the building is on ground composed of solid rock, with conventional foundations. There is a flexible seam down the center of the building, in case something happens to the other half of the building, on top of the vent. The vent half of the building has special supports, coated with a type of metal that is more resistant to corrosion from hot sulphur gas. And much lighter weight building materials were used in that half of the building.
Thousands of military veterans finished this construction within 13 months, so that the building would be finished in time for Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s birthday celebration.
Ms. Xu Zelan must have also been a very patient and tactful person, as well as an amazing architect. I say this because the guide told us that Chiang kai-shek thought that this building was so important, that he would frequency show up to check on its progress while it was being constructed.
And he would often tell the workers to do something different than what was in the architect’s plans. So she would show up the next day and have to redo her plans.
This formal dining room is in the part of the building on solid rock. It is actually available to rent it for a large function, and seats about 2,000 people. But no weddings are allowed here, or other events where alcohol is served.
The government has designated Zhongshan Hall as a historical monument.
Zhongshan Hall is on the back side of the 100 NT bill in Taiwan.
The photo below was taken the the big downstairs assembly hall. All of the seating in the assembly room is in the part of Zhongshan Hall that is built on solid rock, but the stage area is in the other half of the building on top of the sulfur vent. Because the sulfur gases bubble up and crystallize in the ground beneath this part of the building, the area under the carpet is all bumpy. Also, they have had to replace this section of the carpet, so it is a different color of red than the carpet in the other part of the assembly hall. You can sort of see the bumpy sulfur crystals in the carpet next to the stage in the photo below.
Zhongshan Hall has over 400 hand crafted palace lanterns in many different styles. It has beautiful hand painted ceilings, and mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture. It is well worth a visit when you are in Yangmingshan (and don’t feel like hiking up one of the peaks!)
Lin Yutang house has a blue-glaze tiled roof, whitewashed walls and Spanish spiral pillars, surrounded by a greenery-filled yard. It definitely looks like it was built with both western and eastern architectural styles. It sits alongside the road going up to the visitor center in Yangmingshan. This house is the former residence of famous early-20th century writer Dr. Lin Yutang.
After entering through the Western-style archway, you comes into an open courtyard. In one corner, there is a small fishpond surrounded with green bamboo. It is here that Dr. Lin enjoyed watching the fish with a fishing rod in hand. The rooms in the house open up to each other in typical Chinese style
The home’s former dining/living room is now a restaurant, where our tour group ate lunch. The food was very good. .
Dr. Lin advocated humorous literature and gained the title of Chinese “Master of Humor”. His work and experiences stretched over over Eastern and Western cultures, as he earned academic degrees from Shanghai’s St. John’s University, Harvard University and the University of Leipzig.
He wrote in both Chinese and English throughout his life, and is famous for The Life and Times of Su Tunpo, Moment in Peking, The Importance of Living, A Leaf in the Storm, The Vermilion Gate, The Wisdom of Lao Tse, and other books. Among them, his book My Country and My People was very popular when it was released in the U.S. in 1935. Dr. Lin contributed greatly towards introducing the spirit of Chinese culture to the West.
Besides being a linguist, philosopher, and traveler, Dr. Lin was also an inventor. He has patents on many things, including a device to help squeeze toothpaste out of the tube. His greatest invention was an indexing system for the lower and upper shapes of Chinese characters, specially designed for a typewriter. This system was the forerunner of the modern Chinese character input methods for computers, and is exhibited in a glass display case. .Other belongings of Dr. Lin, including manuscripts, letters, books, a desk, glasses, pipes and clothing, are also on exhibit.
It was an interesting tour.