Saturday, 9 February 2013

Shilin Official Residence (士林官邸): Chiang Kai-shek's Taipei Villa

Two days ago I went with a friend of mine to "Shilin Official Residence" (Chinese: 士林官邸; pinyin: shìlín guāndǐ). From 1950 to 1970 the nice villa, which is surrounded by a beautiful park, was late Republic of China President Chiang Kai-shek's residence (note). It is located on Zhongshan North Road, in Shilin District of Taipei City (see map).

We met at Shilin MRT Station, and from there we walked to the residence. It took us only about 10 minutes.

During the Japanese Colonial Era, the Horticultural Experimental Station was located in the villa. When China's Nationalist government was defeated by the Communists and Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan (see my introduction to the history of Taiwan), he chose the blue greyish villa as his new residence. The secluded location of the building and the 1,300 square meter park befitted Chiang Kai-shek's and his wife Song Mei-ling's quiet lifestyle.

Entrance of Shilin Residence Park

For many years after Chiang Kai-shek's death, only the park was accessible to visitors, while the villa itself was off-limits. In 2008, a  NT$116 million restoration project began, and on January 2 2011 the villa was officially opened to the public. (note)

When the Republic of China was still recognized as the sole legitimate government of China by most countries, Chiang Kai-shek received distinguished official guests in his Shilin residence. To name only a few: US President Eisenhower (note); US ambassador Walter McConaughy in 1969 (Jay Tailor 2009 p. 547); the then governor of California Ronald Reagan, who took part in the Double Ten Day celebration, that is, the sixtieth anniversary of the 1911 Revolution (ibid. p.571).  

Chiang Kai-shek with his wife Song Mei-ling

The only criticism I would like to make is that it is forbidden to take pictures inside the residence. That's why I cannot post any photos of the very nice and interesting interior, which is, just like the park itself, a fascinating combination of Western and Chinese styles. For instance, Chiang Kai-shek's bed-room was more Chinese, while Song Mei-ling preferred to have a Western-style one. Despite the fact that Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese nationalist, both he and his wife were Christians, so there are many pictures with religious motives all around the house.

Shilin Official Residence is open Mon~Fri 08:00-17:00 and Sat~Sun 08:00-19:00. Tickets cost 100 Taiwan Dollars per person.

Madam Chiang's Cadillac

A nice cafe at the entrance of the residence. It's the beginning of February, but, as you can see, the weather in Taiwan is like summer in Europe!

My friend told me that Chiang Kai-shek valued feng-shui. Whether this pond or the garden have a special feng-shui, I cannot tell. I didn't ask her to explain me all the details. 

The front of the villa

"[T]he Xinlan Pavilion (新蘭亭) with inscription by Yu Youren which hosted Chiang's birthday celebrations. Former President Chen Shui-bian revealed that the grounds contain a hidden tunnel that connects to the Presidential office in downtown Taipei." (note)

Inside the Xinlan Pavillion

After visiting the residence, I and my friend took a long walk in the neighbourhood. I want to post here some pictures of a school we saw, although it has nothing to do with Shilin residence. I think schools in Taiwan have a peculiar style, completely different from anything I ever saw in Europe. This building, in particular, seems to me like a mix between a department store, a hotel and a Chinese-style house. 

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