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Taipei Zhongshan Hall enduring witness to desire for joy

By Leo Maliksi

 Taipei Zhongshan Hall, known as the Taipei Guild Hall during the Japanese colonial era, was a venue for activities organized by the colonial government and a place for cultural events and perfrmances. (by LRM).

On November 18, Taipei Zhongshan Hall celebrated its 80th anniversary with a musical celebration organized by the Taipei Department of Culture and featuring musical performers and artists whose careers are interwoven with the history of this performance venue.

In 1932, the Japanese colonial government started building a public events center in today’s Zhongzheng District. The architects opted for an eclectic style combining modern and classical building styles and including design concepts drawn from Arabia, China, Taiwan, and Japan.

 Watching a film alone on a computer can never replace coming here to watch performances with family and friends, said Kuo-chin Huang, director of Taipei Zhongshan Hall. (by LRM).

When it opened in November 1936, the government called it Taipei Guild Hall (台北公會堂). The façade measured 60 meters wide and the side wall 113 meters tall. This four-story building stood around 24 meters tall and had a total floor area of 4,000 square meters, ranking fourth in size after the public halls of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya.

During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, Taipei Guild Hall was the government’s events venue and a place for cultural events and performances.

 The theme of Zhongshan Hall's year-long 80th anniversary celebrations is Chamber of Harmony.(by LRM).

After the Second World War, the R.O.C. government changed the building’s name to Taipei Zhongshan Hall (中山堂). Under the Kuomintang, Taipei became the center of Taiwan’s social and economic life, and Zhongshan Hall retained its importance as a venue for cultural performances and some government events.

“I remember growing up in this district and playing with friends in the area around Zhongshan Hall,” said Manong Fan, founder of the New Image Theater Group. “Many artists performed for the first time at this venue.”

 The Taipei City Chamber Orchestra play traditional Chinese musical instruments at a press conference on the 80th anniversary of Zhongshan Hall. (by LRM)

The Taiwan Province Symphony Orchestra held its inaugural performance at Zhongshan Hall in 1945. Here, Shen Xue-yong, a famous opera singer in the fifties, wowed her audiences for the first time. In 1965, Zhongshan Hall was the venue for Taiwan’s first jazz concert, and in 1973 the Cloudgate Dance Troupe showed for the first time that dance could be as thrilling as a concert.

“This has always been a place where people gather and interact with artists,” said Kuo-Chin Huang (黃國琴), director of Taipei Zhongshan Hall. “Watching a film alone on a computer can never replace coming here to watch performances with family and friends.”

“If you don’t want to watch a show, just come and have coffee in the restaurant, or enjoy a good book in the library. Experience the joy of being with other people or watching them perform for your enjoyment.”