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Flowers adorn former homes of Taiwan intellectuals

By Leo Maliksi
 
In 1956, Mao Zedong created the slogan, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend” and ushered in the Hundred Flowers Movement, meant to promote the arts and sciences in communist China. For Mao, the exuberant colors of flowers symbolized the vivacious creativity of intellectual thought. Later, however, Mao would use this slogan to flush out intellectuals who were critical of his regime.
 
In Taipei, the flowers that decorate the walls and gardens of the former homes of Chien Mu and Lin Yutang might symbolize these intellectuals’ colorful lives.

Art editor Img
Photo from DOCA
Clockwise from upper left: Former homes of Li Guoding, Lin Yutang,
and Chien Mu, and the Japanese-style building at the Kishu An Forest of Literature


 
Chien Mu (錢穆) (1895–1990) was a scholar who believed Chinese cultural identity could be rediscovered through education and intellectual activity. The communist takeover of China drove him to leave in 1949, and after living in exile in Hong Kong, in 1968 he moved to Taiwan.
 
Born in Fujian the same year as Chien Mu, Lin Yutang was a writer, translator, linguist, philosopher, and inventor. His compilations and English translations of classical Chinese texts became best-sellers in the western world. Lin felt that China lacked the Western concept of humor and sought to introduce it into Chinese culture, coining the term youmo (“humor”) in 1924 and using The Analects to promote his idea that humor was the expression of a tolerant, cosmopolitan, understanding, and civilized philosophy of life. He died in 1976 and was buried at his home in Yangmingshan.
 
Chien Mu’s house is on the Waishuangshi campus of Soochow University. Like Lin’s house, it has a large garden. Madame Chien personally oversaw the layout of the bricks, stones, and grass to create a restful courtyard. The garden is enlivened by many Azalea shrubs which bloom from February to March or from April to June, depending on the variety. Sturdy old pines and tall bamboo trees sway in the soothing wind.
 
Lin Yutang's former home on Yangming Avenue on Yangmingshan was designed by Master Wang Dazhao, architect of the Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall and the National Palace Museum. It is a white house with Spanish-style arches and columns, and roof tiles of the sort often used for Chinese courtyard houses.
 
In April the mid-season azaleas are in bloom, so visitors to these famous homes can enjoy the dazzling exuberance of the garden royalty. They can also relish the delicacies on offer in the gourmet restaurants inside these historical homes. This is the perfect spot to read, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the panoramic views of the Taipei Basin, Guanyin Mountain, and the Tamsui River.
 
In Taipei, some old government buildings and former official residences are easily reached by Taipei metro. These structures belong to what is called Taipei’s “Flowers and Gardens” tourism route. Li Guoding’s former residence is on Taian Street, near the Zhongxiao Xinsheng and Dongmen metro stations. During the Japanese colonial period, it was the official residence of the head of the Bureau of Transportation under the Presidential Office.
 
Li Guoding won high recognition as the main architect behind Taiwan’s economic miracle. From 1979 to 1982, as head of the Institute for Information Industry, he single-mindedly pursued the policy of developing science and technology.
 
The Kishu An Forest of Literature (紀州庵文學森林) lies at the end of Tong-an Street near Guting Station. Built in 1917, it once had a spacious Japanese-style house with the floor raised above the ground, but this was destroyed by fire in 2013, and now a new Japanese-style house stands on the site. Old, majestic trees surround the house, a place where famous writers found a haven where they could write. Inside, the Literature Gallery tea room offers a wide selection of Taiwanese tea and Japanese-style snacks.
 
As summer draws near, Taipei residents and visitors will encounter cool flowered gardens along Taipei’s Flowers and Gardens tourism route.
 
Opening hours
 
Lin Yutang House
No. 141, Yangde Blvd., Sec. 2, Taipei
Tel: (02) 2861-3003
Open from 9 am to 5 pm, closed on Monday.
Restaurant open from 10 am to 9 pm, closed on Monday.
Please call to book guided tours.
 
Chien Mu House
No. 72, Linxi Rd., Shilin District, Taipei
Open from 9 am to 5 pm, closed on Monday.
Tel: (02) 2880-5809
Please book guided tours by telephone two days in advance.
 
Li Guoding House
No. 3, Lane 2, Taian St., Taipei
Open from 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
Two-hour guided tours twice a day: morning and afternoon.
 
Kishu An Forest of Literature
No. 107, Tong-an St., Taipei
Tel: (02) 2368-7577
New building: open from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday to Thursday; 10 am to 9 pm Friday and Saturday.
Historical Artifacts building: open from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday to Sunday; 10 am to 9 pm on Friday.
Tea House: opens at 10:30; tel: 2368-7577 ext. 10
Guided tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:30. Please call (02) 2861-3003 ext 16.