Wed, Dec 04, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Preserving monuments, ROC-style

By Lu Ching-fu 呂清夫

Zhongshan Bridge at Yuanshan (圓山) was counted among Taiwan’s eight landmarks until it was dismantled. Many people were sad to see it go.

The warden of the borough where the dismantled parts are being kept has been trying to have them relocated, as the more than 300 slabs are occupying recreational grounds.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has said that the previous city administration had perhaps not been serious about having the bridge reassembled, and that it would be problematic to put it back together, as the stones were cut vertically during dismantling, rather than at an angle, making it almost impossible to reconstruct the arch without using steel girders.

As a result, it would be impossible to reassemble the bridge in its original form.

Taiwan has always had a difficult relationship with the maintenance of its historical monuments and has not really paid sufficient attention to their relocation. This has been evident in past projects, from the moving of the Lin An Tai Historical House (林安泰古厝) to, more recently, the Xinbeitou train station.

The former was originally located on Taipei’s Siwei Road, and had to be dismantled to make way for the widening of Dunhua S Road.

Unfortunately, as the dismantled pieces were left lying around for too long, when the structure was relocated to the grounds of Xinsheng Park (新生公園) and reassembled there, it no longer resembled the original sufficiently to count as a historical monument.

There were similar problems with the work carried out on the Xinbeitou train station, which was relocated to an unsuitable site using historically inaccurate materials, with the dimensions and construction techniques departing from the original to such an extent that, again, it would be hard to claim that the new structure was a historical monument.

The construction company responsible for the reassembly had carelessly left the materials outside, exposed to the elements.

The Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs had not officially accorded the structure cultural heritage status, and commissioned a company with no experience in historical building restoration, leading to what cultural heritage experts called “the biggest farce in the history of Taipei’s cultural heritage.”

Compare this with cases of the Japanese colonial-era Jiantan Temple (劍潭古寺) and the Qing Dynasty-era Taiwan Provincial Administration Hall (欽差行臺), both of which were moved far from their original locations, to Taipei’s Dazhi (大直) area and the Taipei Botanical Garden (台北植物園) in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District (中正) respectively. The temple is designated as a municipal monument, while the hall is designated as a Class 3 national historical monument.

Jiantan Temple was originally built in the foothills of Jiantanshan north of Zhongshan Bridge to make way for the Taiwan Grand Shrine. It was moved to the hills near today’s MRT Jiannan Road Station along the Wenhu line.

The Grand Hotel on Yuanshan was later built on the shrine’s original site, and the Zhongshan Bridge was on the road that led up to the shrine. Although the bridge was designated a historical monument in 2002, by the end of the year it was decided that the bridge had to be dismantled due to traffic and flooding precautions.

The Taipei City Government at the time said that the bridge was not actually being dismantled, and was just being readied for relocation the following year. People are still waiting for that to happen.

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