Fri, Nov 03, 2006 - Page 14 News List

A short expedition to the past

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Story House's new exhibition is worth a visit, if only a quickie.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

It is difficult to be too enthusiastic and it would be unfair to be condescending about Taipei Story House's current exhibition about travel.

First off, it is a small-scale affair, not an all-encompassing multimedia, interactive exposition with pretensions of winning awards for the quality of its presentations.

Rather, The Story of Travel Exhibition aims to provide a potted history of expeditions around the island and abroad. The scope is modest and so is the achievement.

But this is not to say that it is a waste of time or money. On the contrary, a good look around will take just 30 minutes and the cost is a reasonable NT$30 for adults, with concessions for children.

We learn that Yu Yung-ho (郁永河), a Qing Dynasty official, was the first writer to record his impressions of Taiwan about 300 years ago. According to the exhibition timeline, he was followed by Lin Chan-mei (林占梅), a poet and musician who had a property in the Wanhua district of Taipei and lived until 1865.

The organizers manage to find half-a-dozen local travel writers deserving of a mention, including a lady born in 1943, who studied in Europe, worked in the US, married in the Sahara and became famous for a relatively racy autobiography.

There are pictures of the writers and a book is provided so it is possible to peruse the author's work. This kind of approach is typical of the exhibition, in that a subject is selected, adequately presented and competently introduced in Chinese and English.

We are informed that trips around Taiwan used to be the preserve of government officials, rich people or eccentrics. As elsewhere, it was only in the late 20th century that mass travel took off.

For your information:

Taipei Story House (台北故事館) is open from 10am to 6pm. It is located at 181-1, Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 3, Taipei (台北市中山北路三段181-1號). Call (02) 2587-5565, or visit at ww.storyhouse.com.tw.


In 1943, for instance, there were just 149 cars on the island. Yet, by 1969, a rail and road network was in place and the economy had developed enough for ordinary people to make their journeys.

There was just one tour operator in the Japanese colonial period (1895 to 1945), but new regulations in 1958 led to the emergence of hundreds of travel agencies. In the first half of this year there were 2,600.

Bans on overseas journeys were scrapped in 1979 and Taiwanese were allowed to visit China after 1987. As a result, from January to September this year, 2.57 million foreigners visited Taiwan and 6.6 million Taiwanese went abroad.

Some areas of the exhibition, however, were less illuminating. The tautologically titled Eight Delicious Local Delicacies was a scatty selection of cartons and boxes intended to represent the country's gastronomic success. A section on travel luggage was a jumble of old trunks. A working model train set did not represent any particular place in Taiwan.

At these junctures browsers swiftly moved on. Subjects covered included scenic spots, stories of love, the footsteps of immigrants, and so on.

There was also a large flat-panel screen showing five-minute versions of some notable local travel movies, including the first Taiwanese-language film, Li Hsing's (李行) flick about the adventures of a pedicab driver and a shoe polisher in the 1950s.

Though Taipei Story House is a poky environment for an exhibition, overall it was entertaining and informative. Also the venue, built in 1914, is worth a visit in itself.

This is just as well, since the exhibition is slated to continue until April next year. It opened this week. 

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