Arriving at the first ever museum dedicated to Teresa Teng (鄧麗君),
the 20th century’s best-known Mando-pop singer, I couldn’t help but feel surprised.
It’s not located in central Kaohsiung City or even a business, commercial or artsy district as one might expect, but amid a group of warehouses along a section of Kaohsiung’s Love River with few shops or other businesses.
The only thing that sets the building apart from the other warehouses is its white walls — and the row of tour buses parked outside.
Perhaps even more surprising is just how far most of the museum’s visitors have come to see it. Since The Teresa Teng Memorial Hall (鄧麗君紀念文物館) opened in April this year — 15 years after the singer’s death from an asthma attack in 1995 while on vacation in Thailand at the age of 42 — it has seen 600 to 700 visitors a day. More than 90 percent of them come from China, according to Teng’s eldest brother, Teng Chang-an (鄧長安), who set up the site.
Huang Yan (黃燕), a 39-year-old tour guide from Shanghai, said she never tires of listening to Teng’s songs or watching her videos, even though she hears them repeatedly on the tour buses.
She remembers a time in China when Chinese Communist Party officials told people not to listen to Teng’s songs because she was from Taiwan, the “renegade province.”
“But in the early 1980s, we secretly listened at home. Even though they banned her songs, there were people who would secretly listen,” Huang said. “As far as I know, no one actually got in trouble for it. The officials also liked her songs. It was just politics, because she was from Taiwan. They said her lyrics would have a negative influence, but that was all nonsense.”
>> Teresa Teng Memorial Hall (鄧麗君紀念文物館),
Hesi 1st Rd, Tian Ding Warehouse Block 3D, Gushan Dist, Kaohsiung City (高雄市鼓山區河西一路田町倉庫3D棟), tel: (07) 531-2468. Open 9am to 5:30pm
>> Booking in advance is recommended, especially for large groups
>> Take the High Speed Rail to Zuoying Station (左營). The museum is a 15 minute taxi ride from the station
On a recent visit, tourists of all ages streamed into the museum with excited looks on their faces — seemingly oblivious to the strange warehouse setting — as they were led into a room where they intently watched a video about Teng’s early years.
Her father was a military man, and after the Kuomintang (KMT) lost the civil war to the Communists, he moved to Taiwan. His daughter showed talent for singing from a young age, charming families in the military village where she grew up. Her father, recognizing her potential, agreed to let her drop out of high school and pursue a career as a professional singer.
The walls of the 250-ping (825m2) museum are decorated with pictures, large and small, of Teng. A wide assortment of items from Teng’s personal life are on display, ranging from a Mercedes Benz she bought in 1994, a year before her fatal asthma attack, to large glass cases of her on-stage jewelry, mannequins dressed in her glamorous dresses, and even a mahjong table.
“Teresa Teng’s mother loved to play mahjong. Despite her busy schedule, Teng still found time to play mahjong with her mother,” the tour guide said.
The last stop is the souvenir shop — oddly, the only place in the museum where visitors can hear Teng’s music. A large TV continuously plays DVDs of her performances. There’s even a shimmering disco ball. With her most famous and popular songs playing — including Small Town Stories and The Moon Represents My Heart — it’s easy for fans to linger.
And that’s exactly what a small group of Chinese tourists did: They watched the DVD quietly, paying no attention to the gift items or their fellow tourists.