Thu, Mar 24, 2011 - Page 14 News List

A spot of history

Visitors to Lin Yu-fang’s cafe can take afternoon tea while browsing objects from four centuries of Taiwan’s past

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff Reporter

Photos: Catherine Shu, Taipei Times

The Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe (秋惠文庫) gives visitors an up-close look at Taiwan’s complicated history. Vividly colored advertising posters from the Japanese colonial era hang near carved wooden torches that were once used to light beiguan (北管) music performances in the south of Taiwan. Anti-communist propaganda for children, including a wrapper inscribed with the slogan “eat mooncakes, kill Communist bandits” (吃月餅?殺共匪), are placed steps away from a carving of Buddhist goddess Guanyin made by a worshipper from the Amis Aboriginal tribe.

Located near the corner of Xinyi Road (信義路) and Yongkang Street (永康街), the cafe displays a revolving selection from founder Lin Yu-fang’s (林于昉) collection of more than 10,000 items and documents related to Taiwanese culture and history. Some date back to Dutch rule, like a 1670 edition of a book by writer Olfert Dapper, while others are from the Martial Law Era.

A former dentist, Lin opened the Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe last summer in his parents’ former third-floor apartment. Lin began his collection in 1991, motivated in part by his father’s death and a conversation with a friend.

“He told me that people come to Taiwan to see Taiwanese things, but when you go to the National Museum of History or the National Palace Museum, everything is Chinese. You can find the same kinds of things in China,” Lin says. “Those are national treasures, of course, but right now you can’t really find a museum dedicated exclusively to Taiwanese artifacts in Taipei.”

While plenty of stores and restaurants in Taiwan have retro decor, including items like Tatung Baby (大同寶寶) coin banks and old movie posters, the displays in Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe are meant to give visitors a deeper understanding of what makes Taiwanese culture unique.


ADDRESS: 3F, 178, Xinyi Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市信義路二段178號3樓)

OPEN: Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 9pm. Closed Mondays

TELEPHONE: (02) 2351-5723


Taiwan Folk Arts Museum (北投文物館) director Saalih Lee (李莎莉) recently visited the cafe to look at Lin’s collection of antique Beitou (北投) ceramics, which will be part of an upcoming exhibition at the museum.

Lin’s collection is unique for its scope and because he makes it readily accessible, Lee says. “It’s not just about nostalgia. Younger people don’t know what life was like in the past or they don’t understand our aesthetic background. All these items are very important. Dr Lin has preserved them and made them available to everyone in a relaxed atmosphere.”

Many objects combine elements from different countries, like an 80-year-old wooden torch from Neipu (內埔) that features motifs from traditional Chinese woodcarving, Japanese cherry blossoms and Baroque-style ornamentations. A wooden frame from Tianliao (田寮) in Kaohsiung, once used to hoist copper drums, shows a pair of angels nestled among Chinese-style dragons.

“You don’t see angels often in Chinese art,” Lin says. “There are a lot of cultures that have made their way to Taiwan and they have been adapted into art here.”

A portrait dated from 1918 depicts an elderly woman wearing traditional Hakka clothing, her face lined with Taiwanese Aboriginal tattoos.

“Of course most Taiwanese are ethnically Han Chinese, but there are a lot of people who have Aboriginal blood and don’t know about it,” Lin says.

Some of the things in Lin’s collection are there because he says they need to be preserved, even though some people may prefer that they weren’t. These include brothel signs and a giant plaque reading Taiwan Provincial Government (台灣省政府). Two watercolors by the late Chen Chao-he (陳朝和) are also displayed. The amateur artist’s erotic paintings, many of which have inscriptions that contain double entendres in Hoklo (commonly referred to as Taiwanese), have gained a cult following over the last decade.

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