The first thing that comes to mind when talking about Taipei’s Neihu District may be the Neihu Technology Park, teeming with modern high-rise office buildings. That, however, is not the whole picture of Neihu. Admired for its beautiful mountain and lake scenery, Neihu is also home to several historical sites. Among them, the newly renovated Guo Ziyi Memorial Hall — formerly the Neihu Guo Family Estate, also known as Neihu’s “Red House” — has been officially open to the public since Feb. 3. It was established in honor of a Tang Dynasty statesman Guo Ziyi (697-781), known for his impressive feats 1,250 years ago.
Guo Ziyi — the ancestor of the world’s Guo (often spelled “Kuo” in Taiwan) clan — earned his fame for ending the An Shi Rebellion in 755 and other disturbances and served under four Tang emperors, namely the Xuanzong, Suzong, Daizong, and Dezong emperors. In 762, Guo was made Prince of Fenyang for his achievements. In addition, there is an anecdote about Guo Ziyi in a popular Peking opera titled “Hitting the Princess While Drunk,” which tells of the harmonious and intellectual relationship between him and the Daizong Emperor.
Built in 1917, the 130-ping (426.2m2) two-story Western-style red-brick house spreads out over a 360-ping (1,178m2) area. The roughly T-shaped building was decorated with washed terrazzo, earthen sculptures, colored tiles imported from Japan, and Baroque-style embellishments. The red bricks are larger (about 4 inches) and denser than those of today. The floors were made of wood and supported by a good number of fir wood beams. There were also painted beams for hanging traditional Taiwanese censers and lanterns. The windows on the front facade are in different shapes, and there is an arc-shaped balcony and a charming Baroque-style balustrade with charming curves on top of the wall. A statue of Guo Ziyi is placed in the main hall. A variety of historical documents are on display, including the Tang poet Li Bai’s poem in praise of the Prince of Fenyang, rubbings from Tang Dynasty tablets by the Prince of Fenyang, and other calligraphy works and paintings. In addition, Fenyang wine and miniature figurines of Guo Ziyi are sold in the hall.
The Guo Ziyi Memorial Hall was the home of the first Neihu Village mayor Kuo Hua-jang during the Japanese colonial era, and it was designated as a municipal historical heritage site by the Taipei City Government in 1999. Despite being designated as a historical site, the house continued to be neglected for more than a decade. Thank to the efforts of the World Guo’s Clan Association President Kuo Shih-chi, starting October, 2010, the house was given a year-long facelift by Guo Ching-po — another member of the Guo clan and a master craftsman specialized in the restoration work of historical sites. The total renovation cost was approximately NT$50 million. The World Guo’s Clan Association donated more than NT$30 million of these funds and the Taipei City Government provided more than NT$10 million. Today, the once dilapidated house is coming back to life once more, inviting people to appreciate the beauty of its architecture and soak up the ambience of times gone by. Admission to the Guo Ziyi Memorial Hall is free and the hall is closed every Monday. Address: 19, Ln 267, Wende Rd, Neihu District, Taipei. Tel: (02) 2659-8787.
(Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times)