Tue, Aug 26, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Lin Family Gardens' saga recounted

AGENCY INTERVENTION The Ministry of the Interior was ready to write off the quake-damaged facility, until two members of the Control Yuan got involved

By Roger Liu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Control Yuan President Fredrick Chien holds up a copy of a new book entitled Lin Family in Wufeng Waits for Tomorrow at a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Thanks to the Control Yuan's efforts, the 200-year-old Lin Family Gardens will have the chance to be reborn after being almost completely destroyed in the 921 earthquake, academics said yesterday.

A new book by Liu Yung-yi (劉永毅) entitled Lin Family in Wufeng Waits for Tomorrow, was released yesterday.

The book is based on an investigation by the Control Yuan, and tells the story of the legendary Lin family, how their old homestead in Taichung County was damaged by the quake, how the government abandoned the compound and even tried to delist it as a historical site.

The Lin family compound was built in 1858 and consists of 10 areas, including the main compound, pavilions, towers, cottages and gardens. The compound takes up more than 11,000m2.

"The Lin family compound is the encyclopedia of Taiwanese traditional architecture," said Lee Chien-lang (李乾朗), an associate professor of folk arts of National Taipei University.

"It is also the largest compound owned by one clan in Taiwan. It has no counterparts," Lee said.

The Lin Family Gardens were designated a national historical site in 1985. The buildings and gardens were reduced to rubble by an earthquake on Sept. 21, 1999.

According to the book, reconstruction of the compound and gardens were repeatedly delayed, losing both direction and momentum as the project became ensnared in bureaucratic red tape.

Last year, the Ministry of the Interior decided to remove a large part of the compound from the list of historical sites.

Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄) and Ma Yi-kung (馬以工), two members of the government watchdog agency, the Control Yuan, began an investigation into the fate of the compound after receiving a petition from a Lin descendant last year.

"The ministry's policy on the [compound's] reconstruction was shaky and distrusted by people concerned," Huang said.

"When we warned them the first time, they reacted passively and there were even kickbacks from the ministry," he said.

The Control Yuan's efforts to push the ministry have finally paid off. The ministry has allocated a NT$650 million budget to overhaul the buildings and other structures; it also formed an ad hoc committee to supervise and accelerate the reconstruction process.

"We want to thank the Control Yuan, Mr. Huang and Ms. Ma," said Hsia Chu-joe (夏鑄九), a National Taiwan University professor who has long been devoted to the preservation of historical sites.

As a large family once prominent in Taiwan's history, the Lin family's legends are as attractive as the compound they built, Liu said.

"Take Lin Wen-cha (林文察) for example. A thug in his youth, he later became the governor of Fujian Province's army and navy for the Qing Dynasty. Then he was burned to death after being captured by the troops of the Taiping Rebellion. Wasn't his life dramatic?" Liu said.

If the Lin family story was turned into a TV drama, "it would draw the best ratings," Liu said.

"I once told Ministry of Interior officials that China was trying to adapt the Lin family history for a TV drama series," Huang said.

"If such a story was broadcast one day in China and the family's compound had totally disappeared in Taiwan? there would be nothing more ironic than that," Huang said.

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