Wed, Feb 16, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Take a virtual tour of a piece of Taiwan's history

EASY ACCESS Built in 1919 by the Japanese, the Presidential Office has been home to the nation's leaders ever since. Now it is has found a home in cyberspace

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Have you always wanted to tour the Presidential Office, but simply couldn't muster the patience to wait in lines?

Now you need wait no longer, after the Presidential Office launched its online virtual tour last week. All one now needs to visit the nation's locus of executive power is a Java-equipped computer.

With just a few clicks of the mouse, visitors are free to explore Taiwan's most important administrative compound, in a virtual tour offering 360-degree panoramic views.

"The availability of the virtual tour is significant, in that it allows visitors to view places that otherwise are not open to the public during normal touring hours, due to security concerns," said Presidential Office spokesman Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗).

For instance, President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) office is not normally open to visitors. But on "walking" into the office in the virtual tour, one sees the room -- about 79m2 -- furnished in soft colors.

"This is where A-bian works everyday," Chen says in a voice-over in the tour, referring to himself in the third person, as usual, with his nickname.

"Since taking office on May 20, 2000, A-bian has been working, pondering, making decisions, mapping out strategies, even having meals here ... working over 10 hours almost every day. The office has therefore becomes A-bian's second home," he says.

The president's office is situated on the third floor of the building. If one maneuvers the cursor to view parts of the room, one sees that behind the president's desk on the wall hangs a giant world map.

Pictures of Chen's inauguration and family photos are posted on the walls as well, in addition to a painting which portrays his residence in Tainan County.

Also on the wall hangs Chen's favorite motto, which reads "A merciful man has no enemy; a wise man has no worry." The couplet was written and given to Chen as a present by Master Sheng Yen (聖嚴法師).

The president's office is one of the 10 sections featured in the newly launched virtual reality tour on the Presidential Office's Web site at www.president.gov.tw.

Placed under the Web site's "Tour and Art Gallery" category, other sections of the virtual tour include the main entrance, the entrance hall, the auditorium, the president's reception room, the southern and northern courtyards as well as the Taiwan Green Hall and Taiwan Rainbow Hall (used to receive visitors), the exhibition of presidential documents and memorabilia, and the exhibition of the archives of the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period.

The online tour also enables those who live afar, and can't make the pilgrimage in person, to take a glimpse into the real Presidential Office, the spokesman added.

Simply by guiding the cursor on the computer screen, cyber-surfers can explore the building, which also features tall cylinders, long corridors and exquisite arches.

Accessible in both Chinese and English, the presentation of this online tour was the Presidential Office's latest effort in shortening the distance between the government and its people, and is in line with Chen's call to "liberate the space" so as to implement what would truly be a "people's administration" in his first term in the presidency in 2000.

Completed in 1919, during the Japanese occupation (1895 to 1945), the Presidential Office has often been associated with authoritarianism, and for much of its history the surrounding areas were off-limits to the public.

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