Mon, Apr 09, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Damaged Grass Mountain chateau to be restored

HISTORICAL VALUE As the investigation into the cause of the fire continues, the city government said the structure will be restored and the destroyed replicas recrafted

By Mo Yan-chih and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs will restore the Grass Mountain Chateau according to its original structure and remake replicas of all exhibits after a fire seriously damaged the first official residence of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) on Saturday.

The fire, which caused damage estimated at NT$36 million (US$1 million), burned down the main exhibition hall and its exhibits.

While the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, the department announced yesterday it would form an emergency response team to inspect the damage and discuss detailed plans in an effort to restore the 87-year-old municipal monument this week.

Cultural and historical academics and specialists in Japanese-style architecture will be invited to join the team and visit the site some time this week after the report on the cause of fire is issued, the department said.

The Taipei City Fire Department said that the investigation team was looking into the cause of the fire by analyzing the samples of ashes. The report on the investigation will be issued two to three days later.

Department CommissionerLee Yung-ping (李永萍) said the department planned to reconstruct the chateau as per its original design and wooden structure.

As the department had a similar experience restoring the Tsai Jui-Yueh Dance Institute (蔡瑞月舞蹈社) -- also a Japanese-style wooden house -- seriously damaged in a fire in 1999, Lee said it should be able to restore the chateau.

Lee said all the exhibits inside the chateau -- including clothes, pictures and documents belonging to Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong Mayling (蔣宋美齡) -- were replicas and that the department would borrow the original items to make new ones.

The chateau was built in 1920 as a vacation home for Japanese Prince Hirohito and later became a summer retreat and the first of 27 residences for Chiang.

The Taipei City Government took over the administration of the chateau after Chiang died in 1975, registering the building as a monument because of its historical significance. In 2002, it was turned into an arts salon and a museum.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), meanwhile, said he was saddened by the incident because as Taipei mayor he had struggled to transform the chateau into an arts village.

In the wake of his party's recent anti-Chiang campaign, its stance on the restoration of the chateau has attracted attention.

"[The chateau] was there before [Chiang] used it as his official residence. It should not be regarded in the same light as [Chiang's official residence].We should [look at reconstruction] with a different frame of reference. It's a historical building," Chen said.

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