Film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) has donated NT$1 million (US$33,520) in prize money from the National Cultural Award to help finance reconstruction of the partially demolished Losheng (Happy Family) Sanatorium in New Taipei City (新北市), which was built in 1927 for leprosy patients.
“I hope the donation will mark the first step toward rehabilitation of the sanatorium,” the 66-year-old said at the award ceremony on Friday.
“The most urgent tasks now are to protect the urns containing the ashes of deceased sanatorium residents and maintain the integrity and dignity of the institution,” Hou said.
Since Taipei’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems announced a plan in 1994 to use part of the sanatorium complex to build a rail depot, advocacy groups have protested the plan and called for the protection of the rights of the sanatorium’s residents.
Nevertheless, some buildings at the complex were demolished in 2008, despite strong protests from residents and their supporters.
Hou is one of the sanatorium’s most vocal supporters.
“The sanatorium was built to quarantine leprosy patients in an era when people did not understand the disease. Times have changed, but the sanatorium regrettably is not being treated properly,” Hou said.
“I look forward to seeing it designated a historic site,” Hou said, adding that he hopes the government will allocate funds for the preservation of the buildings inside the complex.
Activists have said the ongoing construction of the Mass Rapid Transit System’s Xinzhuang Line has caused land subsidence near the sanatorium, which they said has led to cracks in the walls of the facility’s structures and sink holes on its grounds.
Hou’s films have won recognition at many major international film festivals. His 1989 historical drama A City of Sadness (悲情城市) was the first Chinese-language film to win the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.
Meanwhile, the other winner of this year’s National Cultural Award was Lee Tai-hsiang (李泰祥), one of the nation’s most famous crossover composers, who has honed his unique style of using classical techniques and instruments to make new arrangements of popular music and folk songs. Though afflicted with Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years, the 72-year-old Amis Aboriginal remains devoted to music.
Lee, who can no loner speak due to his illness, composed songs including The Olive Tree (橄欖樹) and The Sunshine Avenue (一條日光大道), in response to a campaign by poet Yu Kuang-chung (余光中) in the 1970s to put modern Chinese-language poems to music.
In his acceptance speech, read by his daughter Lee Ruo-ling (李若菱) on his behalf, he said that music runs in his veins.
“Without music, I have nothing,” he added.