House tells a story of childhoods past

NOSTALGIC TRIP::Visitors to the latest exhibition at the Taipei Story House say they feel like they have gone back in time to their idyllic childhood in Taiwan

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Sep 28, 2013 - Page 4

In celebration of the centennial of the Taipei Story House (台北故事館), the Landis Taipei Hotel Group, which has operated the house since 2003, extended an invitation to the public to visit a special park erected inside the house.

The park has been modeled after typical parks in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era and was built for visitors to relive, or to experience for the first time, the leisurely life of wealthy people before the invention of computers and electronic gadgets.

The Taipei Story House is a Tudor-style building — the only one of its kind in Taiwan — which was built in 1913 by Chen Chao-chun (陳朝駿), a tea merchant established in Taipei’s Dadaocheng (大稻埕) area, for the purpose of entertaining clients.

The house was recognized as a heritage site in 1998 and was in urgent need of repair before the Landis Taipei Hotel Group took it over in 2003.

Taipei Story House managing director K.C. Chen (陳國慈), a Hong Kong native, has sponsored the museum since 2003, when it was transformed into a mini-museum showcasing Taiwanese historical culture.

Chen said the Japanese-style park is a centennial gift to the heritage site, but more importantly, it is a continuation of the museum’s raison d’etre in the modern age — to promote the re-use of historical buildings and reintegrate such buildings into the modern age.

Commandeering one of the larger rooms of the house, the park holds a stone slide, swing sets dating from the Japanese colonial era and hopscotch squares.

Visitors of all ages said that when they stepped into the park and viewed the accompanying exhibition of antique photographs showing the Keelung River riverfront and Zhongshan Bridge (中山橋), which then spanned the river, they had the feeling that they have gone back in time.

For adults, the park offers a chance to revisit their childhood and indulge in nostalgia for a bygone time, and perhaps to reflect upon the differences between life in a previous period and currently, Chen said.

For children, it is a unique chance to take a glimpse of — and to relive for a short time — the ways in which children in years long past would have passed their free time, she added.

“The exhibition is certainly a ploy to get modern-age children off their chairs and pry their eyes away from the screens of their cellphones, computers or tablets,” Chen said.

However, she added that it might also help modern children understand or empathize with the lives of their parents, or even grandparents.

Apart from the park, the Taipei Story House is also hosting an exhibition on the Zhongshan Bridge until Dec. 5, Chen said.

“I adopted an old house and sponsored the museum. It is my way of expressing my love for Taiwan, which adopted me and took care of me for 30 years,” she said.