Third-generation descendants of Chiang A-hsin (姜阿新), an early entrepreneur in Hsinchu County’s predominantly Hakka Beipu Township (北埔), are seeking original furniture or items that were once in the European-style home next to their ancestral residence, or other items belonging to the family-owned Yung Kuang Co (永光股份有限公司) in hopes of establishing a museum on the premises.
Chiang’s granddaughter Liao Hui-ching (廖惠慶) said the family was among the first colonizers in the Daai area (大隘), which includes Beipu, Emei (峨嵋) and Baoshan (寶山) townships.
Chiang, who was born in 1901, headed the Zhudong Tea Co and then founded Yung Kuang, which was involved in the tea, timber and sugar industries. He also served in the Taiwan Provincial Assembly.
Photo: Liao Hsueh-ju, Taipei Times
His growing prosperity led him to build the townhouse next to the family’s Tianshuitang (天水堂) ancestral residence.
The house was designed by architect Peng Yu-li (彭玉理) and construction began in 1946. It took three years to build, with beams of beech and Taiwanese cypress, high-ceiling rooms, a modern bathroom and a living room with wooden partitions that could be removed for large parties.
Its mix of Western and Taiwanese craftmanship made it the most famous building in the township.
However, the family filed for bankruptcy in 1965 and the house was taken over by the Taiwan Cooperative Bank, which held the mortgage, Liao said.
Former Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmaker Eric Wu (吳東昇) rented the house two decades ago and renovated it. He established the Chin Kuang Fu Foundation (金廣福文教基金會) in 1995 to oversee the maintenance of the building, now known as the Chiang A-hsin Old Residence, and organize tours.
The house was recognized by the central government in 2005 as a national heritage site.
When the bank announced in 2012 that it would auction off the townhouse, Liao said she pulled together funding to buy it back for her family, who wanted to turn it into a museum in honor of Chiang and Beipu. She even wrote to Wu to ask him not to bid for the house, as he had priority in the auction as the current renter.
The family is now working on renovating and restoring the building, both to preserve it and so that it can become a residence again.
Chiang’s grandson-in-law, Wu Hsi-pin (吳錫斌), said there are problems caused by termites in the roof, which also leaks.
“We are applying for subsidies from the central government to help repair and renovate the building,” Wu Hsi-pin said, adding that the family hoped to begin the renovations by next year.
However, the family is still accepting tour requests, he said.
Due to bankruptcy and the family’s hasty departure from the townhouse when the bank foreclosed on it, both the townhouse and the ancestral residence were neglected for some time, and some valuable furniture and other items went missing, Liao said.
“We hope that individuals in possession of such items would be generous enough to allow the family to borrow the items and put them on display in the townhouse,” Liao said.
She said that a former Yung Kuang Co employee had recently visited the family and given them three photographs of the firm’s Daping tea factory, which no longer exists.
The factory was built by her grandfather 8km from town to help promote tea growing in the area, she said.
Someone gave the family a square-shaped tea canister that the company had used to package its teas, while a collector the family did not know was kind enough to give them a handcrafted wooden table made by Yung Kuang, she said.
Anyone who is interested in donating furniture or other items that once belonged to the family or were manufactured by Yung Kuang can contact Wu Hsi-pin at 0978-992-425.
Additional reporting by Diane Baker
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