National Taiwan Museum and Land Bank

National Taiwan Museum (國立臺灣博物館)

This European-style neoclassical building is located in the very heart of Taipei, close to North Gate, Taipei Main Station, the government district, the old National Taiwan University Hospital building, and adjacent to 288 Peace Park. Guanqianlu (館前路) leads directly from Taipei Main Station and Taipei Bus station to the museum, which is visible in the distance.

The museum was erected by the Japanese in 1915 in honour of governor-general Kodama Gentaro (兒玉 源太郎, 1852 – 1906) and civil administrator Goto Shimpei (後藤 新平 1857 – 1929). It is located on the site of Tianhou Temple (天后宮) which was built during the Qing Dynasty. In 1913, the Japanese tore down the temple, as they did with the majority of Chinese Imperial buildings in the city centre, and replaced it with the memorial museum as part of their project of urban restructuring of Taipei in order to transform it into a colonial capital. 

Inside the museum numerous historical artifacts from Taiwan and South China were collected (Zhuang Zhanpeng / Huang Jingyi et al.: Taibei Gucheng Shendu Lvyou [台北古城深度旅遊]. Taipei 2000, p. 71). This was the first museum to be opened in Taiwan – one of the many modern institutions brought to Taiwan by the Japanese, who had themselves imported them from the West.

After retrocession the museum was renamed twice: “Taiwan Provincial Museum” in 1949 and “National Taiwan Museum” in 1999 [note]. The museum is certainly worth a visit. It’s close to many historic sites and to the shopping street opposite Taipei Main Station, so it won’t be difficult to go and take a look.

土地銀行: Land Bank

Opposite National Taiwan Museum there is a very puzzling building: half neoclassical and half modernist, it reminds of some Western buildings from the 1930s and 1940s. This is the Land Bank.

In 1933, the Nippon Kangyo Bank (株式会社日本勧業銀行 Kabushiki-gaisha Nippon Kangyō Ginkō, lit. Japan Bank for Encouragement of Industry), founded in 1897 in Japan as a governmental institution, opened a branch in Taipei. The Taiwanese Kangyo Bank provided credit for agricultural enterprises, according to Japan’s plan to develop Japanese industry and Taiwanese agriculture. For the island’s economy the Land Bank was second only to the Bank of Taiwan in size and importance.

In 1989, plans were made to demolish the building. This caused a popular uproar, and after residents’ protests the plan was eventually abandoned (Zhang / Huang et al. 2000., p. 67).

The Landbank building has a modernist style that reminds of other structures of that period. Its plain, regular forms emphasise symmetry and rationality. Though it has decorative and neoclassical elements such as colonnades, statues, high-reliefs etc., its design shows a clear tendency to simplification and uniformity that sets it apart from the more pompous style of the first stage of Japanese colonial architecture (ibid. pp 68-69).

Remarkable features of the building are decorations inspired by Maya architecture, such as high-reliefs of human heads, and a symbol of flowing water.
The Maya-inspired symbol of flowing water. Very modernist.

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