This unprepossessing building, located at the crossroads of Guiyang Road and Chongqing South Road, may seem nothing special to the passer-by; and indeed, I have never seen anyone stop and take a closer look at it. But if you walk along Chongqing Road, you will see the following plaque, which reveals a history that takes us back to the roots of Qing Dynasty Taipei.
In fact, where now stands Taipei First Girls’ High School, there used to be a building that was typical of imperial Chinese cities of that time: a Confucius temple. The fact that the school is inside Taipei’s government district, close to the Presidential Office and opposite the Judicial Yuan, is in itself a proof of the outstanding importance that this site used to have.
|You see Taipei First Girls’ High School on the left, and on the right
the tower of the Judicial Yuan
The Confucius Temple (文廟) was the first of its kind in Taipei. It was built at around the same time as the city walls (completed in 1884) by the then prefectural magistrate Chen Xingju (陳星聚), using left-over construction materials (note). Close to the Confucius Temple, a Temple of the God of War Tiangong (武廟) was erected (ibid.).
The Confucius Temple was an important civil, religious and political centre. It was fundamental for both the imperial administration and the scholar-officials (ibid., and Zhuang Zhanpeng et al. Taipei Gucheng Shendu Lvyou. Taipei 2000, p. 88). During the tenure of governor Liu Mingchuan (劉銘傳), every year ritual sacrifices were performed in the Confucius Temple, which was also an important social and religious occasion for the scholar-officials (note).
In the 20th year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1894), the Sino-Japanese War broke out, and in the following year China was forced to cede Taiwan to the victorious Japanese. At first, the Temple of Confucius was occupied by Japanese troops during the period of fierce anti-Japanese resistance (抗日) that followed the conquest of the island. Many important artefacts inside the temple were either looted or destroyed. After Taiwan had been pacified, the building was left in a state of neglect (ibid.).
In 1904, the Japanese founded the Japanese School on the site of the Confucius Temple, which was gradually demolished. According to the racial segregation imposed by the Japanese colonial regime, the school was reserved for Japanese girls who lived in Taiwan, while native girls attended the Third Girls’ High School, present-day Zhongshan Girls’ High School (Zhuang et al. 2000, p. 88).
|That’s how the school looked like in the Japanese era|
The current campus has a total area of 26,408 square metres, and it has six main buildings, constructed in different periods. The oldest surviving one is the so-called Guangfu Building (completed in 1933, see a picture here). The second oldest building is the Mingde Building, which was constructed in 1954. The Zhongzheng Building was constructed in 1977. The Activity Centre was added in 1971, and the Zhishan Building in 1993 (note).
Unfortunately, nothing remains of the building that was once the Confucius Temple. As many other parts of Taipei, this one, too, has been erased from the collective memory, and only written documents and old photographs remind us of what used to be the centre of power of Qing Dynasty Taipei.