A few weeks ago on a Saturday I decided to go to Taipei Botanical Garden to take a walk and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Established during Japanese rule in 1921, the botanical garden is in itself a tourist attraction worth visiting. Located just a few minutes walk from Xiaonanmen MRT Station, the park has about 1,500 species of plants, and there are also animals such as frogs and squirrels. However, I didn’t go there to enjoy the nature, but to see a building that I’d been wanting to visit for a long time.
It is a small, Chinese-style building, with a traditional curved tiled roof, white walls, and full of Chinese-style decorations. It is hard to believe that only a century ago, this structure stood in the middle of present-day downtown Taipei, on the location of today’s Zhongshan Hall.
On June 7, 1895, Japanese troops entered Taipei Walled City through North Gate. North Gate Street (北門街) led directly to the heart of Imperial Taipei: the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan Province (巡撫衙門, pinyin: Xúnfǔ Yámén), and the Taiwan Provincial Administration Hall (臺灣布政使司衙門; pinyin: Táiwān Bùzhèngshǐsī Yámén). These were, respectively, Taiwan’s first and second most important administrative buildings, and in those days they were the largest government edifices of the island. The Administration Hall was a compound that contained several offices in charge of military affairs, finance, land taxes, census etc.
During the short-lived Republic of Taiwan the office of the Governor-general and the Administration Hall served as the seat of the government of the first and only president of the Republic, Tang Jingsong.
|The old Taiwan Provincial Administration Hall, a compound comprising various separate office buildings|
After 1895 the Japanese Governor-General used the Taiwan Provincial Administration Hall as his own office, before moving to the new Palace of the Governor-General which was completed in 1919. But it was not until 1928 (other sources say 1931 and 1932; see sources at the bottom of the page) that the whole compound of the Administration Hall began to be demolished to make space for the construction of present-day Zhongshan Hall, which was originally built in honour of the ascension to the throne of Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
However, the Japanese decided to save at least one part of the Administration Hall, the so-called Choufangju (籌防局), built after the French invasion of Taiwan (1894-1895) for the administration of the island’s military affairs. The Choufangju was dismantled and moved to the Botanical Garden, where it still stands today, a solitary and – literally – displaced witness to the complex and eventful history of Taipei.
莊展鵬 （主編）：臺北古城之旅。臺北 1997 (pp. 25, 94-95).
又吉盛清 (Matayoshi Seikyo): 台灣今昔之旅。臺北 1997.