In the heart of Taipei, in the middle of the sea of anonymous apartment blocks built in the decades following World War II, there lies a former industrial area that has remained virtually unchanged since its construction in the first half of the 20th century. This is the former ‘Taipei Wine Factory’ (台北酒廠), a complex of buildings that belonged to Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Monopoly. By the 1980s. when Taiwan’s economy was booming and its capital, Taipei, was growing fast, the presence of this factory in what had become the city centre (but was periphery in the Japanese era) raised environmental concerns. Therefore, in 1987 wine production was moved to Linkou Industrial Area, in the suburbs of Taipei County (present-day New Taipei City).
However, this ‘museum-like’ neighbourhood has not been saved by wise and history-conscious city planners, but – paradoxically – by neglect and indifference. Politicians were simply too idle and uninterested in order to make something out of these buildings, and so they left them alone for decades, in a state of decay and dilapidation.
In 1997 a group of artists from the Gold Bough Theatre (金枝演社) ‘discovered’ the abandoned area, which had been cordoned off and was not accessible to the public, and entered it. They and other artists took interest in the former factory. They began using the abundant spaces it offered for performances and exhibitions. In 1999 the ‘Association for the Reform of the Artistic and Cultural Environment of the Republic of China’ (中華民國藝文環境改造協會) was set up in order to oversee the renovation of the area and its transformation into a centre of arts and culture. Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Monopoly, to which the industrial complex belonged, handed over its administration to the Association. The factory was renamed ‘Huashan Arts and Culture Special Area’ (華山藝文特區).
It was only in 2005 that Huashan received its current name – Huashan Creative Park (華山創意園區). The park has become one of Taipei’s most dynamic centres of arts, culture and social life, thanks to its bars, clubs and restaurants.
Origin of the Name Huashan and History of the Taipei Wine Factory
The name ‘Huashan’ (華山) is actually a distortion of the characters 樺山. Both names have exactly the same pronunciation, and that’s why the characters have been confused.
‘Huashan’ (樺山) derives from ‘Huashanding’ (樺山盯, ‘Huashan District‘), which is the Chinese pronunciation of the Japanese word “Kabayamacho” (樺山盯, literally, “Kabayama Town”), which was a district of Taipei during the Japanese colonial period. “樺山” are the characters of the family name of the first Japanese governor of Taiwan, Kabayama Sukenori (樺山 資紀, 1837-1922), after whom the district was named. The character “盯” (read ‘cho’ in Japanese) denotes a small administrative region. In Taiwan it is still used in names such as Ximending (西門町).
During the Japanese colonial period Huashanding was less urbanised than today, but it contained some important buildings, such as the Taihoku Prefecture (台北州廳, present-day Control Yuan), Shandao Temple (善導寺, later demolished and replaced by an ugly, ‘neo-oriental’ new building with the same name), and the Taipei City Hall (台北市役所, present-day Executive Yuan).
The wine factory of Huashan District was first built in 1914 (or, according to Lin Dawei, in 1916), by a private Japanese firm that produced mainly sake. The factory was one of the largest of its kind in Taiwan and employed around 400 people. In 1922, however, the colonial government established a monopoly system for alcohol, which in 1924 was transformed into the Taiwan liquor monopoly bureau.
In 1945 the government of the Republic of China took control of Taiwan. In 1947 it established the Tobacco and Liquor Monopoly Bureau (菸酒公賣局), The bureau also administered the Huashan factory, which was renamed “First Factory of the Taiwan Provincial Tobacco and Liquor Monopoly Bureau”. The bureau changed name several times, and it is now called “Taipei Liquor Inc.“
I first discovered Huashan Creative Park in 2013. A language exchange partner took me there one evening. We went to a Western-style restaurant and drank some beer. I was quite impressed by the atmosphere of the place, which reminded me of some areas in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg District, such as the famous Kulturbrauerei.