Travel with me #122 : The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall!
Dear Steemit Friends:
Good day to you all. I am so glad to be here presenting a new adventure. Today we will explore some of the impressive and beautiful cultural sights to be found in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. You will know from previous blog posts that I have a long history of visiting the country of Taiwan and I am always still amazed about how much more there always is to see. Taipei is an extraordinary capital city. It sits at the cutting edge of modern industry, boasting a skyline of impressive modern skyscrapers and record setting buildings, while maintaining much of its cultural heritage and 'local' feel of its many food markets.
If I had to choose just one capital in the world to spend more time in, Taipei would definitely be high up on the list of possible choices. It is quite easy to get around and feels very accessible to a tourist like me - though I am starting to feel at home since I have spent quite some time there in between my explorations of the country. In the past I have often returned to the capital having explored the more rural areas of Taiwan but don't always have much time to relax. So in this post, let's take a bit longer to get around town and have fun! Are you coming with me?
National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
The National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was built in 1972 in memory of Dr. Sun Yat-sen who is the founding father of the modern nation of the Republic of China. He was a man of many talents, being qualified as a medical doctor but also being considered a great writer, calligrapher, philosopher and revolutionary! He is quite unique because his memory is revered in both mainland China and in Taiwan - seen as a strong uniting force of good.
The National Sun Yat-sen Memorial is used for a number of purposes which include cultural, social, historical and educational pursuits. The main building is huge, covering 29,464 square metres and has space for many different activities, exhibitions and tourist attractions. You can see here, some people even found some nice space to exercise together in the shade!
Within the main hall there is an extensive exhibition about Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his life. It has many artefacts and relics of his life as well as details of his contribution to the revolution that eventually became what we know as modern China. The huge statue of him shows the importance of his legacy. Within the Memorial Hall there is also a fascinating museum with more details of his life and times.
Located just next to the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is the massive Taipei Dome. The Taipei Dome was begun in 2011 after a 4 year delay in the construction's start. The goal for the building is for it to become a multi-functional arena and venue. However, it has suffered from much controversy since the start of its construction. All work on the project was halted in 2015 due to concerns about the safety of the structure.
The Taipei Dome reminds me of the 'Bird's Nest', the national stadium build for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which shows how impressive the dome is as a structure if it even comes close to that giant structure. Maybe some of you will remember the Bird's Nest stadium?
Before going to explore the interior of the Memorial Hall I was struck by the juxtaposition between these three buildings. Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world for a short period of time, before being knocked off the top spot by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010. The Taipei 1010 was a crowning achievement and source of much national pride for Taiwan and its people - and it still is! It represent's Taiwan's modern achievements as a small nation who can compete on the world stage with even the largest and most influential powers in the world.
The National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, on the other hand, celebrates the past rather than looking to the future. It memorialises many of the people and acts that took place over the last century of more to get the country to where it is today. It's beautiful being able to see both buildings, in clear view of each other, with such different messages about the nature of Taiwan's capital and its values.
Venturing inside to the exhibition halls, there is an overwhelming amount of information and relics about Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his life. It's all quite fascinating. I was very impressed by the level of detail presented as well as the knowledge of my guide who gave us a tour of a large part of the hall.
They had everything from hand written documents to old photos to timelines of his life. I imagine you could have spent hours here if you read every piece of information but after a while I felt I was getting information overload. It was most interesting to learn about his early life and I really enjoyed being able to follow along with the time line that eventually lead to the development of what we now know as the Republic of China. For one man to be so influential on our modern world is quite humbling!
Many fragile documents have been painstakingly restored and are now well preserved behind glass for future generations. I think it's quite fascinating to imagine the person who wrote these words. Handwriting is so personal to each individual and seeing ink put to paper helps you imagine how his hands once touched this parchment as he took time to sit and write down his thoughts and ideas. Parchment that we now look at today, his legacy remembered and recorded.
From the outside, the Memorial Hall has quite an archaic design. It looks like old fashioned architecture that you might not imagine was built in the 1970s. However, inside the exhibition has seen refurbishment and is impressively bright and modern. It shows that Dr. Sun Yat-sen's memory is still revered and honoured here in Taiwan.
Exploring the grounds of the Martyr's Shrine
Next stop, the Martyr's Shrine. This grand shrine was built to honour the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died in the history of the island both during Japanese occupation and during upheaval between Taiwan and China. The architectural style is quite reminiscent of the famous Forbidden City in China. It is of course, a lot smaller, but beautifully impressive non-the-less.
Though the shrine here looks like it could be set in the middle of the countryside, it is in fact quite accessible from central Taipei via either train or taxi. The natural surroundings add an extra sense of solemnity to the location. In a city where space is at a premium and new buildings are constantly being built, the preservation of nature to surround the Martyr's Shrine makes it feel and look incredibly special. The greenery contrasts beautifully with the bright coloured roofs of the pavilions.
Following a similar tradition to the guards posted around London in the United Kingdom, the ceremonial guards stand statue still during their guard duty in their impressive ceremonial dress uniforms. There is much respect given here to the shrine and those who fell in the various military battles. Every single hour, on the hour, there is an impressive changing of the guard ceremony which gives a certain gravitas to the duty. It is quite a tourist attraction, though of course very solemn too!
When I arrived at the shrine, I had just missed the important changing of the guard so walked around the grounds to pass the time. The grounds are beautifully maintained, with many little shrines dotted around which give memorial to many different people and soldiers. The designs are quite beautiful and classical. Since most tourists aim to arrive for the changing of the guard, and leave quite shortly afterwards, it was very quiet! Such a beautiful place to walk and reflect and think and enjoy nature.
The main shrine holds over 390,000 tokens that each represent a soldier killed during action. Their memory is honoured not only in the building of this shrine in 1969, but in its continued maintenance is touching.
Watch the changing of the guard with me!
I can't well describe the accuracy and occasion of the changing of the guard at the Martyr's Shrine so I took a lot of pictures for you all to enjoy and follow a long! Space is cleared of tourists for the guards to perform their march to relieve their colleagues but we were allowed to watch and even take photos - which is lucky!
As you look through these pictures with me, look at the ground. This changing of the guard has been going on the hour, seven days a week, for decades. And as you look at the floor you'll see that the guard's route is so accurate and well drilled that their boots have worn away the brick in three lines at their feet! That is really quite amazing to think of the long term dedication and history of this practice. Much respect to them and those people whose memories they guard.
The historic Grand Hotel of Taipei
The iconic Grand Hotel of Taipei is a landmark that can be recognised all over the world. At 87m high, it is one of the tallest Chinese Classical Buildings and was the tallest building in Taiwan for 8 years following its completion in 1973. First conceived in 1952, the goal was to create a high class hotel that would serve as a place to proudly accommodate foreign dignitaries and other important guests - this level of hotel was completely lacking in Taipei at the time. Though various parts of the hotel were built and used before 1973, it was 20 years until the iconic grand building was finally finished.
'Grand' is the right word. The goal of impressing visiting politicians must have been truly achieved with this incredible hotel. I felt completely dwarfed even in the entrance hall. There are 490 rooms spread across eight floors. Each floor is decorated differently, each done to represent a different Chinese dynasty.
The dramatic red decor, Chinese lanterns, lion motifs and ornate carvings and massive pillars make the Grand Hotel a true wonder. According to rumour, their top presidential suite costs over $5000 per night to stay in. I suppose since the entire hotel is designed to impress presidents, it would a most amazing room!
Wow, I have to say even looking back at that time I'm tired! It was such a special trip to explore the different cultural locations of Taipei and nice to find some time to finally see some of the amazing places that I've seen and heard about but was too busy to see. Today, we saw a lot of quite classical Chinese architecture. From the large halls of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, to the solemn and well respected beauty of the Martyr's Shrine to the extravagance of Taipei's Grand Hotel, each was built in similar styles but with different purposes in mind.
The Memorial Hall was built to honour the life of one man, who so shaped modern China and Taiwan's futures. A testament to the time one man spent on earth and the large impact it had. Martyr's Shrine honoured the often nameless thousands who lost their lives, partly in pursuit of that very man's dream - the respect given them no less than given to Dr. Sun Yat-sen with the beautifully kept shrine to their sacrifice. Finally, the Grand Hotel is a nod to Taiwan's past and its future. A commitment to staying relevant on the world stage - while keeping traditions a central theme to its grandeur.
I always like to try and pick a favourite part, you know me! And for me, it was the part I spoke least about here - the changing of the guard. There was something so fascinating that after all of these decades, honoured soldiers still stand vigil over their fallen comrades. Their dedication never wavers. Each changing of the guard is just as sharp. Just as important. Their dedication and professionalism to respect the fallen is literally worn into the stones they walk on. Perhaps I had so few words to say because descriptions would fall short - you can see their duty on their faces in the photos and in their posture in every single picture.
I hope you all enjoyed visiting some of the classical architecture of Taipei with me today. I have really enjoyed being able to revisit it and hope you'll join me in the comments below for a good catch up with each other! If you've enjoyed my blog then do make sure you've got that follow button pressed and give it a like so that we can share it with others too. All my best!
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