Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Opened in 1980, this huge, blue-domed hall stands in honour of Taiwan’s first independent leader. Vicious dictator he might have been, but here he is remembered in all his democratic glory.
Exiting the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station of the same name, you find yourself in an expansive granite paved square. At the end nearest to you is a large arched gate, facing, perhaps three hundred meters distant, the memorial hall itself. On either side of the square are two arguably more impressive buildings, the Taipei concert hall and the national theatre. Both look identical, and have lovely, colourful traditional Chinese architecture as opposed to the memorial hall’s blue dome and plain, white walls.
Already you can see the huge statue of the great man sitting inside, but its only when you get up close, climbing the 89 steps – one for each year of his life (although my partner and I both counted 90 …) to the hall itself that you can see the smug grin on his large bronze face.
We arrived at 11am, just in time to see the changing of the two stone-faced and very sweaty guards, an interesting show of much gun-spinning and foot-stamping. Chiang Kai Shek’s statue is behind a red rope, at the back of the hall. According to the signs ‘people with slovenly dress will not be permitted entry’ and although I had foregone my sandals for dress shoes just in case (despite the 37C heat), I saw lots of people in sandals and in any case you could see the statue quite well enough without even going inside.
To the left and right of the statue are elevators which take you down to a lobby complete with several souvenir shops and some exhibition halls. One has a permanent display of photographs, paintings and various Chiang Kai Shek memorabilia, including two of his bulletproof cars. Entry is free. The two other exhibition halls had changing exhibits – at the time of our visit there was an Egypt display (a good one, judging by the huge crowds) and a Japanese animation display (someone less popular …). Both required individual entry fees.
The Chiang Kai Shek exhibition
History paints a less than perfect picture of the man who continued Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s democratic overhaul of Imperial China only for his weakened forces to be ousted in the immediate aftermath of World War II by Mao Zedong’s Communist forces. A pro-democracy revolutionary who seemed to forget about free speech and free elections after he fled in de facto defeat to Taiwan and established what is still officially known as the Republic of China. But, whatever your views, this exhibition puts a very positive spin on the seemingly always smiling general. In a succession of painting-sized photographs he is shown as the caring leader of a developing nation. Certain noteworthy historical events are glossed over, such as the entire Chinese revolution.
Regardless of your take on history, though, the exhibits are very well presented and there are good English translations. There are a lot of his personal items there such as private papers and clothes that he wore, and a mock up of one of his audience rooms.
Access and Pricing
Follow the signs at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall MRT station.
Entry fees – hall and Chaing Kai Shek exhibitions free, others variable (100 to 250NTD, 2 to 5 pounds).
Entry times – 9am to 6pm every day.#Will also appear on dooyoo sooner or later.#