Taiwan: The future of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

On March 2, 2007, Executive Yuan, Taiwan, decided to change the name of ‘Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall‘ to ‘Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall’ and to remove the enclosing walls to make the area around the memorial hall a more open public space.

To keep the integrity of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which was built in 1980, Department of Culture, Taipei City Government, decided to evaluate if this area can be set as a national monument on March 5, 2007.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall collects stuffs used by Chiang Kai-Shek, who was a president here from 1950 to 1975. (The preserved remains of this previous president can still be visited in Tsu-Hu, Taoyuan.) Wei-Chen Tseng thought we should change the usage of the place:


This capacious place should be returned to the people instead of keeping for the dictator.

Chih-Hung Wang talked about the history of the memorial hall:

「戰時首都」所含攝的復國意識形態和威權政治,與「現代化都市」的追尋,這兩種都市意義也不見得會一直相安無事,而有潛在衝突的可能。有個非常明顯的例子 涉及了目前中正紀念堂所在基地的用途。《台北畫刊》第67期(1973.7)報導了「營邊新社區」計劃,要籌資一百五十億元在信義路營邊段建設六十二英畝 的「現代化商業中心」,興建五座十八至五十層樓不等的辦公大樓,三座廿四層至卅層的國際觀光旅館和公寓,四棟百貨商場,以及會議廳、世界貿易中心、文化中 心和遊樂設施等,大樓間以輸送系統連結,行人以履帶運送。該期的封面與內文,都附有透視圖,全是高聳的玻璃帷幕大樓。這個充滿「現代化與科技進步」想像的 計劃,預計1974年6 月起開發。但是1975年蔣介石過世,計劃急轉彎改為中正紀念堂的用地。

‘The capital in a war’ includes two aspects. First is implication or ideology of it to be the base to re-gain the control the country (mainland China) and authoritarian regime. Second is the pursuit of a modern city. These two aspects would not necessary remain peaceful with each other; there is hidden conflict between them. One obvious example is about where the current Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is. In July 1973, ‘Taipei reading’ (volume 67) had an article about the project, ‘Ying-Pien New Community.’ The government originally planned to raise 1500 billion NTD to build a ‘modern business center’ across 62 acre area in Hsin-Yi Road. There would be five 18- to 50-level business buildings, three 24- to 30-level international hotels for tourists and apartments, four department stores, conference hall, world trade center, culture centers, and entertainment facilities. There would be transportation systems between buildings, and moving tracks for pedestrians. In the cover and content of this journal, we can see the scenographs, and all of them are towering glass-covering buildings. This project is full of the imagination of ‘modern and technology advance,’ and it was set to start the development in June, 1974. However, Chiang Kai-Shek died in 1975, and the plan was suddenly changed to use the land for Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

In the wrestling between the Democratic Progressive Party, which leads Executive Yuan, and KaoMinTang, which leads Taipei City Government, bloggers in Taiwan have different opinions toward the actions taken by the two parties.
No one goes to UK thought the point is not removing the enclosing walls:


Removing the enclosing walls is precedented. The enclosing walls besides the National Theater and National Concert Hall were removed in 2003. Architect Cheng-Chung Yao used the space to include the theater and the concert hall with bookstores, fountains, coffee shops, outdoor performance area, and visitor centers. The open space becomes a nice place for people to enjoy at their leisure time, to attend the performance, to buy books, and to drink a cup of coffee. Because of the example, the core question in ‘removing or not removing’ should never be focusing on the disparity of the two parties. The core question should be focusing on whether removing the walls strengthens the social network in our society or not.

Prometheus thought even though politicians think the memorial hall is a political symbol, ‘to most people, it is simply a place for dating, jogging, and strolling.’


How's sketch book also pointed out the same contradiction:

中正紀念堂作為威權的權威象徵,從仿中國宮殿的建築本體、週邊的空間配置(花園、廣場),到空間的使用(除了現在的兩廳院)處處流露著象徵符號。但有趣的 是,1980年落成的中正紀念堂,他本身的存在竟是如此尷尬。有多少人會去看蔣介石的銅像?去看蔣中正的文物?城市市民賦予中正紀念堂的是雲門、是樂儀旗 隊、是熱舞、是花燈、是演唱會…甚至是解嚴前後政治運動的基地:在蔣 家中正大廟底下,要蔣家交出壟斷的政治資源。這是一種多妙的嘲諷與記憶象徵。
並不是把深宮大院中正廟改成「台灣民主紀念館」 ,就代表我們珍惜所謂的「民主」了。拆掉圍牆,就空間而言的確會更有穿透性,但是不是有穿透性的空間就代表他是一個友善的,讓人可以沉浸在裡面的空間?

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is a symbol of authoritarian regime. It mimics the Chinese palace-like building, from the surrounding (gardens and the square) to the space usage. The interesting thing is, the existence of the memorial hall, built in 1980, is itself very embarrassing. How many people would go there to view Chiang Kai-Shek's statue or browse the exhibition of the stuff Chiang Kai-Shek used before? The civilians visited the place for Cloud Gate Dance Theater, music, dance, lanterns, and concerts. It is also a place for democratic activities. It is a cynical memory that people gathered at the place which symbolizes authoritarian regime and asked authority to hand over the monopolized politics power.

Changing the name from Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall does not mean how we cherish what is so-called ‘democracy’. Removing the enclosing walls may make the space more transparent, but it cannot promise a friendly place where people would love to immerse themselves in.

Focus on Taiwan has similar opinion toward ‘Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall':


‘Democracy’ is in the present progressive tense, and there is no need to set a memorial hall to build other icons. I think the people who fought for democracy would not want to be memorized in this mausoleum-like place.

From a different perspective, George Lee concerned the tourism function of the place:

中正紀念堂已經是觀光客來台北的大景點之一了。許多外國朋友來到台北,除了故宮和小吃以外,通常也都會詢問中正紀念堂的交通方式、遊園路線。即使 蔣中正罪大惡極,那麼留著中正紀念堂也無礙史官撥亂反正,甚至更能當作當年威權統治的罪證。貿然改名,只是徒自讓台北市少了吸引觀光客的賣點,讓鄰近商家 和小販生意直線下落而已。

It is a major tourism spot in Taipei. In addition to visiting National Palace Museum and eat some delicious dishes, foreigners often ask about the transportation to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and the route to walk around. Even if Chiang Kai-Shek is guilty of the most heinous crime, keeping the memorial hall will not interfere historians’ work in finding the truth. Moreover, it could be used as the evidence to prove his authoritarian regime. Changing name could result in one less tourism spot and affect the business around.

About the enclosing walls, bloggers also have different feelings.

Zonble pointed out that on Yuan-Hsiao Festival, lanterns are hang on the corridors. The current design keeps the lanterns from the rain, and the windows on the walls can deflect the light to the other side of the walls to form a ‘light corridor.’

在元宵節的時候,你可以看到,因為圍牆內部就是迴廊,而迴廊上頭可 以懸掛燈籠,迴廊有屋頂,所以燈籠可以因此不受雨淋,而圍牆上的造型窗戶同時又可以將燈光透射到外頭,從信義路或是愛國東路經過時,你會覺得自己走過一道光廊。

On the other hand, Life's basketball field said, ‘when I ride my motorcycle there, I need to walk around the enclosing wall to find the entrance after I park. Every time I walk around the wall, the idea of climbing the wall is always in my mind. I really think the walls obstruct the sight and they are better to be removed.’


After Taipei City Government made the memorial hall as ‘temporary national monument,’ bloggers questioned the motivation for the action. The island left behind said:

看到「暫定古蹟」四個字,我第一個聯想到的是到現在遲遲無法定案的樂生療養院。第二個想到的,是台北市政府的邏輯不知為何?1925年由士紳合資興建的大龍峒孔廟圍牆要拆,而整整晚了55 年,1980 年建立的中正廟圍牆卻突然成了古蹟?

When I saw the words ‘temporary national monument,’ the first thing that came to my mind was Lo-Sheng Sanatorium. Then I want to question the logic of setting national monument. The enclosing walls of Confucius Temple in Dalongdong, which were built in 1925, were removed, but the Cheng Kei-Shek Memorial Hall, built in 1980, becomes a national monument.

Trace said, ‘to claim their right to govern the place, the current rulers need to affirm themselves by denying the previous ruler.


Hopefully the politicians will take an action that is not only good for their political party but also good for the people. After all, in this county, the civilians are supposed to be the one who has the power instead of an emperor, a dictator, or a political party winning the previous election.


  • SK

    It’s very sickening to understand the that fact that politicians put higher priority in term of political mileage rather than preserving the historical value.

    It’s one of the the place that’s able to attract tourist into Taiwan and when I was there recently, I look at it as a historical monument for the people of Taiwan, not a statue for the Guo Ming Tang.

    Is this the kind of Government Taiwanese ppl voted into the administration? Eliminating the invaluable historial value due to the political difference?

  • ifan

    It is bad if politicians put their own political benefit before people’s benefit when they try to induce conflict.
    However, the value of this building is hard to define. It is like Franco’s grave in Spain. It is controversial because it is a political monument belong to someone who is indicted as a dictator by many Taiwanese, and it is not that old.
    We would better not value this building only from a tourist’ view and think it is the whole story, although this perspective must be put into consideration.

  • KT

    Why is this post listed under Hong Kong? What’s the connection here?

  • ifan

    My apology if this makes any confusion or upsets you.
    The reason I listed this post under Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong (China) is Chiang Kai-Shek played a role in the history of these three areas.

  • KT

    ifan, I wasn’t upset. I was just wondering.

  • […] On April 15, the day before the scheduled deadline for demolition, another demonstration will be held by more than 50 organizations in front of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Protesters will voice their support for the reservation, and ask the government to cancel the order of demolition and protect human rights of the leprosy ex-patients. […]

  • […] 超過 50個團體所發起的 遊行將在中正紀念堂前舉行。 […]

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