Taiwan architecture and political statements

The main reason I haven’t been posting much lately is that for several weeks I’ve been extremely busy showing various groups of VIPs around Taipei. As the viewing floor near the top of Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, is one of the standard stops along the tour, I usually take advantage of the bird’s-eye-view to point out some of the architectural features of the city. A few of these features are related to Chinese characters / Japanese kanji.

Japan controlled Taiwan from 1895 until 1945. The design of some significant buildings from this time reflects the desire of the Japanese authorities to put Japan’s stamp on Taiwan — in more ways than one. The buildings that now house Taiwan’s Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) are from that era. Both are built in the shape of a Chinese character / kanji used in writing the name of Japan: ?. This is not a coincidence. (Before anyone asks: I haven’t seen any buildings, though, built in the shape of ?, the other character used in writing the name of Japan.)

Here are some screenshots from Google Earth, which gives satellite photos of much of the globe.

Below is Taiwan’s presidential building:
satellite photo of Taiwan's presidential building

And here is the Cabinet building, with north rotated 90 degrees clockwise:
satellite photo of Taiwan's Executive Yuan (Cabinet building)
The buildings on all but what is here the left side are additions that date from after the Japanese were forced out of Taiwan. (BTW, my old office in the Government Information Office is just below the bottom right corner of the ?.)

After the Japanese authorities were evicted from Taiwan and the island was controlled by the Chinese KMT, Taipei built a new city hall, and in so doing made an architectural statement of its own. Taipei City Hall, which is at the far end of a long road that leads to the Presidential Office, is built in the shape of two characters for the number 10, placed side by side: ??
satellite photo of Taipei City Hall
Thus, this is 10 10, which stands for October 10, which refers to the starting date of the revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1910, leading to the establishment of the Republic of China. (Officially speaking, Taiwan remains the Republic of China and October 10 remains its “National Day.”)

click to enlarge satellite photo of Taipei, showing the Presidential Office and Executive Yuan in the west and Taipei City Hall in the east
(click photo to enlarge)

If you’d like to use Google Earth to view these for yourself, enter the following coordinates:

  • Presidential Office: 25 02 24 N, 121 30 42 E
  • Executive Yuan: 25 02 47 N, 121 31 14 E
  • Taipei City Hall: 25 02 15 N, 121 33 52 E

Also, the pond behind the former Japanese Governor-General’s house, now the modestly named Taipei Guest House, is supposed to be, with a little help from some decorative rocks, in the shape of the character for “heart”:

But I haven’t found any photographs or maps that show this clearly.

Can anyone comment on the architecture of Japanese-era governmental buildings in Korea?

6 thoughts on “Taiwan architecture and political statements

  1. Pingback: Keywords » 10-10 vs. The Sun

  2. This is quite fascinating. Did the KMT ever build anything in the shape of ?? And I wonder if the current government has considered building something in the shape of ??

  3. Pingback: kotaji ??? :: :: June :: 2006

  4. This is interesting. I am an architecture student working on my masters and am doing a research paper specifically on the Japanese influence on Taipei’s architecture and urban fabric. I didn’t know this much; thanks! If you have any other useful information on this, can you please email it to me? I would really appreciate it.

    Have a wonderful day and keep up the good work!

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