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Taipei Azalea Season Becoming a Cultural Icon, Says Mayor

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Post date:2019-03-21



At the March 14 media event that opened the 2019 Taipei Azalea Season, Mayor Ko Wen-je noted that this flower festival – which follows right after the Lantern Festival – is now embarking on its third edition. 

He expressed the hope that in years to come the event taking place at the shopping and dining districts around Wenzhou Street, Roosevelt Road, Dingzhou Road, and the university quarter around National Taiwan University would become more closely connected with the independent bookstores, live music venues, coffee shops, and student-organized events to create a unique springtime festival in southern Taipei.

The mayor recalled that the late National Taiwan university professor Hsieh Fong-jou, a well-known gynecologist, told him four years ago that for a city to progress it should have a symbol to unify and drive forward its cultural life. In Taipei’s case, the azalea could serve this purpose, as it is the official city flower and a characteristic of National Taiwan University (NTU) and its environs. Around the world, universities not only engage in academic pursuits but also invest in the cultural life and landscape on and around their campuses. 

In this regard, professor Hsieh reminded the mayor that NTU is the best preserved cultural relic from the Japanese colonial period, while the university’s central avenue with its king palms and rhododendrons, and the Drunken Moon Lake surrounded by azaleas and rhododendrons on its campus, are unique cultural assets. At a meeting at the home of NTU professor Yang Pan-chi, superintendent of National Taiwan University Hospital, it was decided that they would draw up a long-term plan.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a successful event takes time to grow into a staple event and a cultural icon, the mayor remarked. This is why the city government plants 100,000 azaleas and rhododendrons around the city each year, with a concentration around the college quarter around NTU stretching from Daan Forest Park to Treasure Hill Artist Village. 

While 100,000 azaleas and rhododendrons may sound like a lot, but in fact it is not that much on the scale of a city like Taipei, noted the mayor. Still, he expressed his hopes that the perennial cultivars among them would gradually transform southern Taipei into a bloom suburb each February and March as a backdrop for the academic and cultural events that gear up again after the Chinese New Year holiday. Over time, the Taipei Azalea Season and a host of cultural events could become a cultural icon for the city.

Ko added that professor Hsieh had passed away quite suddenly last year, but his proposal to grow a cultural city icon around the azalea is gradually bearing fruit. Perhaps twenty or thirty years from now, few people will remember this professor, but if after the Chinese New Year holiday they look forward to the azalea season and the cornucopia of cultural events happening in southern Taipei, then his dream will have been accomplished. 

An industry and a culture needs to be rooted in a place, Mayor Ko emphasized, adding that he was especially pleased to see so many borough chiefs present at the media event, because neighborhoods need to join forces with the businesses in their midst if they wish to create cultural events with deeper roots, higher profiles, and wider reach. It is great to see that this year’s edition of the Taipei Azalea Season is collaborating with I JY SHENG Bakery and Hwayuan Foods to create azalea-themed cakes and that boutiques in the Gongguan shopping area are also joining in.

Mayor Ko noted that the district around Wenzhou Street, Roosevelt Road, and Dingzhou Road, with its abundance of independent bookstores, live music venues, and coffee shops, has been able to develop into a cultural and creative hotspot thanks to the tens of thousands of students from NTU, National Taiwan Normal University, and National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. Each year, these cultural, creative, and culinary businesses and student clubs start planning for events and specialty products on occasion of the Taipei Azalea Season, and each year this festival in southern Taipei grows in diversity and scale. 

Ko wound up by reiterating the host’s earlier announcement that from March 16 to early April, the Taipei Water Park and Daan Forest Park will host a series of cultural and artistic events. The mayor shared his sentiment that these beautiful outdoor venues have the potential to grow their events into festivals that could attract not just Greater Taipei residents but also foreign travelers that are in town for the Taipei Azalea Season.