Beitou’s Old Houses and Local Celebrities
Photos｜Chic-Jen Yan, Wang Xiaojing
▲Plum Garden, an old building in a hybrid Japanese Western style, is enriched by its history and traces of Yu Youren’s life. (Photo: Chic-Jen Yan)
Compared with the hustle and bustle of downtown Taipei, Beitou is an oasis of tranquility, with its steaming hot springs and shady old trees. It is great for short visits and stays, and also a perfect place to settle down, with many politicians and celebrities choosing to live here over the years.
The former residences are now sites where one can explore history, think of the good old days, and take a peek at how those celebrities lived. As soon as you leave MRT Xinbeitou Station (新北投站) and walk along Guangming (光明路) and Youya Roads (幽雅路), you’ll see old storied houses hidden among the trails and valleys. The tales told within their walls trace the times and culture of this hundred-year-old hot spring town, Beitou.
Beitou Plum Garden – Yu Youren
Yu Youren (于右任) was a Juren (舉人) in the late Qing dynasty, that is, he was a qualified graduate who had passed the regional imperial exam. He founded the Shenzhou Daily (神州日報), Min Li Pao (民立報) and other publications, and is considered “the father of modern journalism.” During his term as President of the Control Yuan, he became renowned as “the father of the control system” too. He is best known as a calligrapher. Following the guiding principles of “easy to recognize, easy to write, accurate and beautiful”, he created Standard Cursive Script, which combined Wei Bei (魏碑), Standard Script, and Running-cursive Script. This brought him much praise as the “master of modern cursive calligraphy”.
Plum Garden – An Exclusive Spot Isolated From the City
Yu was a man of the people and easy-going. In 1952, he chose this building, designed in a hybrid Japanese Western style, as his retreat, naming it Meiting (梅庭), or “Plum Garden.” It was a place where Yu could get away from the summer heat and avoid people who wanted to come wish him “Happy birthday!”
Built in the 1930s, Plum Garden is situated at what was considered a very exclusive spot, with a creek in front and mountains at the back. The wooden Japanese-style main building has two stories which fit into Beitou’s mountainous landscape perfectly. The building has battlement-style outer walls, and being built into a hillside, the upper level is actually the ground floor. It was constructed with a stone foundation, black roof tiles and lattice windows. The lower level is built of reinforced concrete, and there’s an air-raid passage connected to the back yard for urgent escape. Besides the eye-catching feature of Yu’s own Chinese characters spelling out “Meiting” on the doorpost, there’s also a display of his calligraphy set up in the room where he often lingered: his study. In this display, visitors can appreciate Yu’s free-flowing and powerful calligraphy, and his natural and attitude-free sagacity.
6, Zhongshan Rd., Beitou Dist.
▲Plum Garden’s environment is tranquil and exquisite; Yu’s calligraphy work is displayed in the study so that visitors can appreciate this sage’s style. (Photo: Chic-Jen Yan)
Additional Introduction of the Old Xinbeitou Train Station
In 1916, a new Beitou-Xinbeitou branch line was built. This provided direct access to the hot spring area, and became dubbed “the Bathhouse Line.” In 1988, construction started on MRT Xinbeitou Station and the old Xinbeitou rail line was ripped up. The station building was bought by an amusement park in Changhua (彰化), but later donated back to Taipei City Government. It was then relocated to a spot 50 meters away from the original site, and reassembled in 2017. Now it functions as a center for local Beitou arts and culture. Having survived construction, expansion, suspension, abolition, relocation and return, this 100-year-old train station has experienced quite a journey – and now it invites you to relive it all!
Xinbeitou Train Station
1, Qixing St., Beitou Dist.
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