Sun Yat-sen is a a revered figure in China as well as Taiwan – one of very few who can lay claim to this. He was a remarkable personage who was in a very large part responsible for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty (last of the Chinese dynasties) and imperialism in China. In the chaos of the aftermath, he was a unifiying figure. He also founded the Kuomintang (KMT) party which currently holds power in Taiwan. On this side of the Taiwan strait, he is known as the “Father of the Nation”.
To commemorate his memory, the Taiwanese government has erected the Sun Yat-sen memorial hall in Taipei. In Chinese (國立國父紀念館) it says National Father of the Nation memorial hall. A stone’s throw away from Taipei 101, this monument to the “Father of Taiwan” is pegged as a must see for all visitors.
- Construction started in 1964, completed in 1972.
- Building covers 7.3 acres. The land around it (28.4 acres) is covered in gardens and monuments of Sun Yat-sen.
- Architect Wang Ta-hung was selected as the main designer.
- Chiang Kai-shek’s (an ally of Sun Yat-sen) funeral was held here in 1975
- The Golden Horse film festival and awards – Taiwan’s premier movie award ceremony is held here every year.
A look at the front:
In this one you can see Taipei 101 in the background:
Outside the structure were numerous statues of Sun Yat-sen with Mandarin descriptions:
When you walk in the front entrance, you come across an imposing scene:
Flanked by 2 honour guards, a larger-than-life Sun-Yat-sen sits in a larger-than-life chair. The honour guards are human, but very still:
There were 2 gentlemen in black suits who hovered over each guard. At one point, one of the Men in Black surreptitiously whipped out a handkerchief and wiped down the sweating brow of one of the guards. It was done with such clandestine grace, that for a second, I wondered if it actually happened!
The rest of the building contains numerous art galleries:
Halls with modern and ancient calligraphy:
Some lecture halls, a library, an exhibition hall and a theatre. Oh yeah – there’s a cafeteria/restaurant type thing too.
By far, the most exciting thing about my visit to the memorial hall had to be the changing of the guard. This ceremony takes place every hour and lasts about 20 minutes. It starts at 9 am and the last changing takes place around 4:45 pm.
There is a lot of saluting, banging of rifle butts and boots on the ground, occasional yelling and the general solemn posturing typical of any military tradition designed to be viewed by the public.
One thing to note here. The majority of people watching this are mainland Chinese tourists. Their government has consistently told them that Taiwan is just an extension of the PRC, so I wonder how they react to this show of Taiwanese military posturing.
Here’s a video of some of the ceremony. Unfortunately I didn’t have a great position, and I kept getting jostled by people jockeying for the front, but managed to capture the essence of what was going on:
A visit to this place isn’t complete without witnessing the changing of the guard. Considering the high temperatures in Taiwan, it’s pretty remarkable that these soldiers go through all these precise movements and stay stock still for their watch – all while probably shedding massive poundage in sweat. No wonder they need the black suits around to wipe them off.
To get to the Sun Yat-sen memorial hall by MRT, get off at the Sun Yat-sen station and take exit 4. Here is the location on google maps: