One of the most important figures in the history of Taiwan is a man named Chiang Kai-Shek. Though a controversial character, there is no doubt he played a crucial role in the military and political struggle between China and Taiwan.
With such a complicated history between the two since the 1920’s and beyond, Chiang Kek-Shek’s ideologies and beliefs influenced an immense part of the relationship between Taiwan, China and many other countries. Today he is remembered by a large memorial hall built in his name with Visitors from around the globe come to learn more about this contentious leader and gaze upon his looming statue.
Although most onlookers don’t realize exactly the extent of his actions in Taiwan and China, the lasting affects can be seen with many locals remembering well him and his regime.
Chiang-Kek Shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is a place many foreigners visit, not just to learn about the history but to see the impressive architecture and work put into building this extraordinary monument. The whole landmark is landscaped beautifully and it has become a place for families to take their children on a sunny day, athletes to push their muscles while running up and down the 89 steps and on some days, protestors to come and express their opinions about the strain between China and Taiwan.
The square leading to the hall was the site for many mass gatherings and political events back in the 80’s and 90’s, leading to Taiwan’s new era of democracy. Renamed Liberty Square, it is now a place where one would never know these gatherings occurred here, as children and puppies play and run around and laughter can be heard from every inch.
When you walk up the stairs and take a look out at the square, you’re met with a spectacular sight. You can see the Liberty Square, National Concert hall and National Theater laid out in front of you.
However the most notable figure here is the bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek inside the hall. With a small smile carved onto his face, he forever sits on his throne looking out at his wondrous Taiwan.
It’s interesting to learn more about this leader as I know that he paved the way for the democracy present in Taiwan right now. I can only imagine what it was like to learn about him from not only my parent’s point of view when they were younger but the rest of my family that still lives in Taiwan and knew of him from the beginning.
If my parents stayed in Taiwan and raised me there, he is who I would be learning and studying about in textbooks. Visiting the memorial hall with not only foreign eyes but with a hint of local eyes gave me deeper motivation to learn more about my family’s history and life in Taiwan. These are my roots, this is where I came from. The best I can do is to educate myself and get in touch with my own history.
Changing of the Guards
Another thing many visitors look forward to when visiting the hall is the changing of the guards. There are two guards on either side of the statue that are changed hourly from 9AM to 5PM. This is a must see as it is quite unique – you don’t see in this in the Western part of the world and the performance is highly intriguing.
These two soldiers stand silently and unwavering until their hour is up. The new soldiers taking their place come up by elevator in the back so when they start ushering people outside the ropes, the changing of the guards has begun.
Their performance is remarkable. Every moment they make is in perfect synchronization of the other as they do opposite moves. One moves his left leg, the other moves his right. They twirl their guns, stamp in place and salute one another.
A strong stamina must be a requirement for this job as they don’t make one single movement during their whole shift. Can you imagine if you had an itch on your nose? Yikes! Taiwan’s army is very impressive, my own father served two years and to be a guard I have heard is a high standing position.
Even if you aren’t up to date on Taiwan’s history, you will gain a deeper appreciation and knowledge when you visit the memorial hall. The museum has the descriptions written in English so I highly recommend going there to read up about Chiang Kai-Shek and why exactly he is so influential in making Taiwan what it is today.
Tips for Visiting Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
- Hours of operation: 9AM – 6PM
- Admission is free
- Take MRT to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall station, red line
Read about other things to do in Taipei!
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