If you’re not familiar with your modern Chinese history, well, you should be, since the monumental events of the 20th century that transformed China and its 1 billion+ people still resonate with us today in major ways. And that history is also essential for understanding the significance of Taipei’s most significant tourist sites, the memorials for Sun Yat-Sen and Chiang Kai-Shek.
First, let’s visit Dr. Sun:
I love this building’s fusion of modern Western architecture and traditional Chinese architecture. I haven’t seen many examples of this style in my travels in Korea and Japan, so I take note whenever I see them.
Inside, there’s a decidedly Lincoln-esque statue of Sun:
Unlike at the Lincoln Memorial, though, the Sun memorial is flanked by two guards, who change shifts in an elaborate ceremony once per hour:
Perhaps once this was a symbol of Taiwan’s militarized state, but with mandatory conscription on its way out and tensions with mainland China at low levels, this sort of thing becomes the exception, not the norm:
In fact, many of the tourists in the crowd were from mainland China. This is more due to Sun’s historical good standing with the Chinese Communists than any recent developments, but I found their presence to be telling nonetheless.
I doubt there were many mainland China visitors to the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial, though. Chiang was stridently anti-Communist and presided over years of Taiwanese belligerence to the mainland. He also had a bit of a cult of personality, which lives on after his death in a gargantuan memorial campus that includes two concert halls and a memorial hall.
First, one of the concert halls:
Second, the monument itself:
Inside, there’s a seated statue of Chiang, similar to Sun:
Below the monument, there’s a museum full of artifacts from Chiang’s life, but the most interesting part was this undeniably creepy wax statue of Chiang in a recreation of his office:
He belongs in the same class of creepiness as the animatronic presidents of the US in Disney World or Tom Hanks in The Polar Express.
That last bit of creepiness aside, these two memorials are both beautiful and impressive sights to see as well as fascinating insights into the complex history of modern China. Sun and Chiang were larger than life men, as are the memorials erected in their honor.