Looking Homeward: The Troubled Nostalgia of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial HallPublic Deposited
Situated in the heart of urban Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (1976) stands as a monument to the eponymous first president of the Republic of China (ROC). Consisting of a main memorial hall, opera theater, Western concert hall, and surrounding gardens, the memorial complex was constructed to commemorate Chiang’s life and to secure his role in Taiwanese history. Existing literature in English on the memorial is scarce and scholars who do write about the monument discuss its political and social histories without focusing on the architectural style itself. I conduct a formal analysis of the various buildings and gardens, comparing their visual styles to those of earlier mainland Chinese buildings and structures. By looking at style, I position Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as a site of colonial nostalgia. The combination of Chinese palatial and ROC-era architecture represents an attempt to reconcile a historical conflict between imperial China and the ROC, a move that articulates Chiang’s nostalgic and quixotic political claims to the now Communist mainland. This homesickness is a colonial one, since Chiang and the ROC government came from mainland China and, in doing so, oppressed native Taiwanese populations. Thus, while Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall represents the ROC’s homesickness, it is also a symbol of the regime that deprived local Taiwanese people of their native homeland. Through my analysis of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, I ultimately reposition Chiang’s ROC government as a colonial one, a framing that is lacking in existing scholarship.
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