Taitung Chinese Association 台東中華會館

The historic Chinese Association on Zhongzheng Road in Taitung City.

It never ceases to amaze me what can be learned from keenly observing the streets of Taiwan 台灣 and following up with a little research online. I only spent one full day in Taitung City 台東市 at the tail end of a bicycle trip down south this June but managed to chance across a number of interesting sights in that time, this historic building among them.

Located at 143 Zhongzheng Road 中正路, this is the Taitung Branch 台東分社 of the Chinese Association 中華會館, originally built in 1927 while Taiwan was under Japanese rule. A plaque out front features historic information in English (shocking in this part of the country) as well as a direct translation of the name, “Taitung Chunghua Hostel”, but it was more of a clubhouse or assembly hall, not a place to secure lodging for the night. Interestingly, the proper Chinese name is the same one used by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of America. Have a look at the photos on Wikipedia and you’ll see the same characters—as well as the Republic of China flag flying overhead at their historic headquarters in San Francisco!

Presumably the Taitung Chinese Association served a similar purpose to its contemporaries in America, namely to advocate for ethnic Chinese (中華人) living outside of China, which was in the 1920s nominally controlled by the Republic of China 中華民國 (in a twist of fate, now the rulers of modern-day Taiwan). Concurrent with the full-scale invasion of China in 1937 the Japanese authorities launched the Kōminka Movement 皇民化運動 (literally “to make people become subjects of the emperor”), a policy of cultural assimilation designed to assist the growing war effort. As such, the Chinese Association was evicted from the building and outlawed in 1938.

From 1938 until the end of the war the building was occupied by a chapter of the Xīnmín Society 新民會 (also referred to in English as the New People or People’s Rejuvenation Society), a pro-Japanese organization based in Beijing. This organization was disbanded after the Japanese defeat and the building fell into disuse after a half-hearted attempt to repurpose it for use by another civic group. Finally, after decades of neglect, it was restored to its current condition for Retrocession Day in 1986. Apparently this is the only Chinese Association building remaining in Taiwan, for what it’s worth!

So there you have it, another historical footnote previously undocumented in English, insofar as I am aware. Of course, more information is available in Chinese here, and here.

This series chronicles a multi-day bicycle trip around the deep south of Taiwan 台灣, specifically from Tainan 台南 to Taitung in June 2015. Along the way I visited many places in Kaohsiung 高雄 and especially Pingtung 屏東. A lot of what I saw and experienced hasn't been written about in English very much so I've taken some extra time to provide background information to better contextualize what's in the many photographs in this series. Altogether this is a complete trip journal clocking in at around 20,000 words from start to finish!

  1. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City
  2. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City
  3. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao
  4. Chaozhou Liu House 潮州劉厝
  5. Chaozhou Jiukuaicuo Catholic Church 潮州九塊厝天主堂
  6. Xinpi Machine Gun Fort 新埤反空降機槍碉堡
  7. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Fangliao to Manzhou
  8. Fangliao Factory 枋寮工廠
  9. Jiahe Railway Tunnel 嘉和遮體
  10. Tsai Ing-wen Old House 蔡英文古厝
  11. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Manzhou to Dawu
  12. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Dawu to Taitung City
  13. Dawu Theater 大武戲院
  14. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City
  15. Taitung Chinese Association 台東中華會館
  16. Datong Theater 大同戲院
  17. Fuyou Building 富有大樓