Wu Jin-huai House
Wu Jinhuai Memorial Hall Introduction
In the mood for something different? Then check out the home of Taiwanese music legend and hometown hero Wu Jinhuai, which has been transformed into a pretty cool memorial to this icon of the golden age of Taiwanese pop. Just a short ride through the rice plantations northwest of Liuying, it’s a destination that hits all the bases: Wu’s impact on the local music scene was huge, the house itself is a small but perfect example of a Chinese courtyard home, and the interactive exhibit is loads of fun.
Wu Jinhuai may well be the single most important figure in modern Taiwanese music history. Born into a farm family in Liuying in 1916, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, Wu did what any ambitious young boy of that era would do: at the age of 13, he took a boat to Japan with nothing more than a suitcase and a few hundred Taiwanese yen in his pocket. There he went to school and fell in love with classical guitar music, which he promptly learned to play.
Wu’s brother managed to get him a spot in a medical school, but Wu refused to go and enrolled in a music academy instead. After graduating, he began composing music and toured in Japan to rave reviews. By 1940, he had his first recording contract. World War II led to several years of chaos, but soon thereafter, he was back on his feet and touring with a Latin music trio.
Then, in 1957, after nearly thirty years in Japan, Wu finally took a trip back home. It was during this trip that he wrote the wildly successful Taiwanese-language ballad Romance of Guanziling. Part of the song’s success was due to Wu’s use of Taiwanese lyrics, which were practically non-existent in the music of the time.
Wu’s willingness to write in Taiwanese combined with his unique musical and personal style turned the local music scene on its head. Wu himself kept writing new hits such as Dark Moon, Thinking of You, and Married to the Wrong Person. Soon, he moved back permanently, living between Taipei and his family home in Liuying. All told, he wrote more than 200 songs, about half in Japanese and half in Taiwanese. Many are still covered by the singers of today.
But Wu did more than just create music. In the 1960s he started up an association to help keep the Taiwanese music scene moving forward and foster the talent of up-and-coming young musicians. Many of these, such as Tsai Yihong, Guo Jinfa, and Chen Fenlan, became the superstars of the 70s. By the 80s, Wu was writing and producing for talents such as Huang Yiling and Jiang Hui; it’s no accident that Huang’s platinum record for Promises Mean Nothing is one of the exhibits at the memorial.
Wu passed away in 1991 at the age of 75, but fans young and old still regularly come to the museum to immerse themselves in his music and his times. The house is a small, incredibly picturesque example of a Taiwanese sanheyuan, or three-sided courtyard home. It was restored and opened to the public in 2012. You’ll know it when you see it; there’s a music mural painted on the road and a life-size bronze statue of Wu hanging out on a bench in front. The minute you step indoors, you’ll be transported straight back to Taiwan of yesteryear. The retro feel of the place is inescapable; much of it looks like something straight out of a hip 60s Taiwanese film.
Wu’s music, of course, is everywhere you turn. Sit down in the living room and switch on the radio and you’ll hear the story of his life and music. In another room, a gramophone plays his songs as you inspect some old vinyl records in the nearby cabinet drawers; in a third, you can pick a tune to suit your mood and then crank it out on a hand-crank music box. Wu’s old suitcases are filled with photos and memorabilia from his youth, and the manuscripts and sheet music around the house are an important source for music history researchers. Visitors can play a board game that recreates Wu’s life, or dress up like a rock star and bang away on the washtub drum set.
Of all the displays, the most popular is Wu’s guitars. Three of them can be found here, including his first, a 70-year-old instrument that he used for years to play and write his songs. There are people who visit the museum just for this.
The house is open on Wednesday-Sunday and is located between Xinying and Liuying, making it very easy to access by bicycle or other vehicles.
No. 158, Jiehe Rd., Liuying Dist., Tainan City
+886 6 6223291