In 1917, Tainan Park was opened near the old Tainan City North Gate. It is the only park in Taiwan built during the Japanese colonial era with the majority of the funds raised from private donations. Swallow Lake (existed prior to the creation of the park), the tropical forests, and the European-style park administration building still exist today. Tainan Park is the most prominent urban park with strong tropical features and old-town images in contemporary Taiwan. This year is the 100th anniversary of the park, and the city government organized a series of activities focusing on centenary and rebirth to celebrate this landmark’s birthday. On January 1st, 2017, Mayor Lai Ching-te and guests arrived at Tainan Park to lead citizens in the “injecting earth nutrients into the earth” event, a gesture to mark the beginning of the park’s 100th birthday celebration. The celebration took place in conjunction with the Greater Tainan series of New Year celebration activities, and the city invited Tainan residents and everyone in Taiwan to visit the park in 2017 and study its historical phases from the Qing dynasty to the Japanese colonial era and experience the park’s lush century-old greenery. A series of in-depth ecologically minded celebration activities unfolded over the next six months. As the events began, we looked forward to June for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the park’s completion and the prospects for the next century.
The second celebration event was the International Workshop in Restoring Japanese Colonial Era Landscaping, organized by the Tainan City Public Works Bureau, the Foundation of Historic City Conservation and Regeneration, and Daybreak 18 Teahouse. This event was also the first time the city collaborated with the master Japanese garden-landscape designerKitayama Yasuo.The workshop took place from January 9th to 10th, with a special-focus lecture entitled “Building the Aesthetics of Urban Oasis: On-location Lecture and Hands-on Experience at Tainan Park.” The lecture combined theory and practice, giving participants an in-depth experience of the beauty and art of landscaping. Through the workshop, the work and philosophy of Kitayama Yasuowere introduced to industry professionals in Taiwan. The workshop also invited many experienced Taiwanese lecturers to talk about and facilitate exchange on the history, aesthetics, and practicality of landscaping.
The third event of the celebration was the Mandolin Ensemble Concert, which took place at 3:00pm on February 12th at Tainan Park’s Kangle Stage. The Mandolin Ensemble was founded by the Art Center of National Cheng Kung University in September 2007. To celebrate the park and its 10th birthday, the ensemble hosted a joint-celebration concert, inviting professor Hiroshi Seisho from Japan to be the conductor. The concert included Japanese songs, other foreign songs, and famous Taiwanese songs such as “Bāng Chhun-Hong (望春風),” “Ko͘ Loān Hoe (孤戀花),” and “Hô-Pinn Tshun-Bāng (河邊春夢).” We hope this event provided a rich and beautifully memorable music experience.
The fourth celebration event was the Tainan City Traditional Orchestra performance, a collaboration with Tainan Art Festival and a public ethnic musical group by the Tainan Cultural Affairs Bureau. Bringing music back to the park, the group performed under the bodhi tree on March 4th. Also, on March 11th, the Old Tree Music Festival invited Gu-Fang Contemporary Art of Zheng, led by professor Huang Chun-his of Tainan National University of the Arts, to perform under the century-old bodhi tree, giving visitors a different kind of musical feast.
The fifth celebration event, The Adventures of Park Exhibition, was hosted by the Children’s Science Museum starting at the beginning of April. The show centered around the protagonist, Park, and his adventures. The activity included two exhibitions, each offering an educational message, and it incorporated the topic of Tainan Park’s ecological preservation efforts in an interactive way. Children learned about the park’s ecological status and how to protect the park, care for the environment, and strive for a better next 100 years. Apart from the exhibition, the museum also hosted activities such as Brightening the Tree of Hope, Micro-trips in the Park, Classroom in the Park, Microscopic Park, Park Memory 360, and more.
The sixth event of the centenary was the Singing Blabber Tree Games. These games were organized by Mango Game Studio in the context of the special Earth Day weekend and the park’s plants and 100 years of history. Utilizing the actual scenery in the park, the games required players to interact by solving riddles, clearing levels, and role-playing. This event promoted a fun and unique intellectual in-park experience. Mango Game Studio, a local team in Tainan, developed the interactive games, providing fun puzzle-solving games that offered visitors a chance to learn more about the park while enjoying a game.
The seventh celebration event was the Century Sketching and Photography Competition. The sketching competition was hosted by the Bureau of Education, and the A Century a Moment photography competition was hosted by the Bureau of Tourism and The Photographic Society of Na Chun. To show the transformation of Tainan Park’s glorious history and precious ecology, the competition centered around beautiful elements of the park and explored the rich culture, ecology, and attractions of the park in the past 100 years. The event retrieved lost images of the park, allowing the city residents and visitors to have a closer relationship with this invaluable park. The event enabled us to tell various stories through different pictures of the park, to generate a connection with more visitors, and to increase the park’s exposure.
For the eighth event, New Visions New Voices Theatre Company was invited to perform. Starting on May 6th, four consecutive weeks of a dynamic exhibition and a static exhibition were held at the park administration building on the weekends. The park administration building, located in the thick of the park’s lushness, is a fantasy cabin full of fairy tales and surprises in the depth of a forest. In addition, the Happy 100 Children’s Party transformed the park’s century-old history into child-oriented creative installation art and created a poetic imagination-filled space. The static exhibition took place from 1:30pm to 5:00pm every Saturday and Sunday; the dynamic workshop hosted a family theater at 3:00pm every Saturday and Sunday. The event continued the memory of the city into the next generation. Through theater and singing, we celebrate the park’s birthday together.
The ninth event was A Century of Elegance: Tainan Park’s Old Photo Exhibition, hosted by the Cultural Affairs Bureau. The photos scattered around in various locations throughout the park provided a contrast between the past and present incarnations of the park, evoking collective memories for Tainan residents. The exhibition was held in 27 locations throughout the park. Apart from building index maps for the exhibition, the Agriculture Bureau also provided data on the park’s old trees, so that the Cultural Affairs Bureau could create a tree map showing where all the precious old trees are located. Both maps include QR codes, providing pictures for visitors to search by image.
To help the public better understand the discussion panels and other events, on June 6th a press conference screened the short film Tainan Park: A Vessel of Memory. On that day visitors watched a documentary about the completion of the Japanese-style waterfall with Kitayama Yasuo. Today, after 100 years, this event carries much significance for Taiwan-Japan relations.
The tenth event, Discussion Panel on the Historical Significance and Sustainability of Tainan Park, was attended by many park-planning experts, both domestic and international. The event consisted of a whole day of conversation on June 7th. The participants strived to further understand the historical and cultural significance of Tainan Park, and offered strategic advice on how to systematically plan the sustainability and regeneration of Tainan Park. International experts included the president of Fukui Prefectural University and Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University of Agriculture, Shinji Isoya. President Shinji is a prominent Japanese landscaping professor and the author of multiple academic works, such as Pride of The Park. He is an authority on European-style parks, park culture, and urban civilizations. Professor KimSung-kyun, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Seoul National University, shared with us regarding the preservation and revitalization of park history and landscaping in Korea. Kitayama Yasuo, a famous landscape designer from Kyoto and the landscaping consultant for Tainan Park and the Tainan City government, also shared his experience of assisting the government with building the Japanese-style waterfall. Other domestic scholars, who are also experts in parks, included professor Pan Yi-ju. These domestic scholars shared and discussed everything about Tainan Park with the public.
Other events in June included walking tours of the park, an excellent way to enhance the public understanding of the park’s past. On June 12th there was an event called Tree Reading in the park. There are five main types of large trees in the park: huamuche, Albizia saman, royal poinciana, bodhi, and tamarind, together with many other tropical trees. Each type of tree has a unique story, such as the Japanese girl who picks up Albiziasaman tree seeds in the short film. Many Albizia saman trees are landmarks in the memories of the visitors, and the Manila tamarind has a unique appearance. There is also the story of the bodhi tree and the squirrel, and the tamarind is the flavor of Southeast Asian cuisine
On June 13th the Tainan Municipal Park Elementary School hosted the point-to-point marathon in the park, which symbolized the marathon that took place in front of Tainan Park 100 years ago. Taiwanese children enjoyed a marathon-like experience, running between eight special locations in the park: the bodhi tree, the Great North Gate, Swallow Lake, Chongdao Chongwun Archway, the Old Fountain, the park administration building, Kangle Stage, and Yangtijia forest. Through the event, the children learned more about how the park’s characteristics are unique to Taiwan.
The walking tour of Tainan Park’s Chongdao Chongwun Archway took place on June 14th. Participants started from the Banyan Tree Square in front of Tainan Second Senior High School library and walked past the 200-year-old Archway and the old Second Senior High School address (the Old Guangxi and Guangdong Assembly Hall), which is the original location of the archway. Participants passed many important cultural monuments and experienced time travel back to various periods of history.
The Japanese-style waterfall restoration on June 15th was an important part of the celebration series. On that day Mayor Lai arrived at the park with many distinguished guests and invited everyone in Taiwan to tour the park’s historic incarnations from periods between the Qing dynasty and the Japanese colonial era. Everyone absorbed the tropic beauty of the park and experienced the fun of touring the park. On that day we thanked the many anonymous heroes and the companies that donated to the park a century ago. In the end, consultant Kitayama Yasuo poured the sake gifted by Kyoto City into the water source of the waterfall. This act signified the liveliness of Tainan Park and the significance of Taiwan-Japan relations.
On June 23rd visitors were taken back in time to Zheng Chenggong and Tainan Park. More than three hundred years ago, Zheng entered the inner seas of Taiwan through Luermen waterway and landed near old Decing river estuary. He surrounded Fort Provintia (today Chihkan Tower) via the high northern plateau. Zheng’s tracks passed Swallow Lake, where Zheng’s military set up thousands of tents and surrounded the Dutch force. The stories of Zheng and the land were narrated by Liu Hsiang-chun under the bodhi tree. Visitors were also able to look around the Great North Gate and the plateau of Gongyuan road—it was like traveling through time, and one could almost hear the war between Zheng and the Dutch. How interesting is it that Zheng Chenggong fought a war right here?
On June 24th an exhibition on cultural diversity was hosted in the circular pavilion area in front of the bodhi tree. The exhibition included Southeast Asian cultures, exotic food kiosks (Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Thai), and opportunities to try on traditional costumes for photos and Facebook check-ins. Educational panels about the tropical trees in the park were onsite, including panels that introduced edible tree types in the Southeast Asia (tamarind, for example). Various plants were also introduced at the food kiosk. A picnic at the park serves as a great opportunity for cultural exchange.
To bolster Tainan’s status as the cultural capital of Taiwan, the celebration centered around the theme of centenary and rebirth. Instead of traditional celebrations like fireworks, a series of cultural events offered the public an opportunity to understand and learn about Tainan park. This celebration furthered the government’s plan to conduct evaluations, treatments, and developments for the park, allowing the public to learn about, protect, and love Tainan Park. One hundred years ago, tropical forests met Japanese landscape architecture and remained in Tainan Park, and then came the park administration building and Chongdao Chongwun Archway. One hundred years later, the Japanese-style waterfall has been reinstated. The park that has accompanied us for a century will once again shine as the pride of the city through the coming together of the public sector and individual citizens.