History in a nutshell: Sun Yat-sen lead the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuo Min Tang or KMT party), overthrew the Qing dynasty of China, and became the first President of the Republic of China. When he passed away, Chiang Kai-shek was his successor, taking over the reigns of the KMT party. After World War II, China fell into a civil war, the Communist Party won, and mainland China became the People’s Republic of China while the remains of the Republic of China and the KMT party fled to Taiwan. KMT ruled Taiwan until the 1990s when democratic elections and shifting political tides lead to a change in power to more local inhabitants. Thanks to the KMT rule, when you visit Taiwan today (also still known as the Republic of China or R.O.C.), you can visit the Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek Memorials in the capital Taipei.
Whatever your political views are, these two memorials are definitely destinations in Taiwan, at least for the history lessons and the general architectural grandeur. Makes for some great Instagram posts, for sure, although I get the vague impression someone took the Lincoln Memorial and plopped in right in the middle of the Forbidden City.
Aside from the main memorial building, the Chiang Kai-shek memorial also has two concert halls, a fancy gate, a museum, and nice garden grounds. When I used to study mandarin in Taiwan at the National Taiwan Normal University in the 90s, it was just a quick bus ride away, and when it’s not flooded with tourists and school field trips, it’s a massive community park that we went to for rollerblading, jogging, tai chi, or picnics. There’s definitely enough space for all of that and then some.
One of my favorite past times was feeding the monster size koi out in the garden ponds, especially when I had a delicious loaf of bread from the local bakery to share with them. I tried to relive that experience a little with the fish food for sale there.
Inside the main memorial building, you’ll find a massive sitting statue of Chiang Kai-shek with guards watching over him, and they have one of those fancy changing of the guards ceremonies every hour.
On the first floor, there’s a museum displaying historical items from Chiang Kai-shek’s time in office, including, apparently, his entire preserved office set up.
The Sun Yat-sen Memorial is a few subway train stops away from the Chiang Kai-shek one, closer to Taipei 101.
Like the Chiang Kai-shek one, this memorial also has a large sitting statue as its centerpiece, of course of Sun Yat-sen, as well as another changing of the guard ceremony.
Outside, the grounds around the memorial also serve as another massive local community park for all sorts of activities, and there’s a pretty awesome view of Taipei 101 to boot.
Finally, a trip to Taiwan just isn’t complete without buying some hand made mochi from a little old lady and her food cart. No mochi is as delicious as those made by these Taiwanese obaasan. I found this one just outside of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial and chatted with her in Taiwanese about her grandson in Los Angeles.
Next up, high-flying action and delicious tea at the Mao Kong Gondola and Taipei Zoo.