Park and statues in the city – A socio-political stabilizing power

1897 plan. showing the original position of Tianhougong within the city wall. Source:
1897 plan. showing the original position of Tianhougong within the city wall.
The position of the statues in the park, the civil administrator residence on the left, and governor general residence on the right. Source:
The position of the statues in the park, the civil administrator residence on the left, and governor general residence on the right.

After Japanese acquisition of Taiwan, influencing and assimilating Japanese culture to the Taiwanese society becomes a major works. Park and statue were used as means to reminds the people of good environment provided by the colonial government, and transmitted political message through the gesture of political statue, which was usually built together with the public park.

The Taipei park was built on the original Tianhougong site (fig1) , where it was situated at almost the spatial centre within the city wall, and was served as the idol and central figure before the colonial period. Shortly after the acquisition, the colonial government reckoned that the Tianhougong was the spiritual core of the city, and decided to replace it by the Taipei park, which symbolize the colonial absolute power. The Japanese decided to build a large central park in the middle of the city as a key figure of westernization and modernization. The Taipei park is almost a replica of the idea of Tokyo’s first park, Ueno Park, built in 1873 (Allen,2012). And it provides a spatial focal point for the political institutes and powers built on its peripheral. The park was surrounded by top government official buildings. Towards the east was the residence for the governor-general, while towards the west was the residence for civil administrator Goto Shimpei. The religious centre of the city was relocated outside the city wall, symbolizing the new power centre of the colonial government. Interestingly, there was a club house located at the north of the park, providing a recreational centre for the elite class and Japanese residents. Given that the park was a colonial statement to the city, it also allowed public to enter the park freely. Not only for them to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, but also to reinforce their perception on power of the monumental political buildings surrounding the park.

Meanwhile, within the park, statues of key political figures were placed. Statue was regarded by the Japanese intellectuals as “a form of commemoration that was learned from the West” dated back to the late 1800s (Allen,2012). In 1906, a stone statue of the governor general Kodama Gentaro was unveiled at the south entrance of the park, while in 1911, Goto Shimpei statue was also erected, both of which can be clearly seen in the finishing park plan in 1911 (fig 2). The statues were built with circulating path at the peripheral, influencing the spatial quality of the park. The statues were served as the symbolic idols of the government generals, aiming to replace the Taiwanese original idol figure Tianhougong.

To sum up, the construction of Taipei park and statues in the city were means to establish the colonial government power spatially, they were served as a colonial manifesto to the Taiwanese, and were surrounded by top governmental buildings, creating a political centre within the city core. With the demolition of the two key statues in the Taipei park in 1945 after the wall, the park and statues symbolized the rise and fall of the colonial power.

Shiyung Liu, 2006. Building a strong and healthy empire: the critical period of building colonial medicine in Taiwan.

Jan van Bremen,Akitoshi Shimizu, 1999. Anthropology and Colonialism in Asia: Comparative and Historical Colonialism. Published by Routlege Curzon.

Joseph R. Allen, 2012. Taipei: City of Displacements. Published by the University of Washington Press.

Chang Han-Yu and Ramon H. Myers, 1963. Japanese Colonial Development Policy in Taiwan, 1895-1906: A Case of Bureaucratic Entrepreneurship. The Journal of Asian Studies. Published by Association of Asian Studies.

3 Comments on “Park and statues in the city – A socio-political stabilizing power

  1. It is quite common to see constructions of statues to embrace the political power behind. They are mostly situated in public spaces, mostly the city park, to promote the figure of power. And the exact location of the statue is usually quite precise to surrounding buildings and the urban fabric, like acting as a linear relationship or radial centre. I wonder how you would describe and define the relationships between the two statues and the civil administrator residence and governor general residence at the sides.

  2. As one of the most dominate powers in WWII, Japan had had great impact on the development of different countries, especially of those in Asia under its colony. The case in Taipei was similar to Seoul where to the two cities were both greatly influenced by the culture and urban concept of Japan and traces of Japanese impact can still be found in both city even nowadays. Different from Seoul, the Japan apparently took a more mild approach in Taipei without demolishing the monumental buildings but instead just by replacing important buildings and implementing statues.

  3. The Taipei park reminds me of the statue square in Hong Kong. Both the Taipei park and the statue square locate at the business and politic center of the cities, and they are the symbol of colonial power. What’s more, similarly, the statues built by colonial government were removed when the colonial period ended. In these cases, architecture is largely associated with politics. The public space like square and park are both recreational spaces and symbols of identification, and they witnessed the colonization and decolonization of the cities.

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