Keelung City Remake
Bringing The Old House Back to Its Beauty
Cleaning an old house is like archaeology, as you discover the beauty of it inch by inch. See how the youths of the old port city Keelung breathe new life into the old.
Bringing The Old House Back to Its BeautyBy H.H Chang
"Few people know about the hill over the Temple Market,” said Chih-Hao Chang, a member of the Keelung Youth Front who is in his thirties.
Behind Ren 3rd Road at Keelung, down the path, up the stairs, sits the Old House of Tzu-Sang Hsu, hidden in the middle of Yu-Tian Mountain. Built in 1931, this old house of Keelung district’s first leader, Tzu-Sang Hsu, had gone through decades of neglect and struggles against wind erosion, which left it nearly nothing but the old walls.
On an early April afternoon, the owner of the Fu’s Tempura Stall beside Tien-Chi Temple, was walking his dog before the opening of the Temple Market. “There used to be nothing here,” he recalled, “nothing but weed."
However, the remains of the building still retians its value. The huge balcony on the first floor offers a panoramic view of the whole city. A traditional southern Fujian-styled three-section compound on the second floor preserves some of the TR (Taiwan Renga) bricks, which still bear witness to the delicate quality of Made-in-Taiwan products during the Japanese colonization. As one of the few historical buildings of the city, this is the place where Chih-Hao Chang and his mother accidently shared as a secret base for enjoying the panaromic view of Keelung. “My mom used to live nearby. She knew that though it was abandoned, it stands on the highest point,” he said.
In August 2014, organizations such as “Keelung Youth Front,” “Black Kite City,” and volunteers from Ing Keelung (a non-governmental support organization for the current president Ing-Wen Tsai), have proposed the idea of cleaning the old house, with the goal of rebuilding the old to change the city. “It is not the number of volunteers that matters, but the work we do,” said Chih-Hao Chang, who had join the cleaning team for over half a year. “It took us 3 months just to clear out the dirt. But it was like archeology, discovering its beauty inch by inch.” New faces were seen each time they assembled, which proved that once change begins, it cannot be stopped. Half a year later, The Tzu-Sang Cultural Festival brings the locals here together to sparkle new ideas, and share the joy of the results of the cleaning work.
Image: Keelung Youth Front
Kuan-Chan Lin, a teacher from Hsi Ding Elementary School, brought his class of 28 students all the way here by foot. “I moved to the neighborhood a couple of years ago. I heard it is different now, so I wanted to bring them here to have a look,” said the teacher. “So beautiful! I want to take some pictures,” cried the children once they reached the top. “Does it say ‘Ching-Yu’ Hall?” asked one of them, referring to the three words inscribed on the wall. “On the left is Tzu-Sang Hsu’s study room, a place where he gathered poets…” explained Chih-Hao Chang, who suddenly turned from a volunteer cleaner to a tourist guide.
Above the red brick wall, “Maidenhairs” were swaying in the breeze. “I want to plant those in my garden, but I can never grow something like that,” said Ying-Chin Chen, a plant photographer, as he captured a picture of the trees. It seemed that more and more people are learning to appreciate the cultural inheritance of the past. “I’ve always hoped that I don’t have to leave Keelung to find interesting places,” said Chih-Hao Chang cheerfully. “I hope this place can attract more people, because no matter how beautiful it is, it’s still pretty boring to visit it alone!”
An old house of nearly a hundred years of history, which was brought back to its beauty and glory by the hands of the locals, will continue to awe its vistors.
Translated by Sharon Tseng.