December 31, 2007
Lin Family Gardens

Panchiao is a town situated in Taipei County which has undergone amazing development in the last decade, and although there is not much to attract the traveller, there is at least one attraction waiting to be discovered, the "Lin Family Gardens" (lin chia hua yuan in Chinese).

Lin Family Gardens

The gardens originate from 1847, when Lin Ping-hou, a wealthy merchant and landowner of the time, established the first building. During this period of time (the reign of Emperor Tao Kuang), there were frequent armed clashes between immigrants from Chang-chou (of whom the Lins were leaders) and immigrants from Chuan-chou which is why the gardens are surrounded by a wall.

Two of Lin Ping-hou’s sons, Lin Guo-hua and Lin Guo-fang further expanded the gardens with the addition of the "3-Courtyard House" and this in turn was enhanced by Lin Wei-yuan, Guo-fang’s son.

The Lin’s established close ties with the Japanese government during the period of occupation and continued to flourish until the end of Japanese rule. The gardens became a victim of the tumultuous times after the Japanese left however, becoming overrun with "squatters". The gardens and buildings were never designed to cater to such guests however and they soon fell into ruin.

In 1976 the gardens were finally donated by the Lin family to the Taipei County Government along with US$382,000 to help relocate the "squatters" who were still there. As the last squatter left, work began to restore the gardens to their former glory, work which took 11 years to complete.

One of many gates

The buildings were all extensively restored again in 2000 after termites and mould had had their way, but the restoration has been done carefully. It took a year to complete the latest renovations, and it shows. This is a wonderful place to take photos with traditional style Chinese architecture and the only gardens of its type in Taiwan.

Although it isn’t that old for many of us, it is a big deal for Taiwan where there are very few historical monuments left.

Getting there is relatively easy. You can take the MRT (to the Hsinpu station), bus (Green 10, 701, 702 all stop outside) (Sanchung 9, 307, 310 get off at the Peimen Chieh stop) or even a train to the Panchiao station. Or, you can take a cab. Be warned though, this is Taipei County and it will cost a bit more than the normal cheap around city taxi rides to get here. As an idea, it will cost around NT$350 back to Taipei City.

Missing the entrance (not easy to do!) and walking down an alley by the side of the walled gardens we were thrown back in time a few years. Facial cleansings and haircuts on the side of the alley. Vegetables, fruit, trinkets and who knows what being sold. This is how Taipei used to be 10 or 20 years ago.

But we came to see the Gardens! Doubling back to the very well marked and quite obvious entrance, we paid our NT$100 entrance fee. It really had the feel of being well-organised. The leaflet with map is professional and in very good English. The guides did know what they were talking about and were efficient at keeping people off things they shouldn’t be on! The gardens were also very clean, as in trash free.

The gardens themselves take up some 20,000 square metres (215,000 sq. feet) and are deceptively large. You could certainly plan to make this a half day excursion. Guided tours are available but you will most likely need to call ahead and book one in English (tel: (02) 2965-3061). If you take a tour you will get to go places the casual visitor cannot, such as the aforementioned "The 3-Courtyard House".

Peaceful Gardens

If you go in proximity to Chinese New Year you should call to make sure they are open as the gardens close for 15 days. They also close for a couple of weeks in the summer. In fact it is probably best to call before you go at any time just in case!

There is a real sense of peace inside the gardens. There is supposed to be a rule that no more than 500 visitors be allowed in at once. Whether or not this is true, it was certainly not packed. Far from it in fact and it was easy to find a corner to sit and reflect. Even the outside coffee shop area had a quiet quality about it.

This is a great place to bring visiting family or friends for a half-day excursion. It’s well run, easy to get to, cultural, peaceful and a bargain at NT$100.





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     Malcolm Higgins at December 31, 2007 Post | Reply(0) | Quote(0) | Forward

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