Anyone who has spent some time on walks through Taipei or other cities in Taiwan will surely have noticed the countless abandoned and decayed old Japanese homes and thought: It’s a shame that nobody takes care of these beautiful old buildings. An old Japanese residence with a long history was recently renovated in Keelung and opened to the public as a museum: The Historical Keelung Mayor’s Mansion.
Built during the Japanese colonial period
The spacious and largely traditional Japanese house was built in 1932 by Matsuura Shinpei 松浦 新平 for himself and his family. He headed the Keelung branch of Taiwan tochi kabushiki-gaisha 台湾土地株式会社 (TTK). TTK was founded in 1908 and was the largest private construction company in Taiwan. It mainly built private homes for Japanese customers and was responsible for the development of Beitou hot springs.
The mansion, with its small garden, was in an excellent location right next to the public bathing beach of Dashawan 大 沙灣 and offered a great view over the harbor. Which the residents endlessly enjoyed through the panoramic windows in the house. Nearby, as is usual for such places in Japan, were numerous restaurants and bars. The beach and its lively atmosphere are unfortunately lost in the area today.
Used as mayor Lin Panwang’s official residence
After the end of the Japanese colonial era, the building served as the official residence of Keelung’s mayors and their families since 1948. Three mayors lived here: Gao Dajing 高大經 (1950-’51), Xie Guan’yi 謝貫一 (1949-’50 and 1951-1960) and Lin Panwang 林番王 (1960-’65). Although Lin Panwang ruled only five years, he is considered one of the most important mayors in Keelung’s post-war history.
Lin was born in Keelung in 1899, but went to school and studied in China, where he worked in a commercial trade companies. He returned to Keelung following the Japanese defeat in the Second World War and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1951. After his predecessor Xie Guan’yi was appointed to the central government, Lin Panwang successfully ran for mayor in 1960. He was the only mayor of Keelung during the post-war period who did not belong to the Kuomintang Party (KMT), that was ruling Taiwan in a dictatorial manner until the 1990s. The KMT fiercely resisted Lin’s candidacy and was accused of electoral censorship, but was unable to prevail.
Lin is a member of the Democratic Socialist Party of China 中國民主社會黨 (zhongguo minzhu shehui dang). Although the establishment of new political parties was banned during martial law regime, two other parties existed alongside the KMT: the Democratic Socialist Party of China and the Young China Party. Both parties were founded in mainland China and came to Taiwan in 1949 together with the KMT in resistance to the Chinese Communists. However, they played only a minor political role, much like the bloc parties in the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe.
Following Lin’s death
Although Lin was re-elected mayor in 1964, he died the following year. After 1965, Lin’s widow Zhu Feng’e 朱鳳娥, with whom he had quarreled during his lifetime, refused to move out of the mayor’s residence and lived in the building until 1975, when she emigrated to the United States.
Between 1975 and 2006, the house served as a dorm for employees of the city government, but seems to have been in a barely habitable state during this period. The building was restored between 2012 and 2013 and has been opened as a museum in January 2013.