FOUR metro stations stops away brought me to the spot I needed to be—the second stop on day one’s Taiwan adventure—the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

It is the closest major tourist attraction from Longshan Temple and a must-see for every first time visitor to the city, I was told.

Therefore, I must go and check it out.

If there was a warning about the place, it was to bring an umbrella, and stepping on the property, I understood why.

The memorial hall grounds is a vast open space, a vast one, dominated by the Democracy Square, a 240,000 square meter public plaza that serves as a major site for public gatherings, one of the most significant was the role it played in 1990 when Taiwan shifted from one-party rule to modern democracy.

Two other landmarks flank the plaza, the National Concert Hall and the National Theater. The perspective of the red structures direct the vision to the blue and white edifice at the far end of the property-the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

To make it short, it’s a long walk from the gate to the east end, where the memorial hall is, and may seem even farther trekking under the blistering heat of the Taiwan sun, thus a parasol’s necessity.

But the weather was good to me. Overcast sky offered a shield from the sun’s rays. As to the heat and humidity, there’s no escaping that.

Architect Yang Cho-cheng designed Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which broke ground on the 90th birthday of Chiang, on October 31st, 1976, and opened to the public on April 5, 1980, the fifth death anniversary of the honoree, with details honoring life events of the former President of the Republic of China and the Chinese traditional architecture.

The blue and white colors of the edifice represent “Blue Sky and White Sun” of the ROC’s national emblem; the structure’s square base matches the impartial (zhong) and righteous (zheng) characters of the late president’s name; the roof is octagonal (8-sided), and the number eight is associated with good fortune and abundance, and its shape takes it shape from “ren”, the character for “person”, and points skywards to represent “the joining of heaven and man”; and the two sets of white stairs that lead to the main entrance each have 89 steps, representing Chiang’s age before he passed away.

From the concourse at the top level (the fourth floor) of the memorial offers a panoramic view of the grounds, a greener one this time.

Through the arched doorway is the main hall, where the 6.3-meter bronze seated statue of Chiang Kai-shek, weighing 21.25 tons, is the dominant figure. Engraved on the wall behind are Chiang’s words, the central ideas of The Three Principles of the People— “ethics, democracy and science”; and on the marble pillars on both sides of the statue—“The purpose of living is to improve the living of whole human beings; the meaning of life to create the proceeding life.”

My arrival was just in time for the changing of the guards, which happens every hour from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except designated holidays. It’s a good ceremony to catch.

An impressive collection of artworks by local artists is exhibited at the third level’s Zhi Qing Exhibition Hall and Cai Yu Art Gallery.

On the ground level, the museum and library documents the life and career of Chiang Kai-shek, the Republic of China-era Chinese history, and Taiwan's history and development.

This stop is quite an interesting one and may I suggest that you spare a good number of hours to enjoy what the place offers when you do visit.

May I add that the very cool interior temperature makes for a good escape from the outdoor heat.

To get there: The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall train station is an MRT stop of both the Red Line 2 and Green Line 3. Exit 5 leads to the southeast entrance of the CKS Memorial Hall.

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