Ten minutes’ walk from the southern end of 2-28 Peace Park is one of Taipei’s grandest sights, the collection of monumental architecture surrounding Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂; zhōngzhèng jìniàntáng). It doesn’t seem to matter that all this was completed in the 1980s – these buildings are some of the largest examples of classical Chinese architecture anywhere in the world.
Built as a shrine to commemorate the man that – admire him or loathe him – did more to create modern Taiwan than any other, the memorial hall sits at the centre of a grand plaza (known as “Liberty Square” since the DPP renamed it in 2007), its striking 70m octagonal roof designed to resemble the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and covered with blue glazed tiles. Start by climbing the 89 granite stairs to the main hall, which contains a giant bronze statue of the Generalissimo under an elegant red cypress wood ceiling; though it seems a bit like a mausoleum, Chiang isn’t buried inside. Inscribed onto the marble wall behind the statue are the three pillars of Chiang’s political thought, loosely adapted from Sun Yat-sen’s “Three Principles of the People”: Science (科學; kēxué), Democracy (民主; mínzhŭ) and Ethics (倫理; lúnlǐ). The hourly changing of the guard here is an elaborate ceremony that takes around ten minutes. Downstairs at ground level you’ll find a series of renovated art galleries and a special section of exhibition rooms that tell the story of Chiang’s life through photographs, paintings and personal effects, all labelled in English, though you might tire of the predictably flattering commentary. His two shiny Cadillacs are also on display. Don’t miss the gift shop either, where Chiang’s image – rather like Mao’s in China – now adorns designer T-shirts, bags and trendy cards.