Tucked into the middle of the city is the former garden of a wealthy 19th century businessman named Wu, and upon its grounds is the old Union Hall where town meetings were held during the Japanese period.
The garden and hall were built for separate purposes and have separate histories, but now form a unified site of culture and leisure. Additionally, there is a Japanese period restaurant in the park that now acts as a tourist information center.
Wu’s garden is a public park that is a sweet little oasis amongst the clutter of downtown. It’s not large, but it’s a little hidden away so you can usually get your fill of grass time undisturbed. The garden dates from 1829 when a businessman named Wu Shan Xin constructed a classical Chinese garden replete with a pavilion, a pond, and rock wall containing a small cave. The garden’s aesthetics were amongst the most celebrated on the island and many of the islands elites gathered there for leisure. It was known as one of the “four great famous gardens in Taiwan.” Wu Shan Xin’s tomb is on the grounds of the Great South Gate park.
The southern part of Wu’s garden was allocated to build a Union Hall in 1911. The city lacked a public meeting facility and this building was designed to meet that purpose. Built during the Japanese colonial period, the building reflects the Japanese push toward modern, European-style architecture. You are greeted in a two-story blockhouse that looks like European civic architecture, or any early 20th century North American town or city hall. The two-story front blockhouse leads to a basilica-style hall in the rear that was used for large events and meetings. The Union Hall has gone by several names including the Tainan Meeting Hall and the Provincial Social Education Hall. It is now called the Wuyuan Cultural and Art Museum.
There’s not a lot going on here as a museum. The only public area is a small display in the west wing that tells about the history of the building, but only in Chinese. The rest of the building doesn’t appear to be set up for public viewing. Music seems to be the flavor of the day in the old Union Hall. You can sometimes hear music being practiced in the rooms upstairs, and the hall is most often used for classical or traditional music performances. You can find posters advertising various shows near the entrance of the building.
The Willow House Japanese Restaurant lies to the west of Union Hall. Built in 1934, this split-level Japanese restaurant from the Japanese colonial period has been preserved as a testimony to Taiwan’s cultural diversity. It is also a prime example of Japanese wooden architecture that you just don’t see in the city anymore. No longer a Japanese restaurant, it’s now a tourist information center, as well as cafe and souvenir store.
Loacation: No.30, Minquan Road (Mincyuan Rd. 民權路), Sec. 2, West Central District, Tainan City