2021 Year-end Update
Hello and long, long time no write.
As you may be tired of hearing from everyone, a lot has changed in the last 1.5 years. The original plan for this project was to go around Taiwan and document historic structures from the Japanese colonial period. However, the pandemic blew up the plan and there were times when public buildings were closed or otherwise discouraged for the public to visit. Then, while the pandemic raged everywhere else in the world, Taiwan’s border-closing and quarantine policy seemed to work so Taiwan enjoyed quite a bit of freedom. However, I took grad school classes for several months and that was its own time-consuming and financial set of obstacles for the documentation. Then as my schedule was lightening up, Taiwan hit its roughest patch of outbreak and this time it truly did shut down the country for a while. In retrospect, this would have been the perfect time to go out and take exterior shots, but I wasn’t that smart at the time. Also, much of the city where I live went into construction mode, to restore the very buildings I meant to go document.
That’s when the penny dropped: Taiwan’s practice around restoration is so far removed from the breed of preservation I advocate that I had had a block against documentation without realizing it. I wouldn’t be documenting architectural history, I’d be documenting irreversible questionable practices.
And that’s why I turned to a slightly different kind of preservation work: writing.
One of the most challenging and also rewarding parts of this project has been the learning curve. Having been educated in English, and having varying levels of speaking ability in Japanese and Mandarin, a lot of research material has been somewhat inaccessible to me. But I had grad school homework assignments to complete, which required documenting and researching historic buildings, and so I essentially had to learn how to read Japanese and Mandarin for this.
Not one to put a lot of effort into something to reap just one reward, I’ve been repurposing much of what I’ve learned into long-form writing. The most significant output has been essays about Taiwan history over on Medium. Here are the entries so far:
An essay about Japanese heritage that was originally published on TaiwaneseAmerican.org
3-part series about Christianity in Taiwan (Part 2 is the one most directly set during the colonial period, Parts 1 and 3 are for context — and for now Part 1 is available but Part 3 is still on its way).
Coming soon: an essay about the state of historic preservation in Taiwan, its definition and trend in more recent years (accompanying the next set of photos on Instagram) — but maybe don’t hold your breath.
Click on any of the links above to access the essays directly, or you can also bookmark the page that lists all the essays: Medium - Japanese Colonial
If you don’t already have a Medium account, why not create one and follow me? You’d be notified directly through Medium, so you won’t have to wait for these newsletters to click through.
Happy end of the year, and expect an email from me in January before Chinese New Year.
The circumstances of the past two years have certainly thrown their challenges at you.
May 2022 bring you and all of us around the world better things!