Dihua Street is said to be the oldest street in Taipei, and some buildings date back to the 17th century when Formosa (as Taiwan used to be known) was briefly governed by the Dutch. The street still retains much of its historical buildings and character, and today I want to take you to one of the building that's been converted to a museum.
I literally walked past this building, not paying too much attention to it, until a staff standing by the door invited me to take a look at its latest exhibits. Normally, I would ignore anyone who stops me on the streets, as 9 out of 10 times they want to sell me something I don't need. This was the 10th time. And I'm so glad I stopped!
Museum 207 is located on Number 207, Section 1, Dihua Street in Taipei. It's a relatively new building built in 1962. This used to be a shop that sells Chinese medicine, called Guanghe Tang Chinese Medicine Shop. Its old shop sign can still be seen outside the front exterior.
This building stands out from most of the others on the street due to its architectural style. Many of the other buildings have a baroque style, you can catch a glimpse of this from its neighbour. This one is a bit more modern with an orangey beige tile exterior. Due to its location on the corner and limited floor area, it was built with a curve front to give it that little extra space on the upper floors. A pillar is added outside to support this extra space. I am no expert in architecture and design, but as a layman, I think overall this design incorporate elegance and simplicity.
TERRAZZO ART FLOOR
One of the most remarkable feature of this building, are the terrazzo art on the floor inside. Terrazzo is where you mix composite material, such as marble chips in the old days, with concrete to make a pattern or image. It was very popular when this building was constructed, and a form of art to elevate a simple concrete floor to the next level. There are a few at Museum 207.
The first is outside by the front entrance. It's an image of a bee, to represent the natural ingredients of the Chinese medicine sold in the shop.
As I walked inside, to what would have been the main shop area in the old days, there was another massive one all along the floor. This was an image of a ginseng, this being one of the products sold in the shop, and the words Old Mountain Korean Gingseng. Ginseng is the root of the plant, but I thought the plant in the artwork looked a bit like a rose. I've never seen a ginseng plant before, so don't know if this is an accurate reflection of what it actually looks like, or whether the artist has added his/her creativity here. Either way, it is something that I'm sure would catch all customers' eyes as they enter.
The last terrazzo artwork is located on the second floor, and is a bunch of grapes. A bit random I thought, for a shop that sells Chinese medicine. One of the staff at the museum explained that grapes have a special meaning in Chinese. Grapes grow in bunches, like a family all connected together. Having a big, close family is something that traditionally the Chinese like. Furthermore, grapes often have a lot of seeds inside and sometimes can be sour. Sour, in Chinese sounds the same as grandchildren. That's why grapes are considered a good sign for a big family!
It turns out that the upper floors are the private residence of the shop owner, so embedding a bunch of grapes in the terrazzo floor artwork made perfect sense. And why the English writing? This reason was much more simple. Speaking English wasn't popular in those days if you knew English you were considered superior!