Words and photos by Sharon Chang
Translated by Alicia Yu
Hsiao Yun Mountain Villa is an old mansion located in Shengang, near the Tanzi district. Originally, it was used as a personal residence but, since 1999, the villa's buildings have been targeted for conservation by the Taichung City Government, which designated it a historic site.
Constructed over a century ago, the mansion was the family residence for Lu Ju-hsiu--a "chu-jen" (successful candidate in the imperial provincial examinations) during the Qing dynasty--and was paid for and built by his father, Lu Ping-nan, to care for his grandmother, the dowager Chang. At that time, the Lu family was fond of befriending scholars, built a school, and collected over 20,000 books, thereby contributing to the blossoming of reading culture in central Taiwan. Ju-hsiu's three sons also became "hsiu-tsai" (passing the township level of the imperial examination), and news of this praiseworthy accomplishment spread far.
Situated on the north side of the property and facing southward, this mansion is now a uniquely well-preserved personal residence from the Qing dynasty era. To its north are small hills; its left side is surrounded and protected by ditches; and to the front is a large gatehouse with a swallow-tailed roof ridge and walls with gun loops for defense and viewing the surrounding area.
When the villa was first built, besides its gatehouse, it also encompassed the first-row Tu Ching Hall and second-row Wu Chang Hall, which both have a courtyard house on the right and left. Later, during the Japanese colonial period, a few buildings featuring early-modern and mixed Western and Min Nan ("Taiwanese Hokkien") styles were completed to expand the mansion's size.
Its building materials mostly came from Fujian province and the style of its stone sculptures is relatively sober. The mansion embraces a Monk and Nun roof style from the Min Nan tradition, with its ridge adorned with clay and "jiannian" (cut and paste) sculptures. Well-preserved Koji Pottery is also found inside the house. Thus, this mansion can be considered a representative museum of Taiwanese life and history. By contrast to the Chai Hsing ("Plucking Stars") Mountain Villa, Hsiao Yun Mountain Villa still serves as a residence, so it is not open to the public on weekdays and only accepts guided tours by reservation during holidays.
Left: The swallow-tailed gatehouse has a defensive function
and is the gateway to Hsiao Yun Mountain Villa.
Right: The building era of Hsiao Yun
Mountain Villa is fairly close to
that of SheKou's Tai Fu Tai
Mansion. Both are ranked
among the top 10 personal
traditional architecture in
Left: As the Lu family has been famous for its
love of books and scholars for generations,
the walls of its residence are filled with
scholarly calligraphy and drawings.
Right: Koji Pottery is a colorful earthenware
fired at low temperatures and difficult to
preserve outdoors. However, Hsiao Yun
Mountain Villa features well-kept examples.