“Window on China,” Far East Traveler Magazine
“Window on China”
By Patricia Arrigoni
Taiwan – There is a place in Lungtan, about 53 kilometers (33 miles) south of Taipei, where photographs may well turn out to be a bit disconcerting. That picture of Taipei’s Chung Kai-shek Memorial… isn’t that the Great Wall of China in the background? And that ceremony being held in a Confucian temple – what are those big towers in the background?
Those “towers” may well turn out to be the legs of fellow visitors to Window on China, a vast “city” of some of Taiwan, and mainland China’s, most famous buildings, reduced down to 1:25 scale. Even the plants (real) are trained and trimmed to be in scale with the buildings and still look absolutely natural. The perfection of this microscopic view of China is perhaps best noticeable in photographs, for aside from the odd intruding leg, the shots will be virtually indistinguishable from photos of the real thing. No wonder that in the few years it has been open it has, deservedly, become one of the Taipei area’s favorite destinations for locals and visitors alike.
A visit to Window on China is like a return to the delights of childhood. It’s like playing with an elaborate dollhouse – except that the magic of this make-believe land goes on to encompass some of China’s most spectacular contemporary and historical sites. Opened in July of 1984 at a cost of 21 million U.S. dollars, Window on China quickly became a major tourist attraction for the simple reason that a visit there is just plain fun. In all, the complex covers 4.9 acres (about two hectares).
There is a very practical side to this as well. Children growing up in the Republic of China may never have an opportunity to visit the mainland and learn first-hand about their cultural roots (as a majority of modern Taiwan’s people can trace their ancestry to south China’s Fukien province). Here they can examine exact reproductions of the temple of Heaven in Peiping (as the Taiwanese refer to Peking), palaces in the Forbidden City, and the Buddhist Pagoda of the Fukung Temple in Yung Hsien, Chansi Province. Built in 1056, the real pagoda is the tallest pagoda in the world at 67.3 meters (220 feet).
The reproductions of ancient China encompass 5,000 years of the country’s history. Spectacular examples include The Garden of the Unsuccessful Politician in Soochow (built 1506 – 1521), the Temple of Heaven (1530), Huang Chiung Hall (1752), plus many more palaces, towers, pavilions, bridges, halls, temples and classic gardens.
Of the 69 models in Window on China, over 40 are drawn from sites in Taiwan. Even contemporary sites haven’t been forgotten. Taipei’s Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport, the Sun Yat-Sen National Freeway, the electrified railway system, and the Signal Station of Taichung Harbor. Contemporary society is represented by reproductions of Taiwan’s famous museums, schools and churches. Of special interest is the famous six-story armored Oluanpi Lighthouse, built in 1883 in Pintung County at the southernmost cape of Taiwan. Other representations include the Taipei City Zoo and children’s Amusement Park; the magnificent Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, complete in 1980; and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen memorial Hall, constructed between 1968-72.
Adding to the ambience of Window on China are 50,000 tiny people in every shape and dress. These lilliputian inhabitants average 6.8 centimeters (2.7 inches) in height, exactly 1/25 of the height of a person standing 1.7 meters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall. The care to which the attraction was created can be seen not only in the details of design, but in the positioning of the tiny figures. Here in a courtyard, a Confucian ceremony is taking place; around the perimeter, tourists sit in chairs or wander around looking for a good vantage point to view the proceedings. Pedestrians on tiny crosswalks wander much as their larger counterparts downtown do – occasionally straying from the crosswalk.
Also entertaining is observing the local (live!) people, especially the schoolchildren visiting the site. The young Taiwanese are extremely friendly and enthusiastic about meeting foreign visitors and are very straightforward. I had a large group attach themselves to me during my trip to Window on China. They giggled and laughed as they tried out their knowledge of English greetings, and taught me how to reply in Mandarin. We tried hand signs and lots of nodding, trying to communicate as they followed me from site to site.
Future plans for Window on China include building reproductions of important sites throughout the world, but the Chinese world will undoubtedly remain the main drawing point, at least for the Taiwanese audience.