Sunday, July 7, 2013

Calligraphy Greenway, Taichung

I frankly never thought I would yearn to return to Taichung and become more knowledgeable of the city Government's visions and driving efforts of urbanization and revitalization. Taiwan Toastmasters Conventions in which I have participated in the past had mostly chosen venues in suburban Taichung rather than the downtown area, except the ones held at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel, Chungkang Road, and the new Taichung HSR Station Complex. The Evergreen Group, I understood, was a great sponsor of Taiwan Toastmasters. The Hsin Wuri Conference was timely right after the HSR inaugurated Taiwan Shinkansen.

I'm not at all complaining about the suburban venues, like Dajia, Longjing, Shalu, Wuri, etc. Rather I very much enjoyed visiting those areas, all bordering Greater Taichung Megalopolis. I remember I visited Dajia twice. I never would've had a chance otherwise without the great selections by the Taiwan Toastmasters. Each had a unique landscape and culture of its own. At Tunghai University, the palm-folding style Luce Chapel was beautiful, as was the pious campus and the library. Dajia Jennlann Temple and its Cultural Center Palace taught me about the elegance of centuries-old Mazu pilgrimage and festivals. The rented Education and Training Center Facilities in Wuri and Shalu were first class and promoted convention venues away from the hustle and bustle of Taichung. Free bus transportation, exclusive for Toastmasters, was offered from the new HSR Taichung station to the respective venues.

This April, Paul Lee, a retired business executive turned scholar in Japanese literature (his favorite author is Soseki Natsume), took me to this new POI green belt zone, immediately after the Spring Toastmasters Conference near Taichung Airport before inviting me to his apartment.

When I saw "草悟道” the Kanji character, I interpreted it "Enlighteners' Road", as in the "Philosophers' Road" in Kyoto I know. I wasn't sure about ”草” the grass, but remembered ”陽明山” was once "草山” in Taipei which may have similar nostalgic connotations like the Japanese ”里山”.

Paul informed me that Taichung City named it "Calligraphy Greenway" in English. The designated zone starts at Taichung North District, home of the Natural Science Museum and the Civic Square, and ends at Taichung West District, home to the National Museum of Fine Arts, Culture Affairs Bureau, and Taichung City Hall. It is about 3.6 kilometers in length (almost comparable to New York Central Park of 4 kilometers) and a dozen of street blocks in width, it incorporates the Jingguo Parkway green belt zones which had existed before.

Paul told me when the road was officially opened in the spring of 2012, a scroll of paper was spread out on the road for more than one kilometer for many famous calligraphers' competition for their cursive script (草書)writing demonstration with brushes, attracting the admiration of on-lookers. ”草” in ”草悟道” therefore, is used to symbolize the calligraphy, brushes and Indian ink splashing free and easy like a river flow meandering and purifying the urban streets, plus the artistic inspirations, sculptures and objects, arranged throughout Calligraphy Greenway. Street names, like Mofan (model), Yingcai (genius), Gongyi (public interests) all help to enhance the spirit of visitors.

Taichung City Government admitted that Calligraphy Greenway was modeled after Tokyo's Omote Sando renovation, designed by Architect Tadao Ando, with a basic concept of integrating living environment with nature, bringing sites together of home, work, exercise, socialization, enrichment, and entertainment, aiming for a well balanced, sustainable ecosystem neighborhood. Playful, exhilarating and colorful life style is sought in the concept with the use of water motif of rivulets, cascades, fountains, water curtains for the greenway. In addition, it incorporates enforced no-smoking zones, expanded clean-air cyclist and pedestrian lanes, and park stages for live jazz music concerts. With the eco-friendly green walled CMP Parklane Department as the anchor landmark, hotels, bakeries, cafes, restaurants and fashion stores surround the area to attract people for shopping, dating and partying.

Worthy of note for the Japanese tourists is my finding of Issey Miyake's Taichung store at 2nd floor 245 Chungxing. I was told the store complex had existed for almost ten years before the Calligraphy Greenway was announced.

I am expecting the Taiwan Toastmasters to hold its semi-annual convention in this Calligrapher Greenway very soon.


Paul Dion, STL said...

Once again I thank you for letting me see the world that you live in. I never read your blog posts only one time. I visit each one at least twice or thrice before moving on. This one is especially challenging culturally and I really like it. Thank for the bay window that you give me. I can see your version of Asia from here. Thank you. Greetings to your lovely spouse.


Rob said...

Thanks for an interesting article. This multipurpose green space seems like a creative contribution to the city.

On a smaller scale, there is a greenway in Iizuka, Japan. A creek has been day-lighted (brought to surface) in some areas. There are a few calligraphy stones, and it is a pleasant place to stroll and reflect.