The Lin family mansion is a large family compound built around the mid-1800s in Wufeng, south of Taichung.
The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) was a difficult time for the people of Taiwan. There was little Chinese governance on the island, which made five local families thus responsible for security and the rule of law. Above all of them, the Lins of Wufeng amassed a huge amount of power, and their residential compound is a testament to that wealth.
From the mid-19th century on, the Wufeng Lins held a substantial number of fields in central Taiwan. After assisting the government put down several rebellions, the Lins were compensated with the exclusive right to sell camphor on the island. This further escalated their holdings allowing them to expand their power base and build Taichung’s famed First Senior School (1915)
The Lin Family mansion is one of the best examples of Qing Dynasty architecture in Taiwan. The complex is vast with a perimeter of over a kilometer making it perhaps the most elaborate and complete of its kind in Taiwan. It is divided into three parts, an upper and lower mansion and the acclaimed Lin Family Gardens – offically called Laiyuan (萊園). The upper and lower areas represent different branches of the Lins.
Currently only two areas of the compound are open to the public and both of these are in the middle of the lower mansion, namely Gong bao di and the Grand Flower Hall. The Lin Family Gardens (林家花園) are a few minutes walk from the main entrance on the grounds of nearby Ming Tai High School.
Work on the mansion complex began some time around the mid-19th century and expanded as the Lin’s wealth increased. The main entrance is in the Gongbaodi building of the lower mansion, which connects to the Grand Flower Hall next door.
Gongbaodi (宮保第) means ‘residence of the palace guard’ and was built between 1858 and 1883. Of interest is the intricate wooden carving under the eaves and along the walls inside. The portraits of the door guards are particularly eye-catching. Also pay attention to the beautiful calligraphy work within the inner vestibules added from 1870.
The adjacent Grand Flower Hall (built 1890-1894) (大花廳) served as a imperial-style banquet hall for receiving and entertaining guests. The hall served as a kind of auditorium. The host sat on large ornate chairs at the front of the room and guests on smaller ones along the sides. The interior is extremely evocative and makes you appreciate how everything in a traditional house served a purpose.
In front of the hall, a large elaborate theatrical stage in the courtyard was used to entertain the lady of the house and her visitors. Travelling opera troopes would often play there. Don’t miss the two huge water-filled ceramic jars placed below the stage that were used to project sound throughout the courtyard.
The Laiyuan gardens, a few minutes walk from the entrance, are regarded as one of the four great gardens of Taiwan. The gardens were built in 1893 by Lin Wenqin to host opera performances for the pleasure of his mother. Amid the lakes, opera pavillions and flora, the Laiyuan gardens tell the tale of old master Lai (老萊子) who, till the age of 70, would dress in extravagant costumes to entertain his parents.
Following the 9/21 earthquake in 1999, extensive restoration work to many buildings around the complex is still underway. The Lin family is huge and many of them still live within the mansion confines. However some didn’t rebuild their homes in the original style of the building’s structure resulting in several modern residences scattered throughout the complex.
Visiting the mansion and gardens is different. To see the mansion, visitors must take a tour (Chinese only) from the entrance at Gongbaodi. All guests receive a headset with a $250NT entrance fee. English tours must be booked in advance (call (04) 2331-7985 or book online). To visit the gardens, entrance is free but you must enter the grounds of nearby Mingtai high school first to see them. A small red-brick buildings next to the gardens displays Lin Family belongings on the second floor.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297910-d6410892-Reviews-Wufeng_Lin_Family-Taichung.html (comments on Wufeng Lin Family Mansion)
http://wufenglins.com.tw/ *Wufeng Lin Family Website (Chinese Only)