August 25- 27
Harbourfront Centre

Xihuifang

1. Xihuifang

2. Ximending During the Japanese Rule

3. What the Map Tells

4. Ice Flag

5. Billboards

6. Pencil Sketch

7. Taiwanese Geisha

Xihuifang

In the southern sunshine, large trees with flourishing foliage provide shade for passers-by. Street food carts full of fruits and ice products also seem to be a reminder of the tropical island’s scorching climate. Three women in kimono, cheongsam, and western dresses, clad in diverse cultural backgrounds, crossed through the marketplace. The laborer, carrying a burden and hunched over, is the most common and humble figure on this land. The afternoon at Xihuifang is tranquil and peaceful, but the hidden language in the painting speaks a far more complicated story that awaits further exploration.

1. Xihuifang

Huifang”, meaning “a place where the aroma is filled”, was a common name of many wine restaurants at that time. A wine restaurant was a meeting place for gentlemen and celebrities, as well as a testing ground for Taiwanese cuisine. Modern Taiwan is known for its diverse and complex culinary culture, and many of its roots can be traced back to such “wine restaurant dishes” under the Japanese colonial rule.

2. Ximending During the Japanese Rule

A comparison of the old map with the historical address of “Xihuifang” can confirm the location and viewpoint of this painting. Xihuifang was located in Ximending, where prostitution was legit, and wine restaurants abound. As the lumber industry flourished in Chiayi at that time, so did the entertainment industry in this area.

3. What the Map Tells

The map can tell us more about the painting. The 1936 “Detailed Map of the Occupations in Greater Japan” shows the “Chiayi Lumber Chamber of Commerce” at the opposite corner of the Xihuifang, which is the green logo text in the middle scene of the painting. Moreover, the shadows of the trees in the painting stretch from west to east, so it can be inferred that the time of painting was more likely to be in the afternoon.

4. Ice Flag

A Japanese “Ice Flag” with white background, blue letters, and red decorations appears on a street cart of local food vendor, which is a microcosm of the cultural integration in the life of the ordinary people. The consumption of ice was an element of food culture imported during the Japanese occupation. With the establishment of modern ice factories, ice hawkers also emerged on the streets of Chiayi.

5. Billboards

Several different colored signboards were positioned side by side, possibly some kind of joint advertising billboards. The two signboards in the middle can clearly identify the word “Hospital”, one of which may be the “Yi Sheng Hospital” on Zongye Street. The one on the far left is probably the “Changchun Hospital”, which was founded by the famed Chiayi doctor Lin Qi-zhang.

6. Pencil Sketch

In Chen Cheng-po’s sketchbook, we can find some sketches of existing oil paintings and get clues to understand the artwork accordingly. In contrast to this sketch, the arrangement of the scenery in “Xihuifang” has changed significantly in the final work. The height of the house on the left has also been deliberately elevated to create an odd perspective ratio.

11-SB09-027 風景速寫(14)-SB09:32.7.27

Landscape Sketch (14) -SB09: 32.7.27, 1932, pencil on paper, 18.2×24cm

7. Taiwanese Geisha

The woman figure in the window is probably a “Taiwanese geisha”, a term coined for local female entertainers who sing and escort diners in a restaurant. Despite their low social status, many local geishas have a decent level of knowledge. During the Japanese rule, a famous Chiayi hostess who worked at Xihuifang by the name of “Cai Yun” was able to write poetry chanting the beauty of Jade Mountain and serenate impromptu with the literary professionals. She created a huge sensation among the literary circles.

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TAIWANfest Toronto is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered here, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples of this land while we engage in meaningful conversations of culture and reconciliation.