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Bopiliao Historic Block

  • Date:2021-06-25
Bopiliao Historic Block

Chinese Name : 剝皮寮歷史街區
Date of Construction: 1760s
Location: Taipei City, Taiwan
Did You Know?
The Bopiliao Historic Block was formed in the early Qing Dynasty in the eponymous settlement. With a history that spans the Qing, Japanese, and Republic of China eras, it boasts a mix of architectural styles from each of these different periods, although mostly Qing Dynasty shophouses ranging from one to three stories and pailou-fronted buildings from the Japanese period. The streets themselves are about three meters wide and slightly curved, unlike the straight, wide roads that were opened up during Japanese rule. The buildings and street spaces have borne witness to centuries of development in what is now Taipei City’s Wanhua District and are of particular historical significance.

The settlement of Bopiliao was founded in the early Qing Dynasty and has stood for over two centuries. In the past, the historic block was known by various names, including Beipiliao Street, Fupiliao Street, and Fudiliao Street before its current name and look were settled on. In addition to being an everyday market street, it was also known as Tutan Market due to its early development as a coal distribution center and was once a thriving commercial district.

In 1908, the Japanese government of Taiwan launched an “urban rectification” program that resulted in the development of what are now Kangding Road, Guangzhou Street, and Kunming Street, interrupting the original Qing Dynasty architectural pattern and causing a disruption and gradual decline in the commercial activities of the old streets. Later, the reconstruction of some of the buildings on Guangzhou Street and Kangding Road saw the now-distinctive architectural arch facades of the district, with its half-sided streets with double-sided and angled storefronts come into being.

The two sides of the street preserve the architectural styles and spatial characteristics of two different eras: the northern buildings are red-brick “fireproof” shophouses with “five-foot way” roofed walkways in the Qing Dynasty style, providing a narrow marketplace space for pedestrians that was also an extension of the store space. To the south, the opening up of Guangzhou Street led to stores turning their faces to the other side, building residential building with a more Western style; each one had an arch separating it from its neighbors, but many of these have since been damaged and replaced with simple flat beams, with only a few retaining the original arches. Also of note are that the architectural features of these archways include clay reliefs, openwork, and green glazed tiles, among other façade decorations, as well as the planters and balconies on the outside.

The Bopiliao block also has hidden within it the particular curving spaces of the era, and at the entrance is a plaza with a reservoir for fire-fighting purposes. There is also a small trapezoidal plaza formed by the Japanese-era opening up of Guangzhou Street, creating a unique space where the old and new urban textures meet.

In 1941, during Japanese rule, it was zoned as a future site for Laosong Elementary School in accordance with urban planning, making it impossible to build new buildings there and coincidentally resulting in the preservation of the unique mix of Hokkien and Western architectural styles.

In 1999, the Taipei City Government formed the “Task Force to Promote the Maintenance of the Historic Landscape of Bopiliao Street” to restore and re-plan what was then a virtually abandoned space.

Four years later, the local government launched a restoration project for the block, with work continuing through to 2009. Once this restoration work was complete, it was officially opened to the public, quickly capturing attention from the society. Through art and cultural exhibitions, educational activities, and video co-productions, it continues to promote art and cultural education and cultural heritage. Around that same time, the movie “Monga” was released, with its blockbuster box office results leading to Taiwanese society paying renewed attention to the old community for which the movie was titled, more commonly known as Wanhua.

On March 29, 2010, the Taipei City Government announced the registration of Bopiliao as a historic site, defining the Bopiliao Historic Block as the area located in the Wanhua District bounded by Laosong Elementary School to the north, Guangzhou Street to the south, Kunming Street to the east, and Kangding Road to the west.

To effectively revitalize the use of the historical buildings, optimize Bopiliao’s spatial services, increase the time visitors stay there, and leave a deep impression with its local character, the Bopiliao Historic Block is divided into east and west sides, with Lane 127 of Guangzhou Street as the dividing line. The development strategies of each have been quite different, with the east side mainly focusing on local and outdoor education and the west on cultural and art exhibitions and assistance in film and television shoots.

The spaces are used for special art exhibitions, film promotions, and cultural heritage education, hoping that this historical district will create for visitors a newer, deeper, and broader vision and an experience with a distinctive vibe as it showcases its unique charm and becomes a place where old flavors and new trends mix and mingle.