Wufeng Story House (霧峰民生故事館, pictured above) celebrates facets of local history and agriculture not far from Taichung, central Taiwan’s principal city.
The Story House occupies a late 1950s two-storey concrete structure which served as both a clinic (downstairs) and a residence for Dr. Lin Peng-fei (林鵬飛, 1920-2010) and his family (upstairs). The building had been empty for some years, and in a sorry state due to earthquakes and typhoons, when it was taken over in 2014 by Wufeng Farmers Association. The association says they decided to fund the project entirely by themselves so they’d retain complete control; in Taiwan as in many other countries, central government money always comes with strings attached.
Cracks in the walls and floors were fixed, new windows were installed, and the doctor’s office was restored to its 1960s appearance. Among the items on display are some - among them a microscope - which Dr. Lin himself used. Others were donated by some of Taiwan’s most notable medical-intellectual families. Over the past decade, nostalgia for pre-1970s Taiwan has become an important driver of domestic tourism.
Like many physicians of his era, Dr. Lin wasn’t a specialist, but handled internal medicine, pediatrics and external medicine on a daily basis. According to one blogger, he was ‘well-respected as an ethical physician who often provided free care to the poor’.
One part of the downstairs is now a restaurant where typical Taiwanese dishes showcase local produce. Set meals cost around NTD450. Wufeng is especially famous for its mushrooms, so it’s no surprise these feature prominently. The field behind the Story House will soon serve as an organic farm, supplying vegetables to the restaurants and demonstrating to visitors how food can be produced in an ecofriendly manner.
What’s now upstairs is altogether more sobering, but will fascinate anyone curious about Taiwan during the 1895-1945 period of Japanese colonisation and World War II. By his late eighties, Dr. Lin was the last surviving member of the class of 1941 at the medical school of what was then called Taihoku Imperial University (now National Taiwan University). Several of his classmates, conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Navy, perished on January 12, 1945 when the ship on which they were sailing to Japanese-occupied Indochina, the Shinsei Maru, was sunk by US warplanes. Some 247 Taiwanese personnel - among them 41 doctors - died in that incident. In all, over 30,000 Taiwanese were killed while serving with the Japanese armed forces between 1937 and the end of the war.
The Story House’s upper floor is devoted to the sinking of the Shinsei Maru and the Taiwanese who lost their lives on board. Amid the maps, photos and models - and a Rising Sun flag autographed by Taiwanese servicemen - especially striking is the black-and-white movie footage taken at the wedding of one of the doctors in the late 1930s. It’s interesting to see the cars and fashions of that era, but the mere fact the movie was shot is proof of the elite status physicians in Taiwan enjoyed throughout the colonial period, and have continued to enjoy, albeit slightly diminished, ever since. Unfortunately, all the displays here are currently in Chinese only.
A look at Wufeng Story House can easily be combined with a look around the area’s best known attraction, the 921 Earthquake Museum (also known as the 921 Earthquake Educational Park). The museum is just 1.5km from the Story House.
Less than a minute’s walk to the south of the Story House is Wufeng Farmers Association Distillery (霧峰農會酒莊). There you can buy locally made sakes which has won awards in European competitions.