When I show friends around Tainan, there are two places we absolutely must go – the Confucian Temple and Anping Tree House. Each place is historic, but in very different ways.
Anping Tree House occupies what were once the warehouses of British trading company Tait & Co. When the Japanese were given Taiwan as a colony in 1895, their government monopoly on the goods Tait & Co. traded made staying in Taiwan unprofitable. Eventually, the warehouses were used by a Japanese salt company, and then by the new Nationalist government’s salt corporation after 1945. The decline of the salt industry meant the warehouses were abandoned sometime in the 1950s.
Then nature took over. In the span of sixty years, banyan trees went wild in and around the warehouses, collapsing roofs, filling in doorways, and replacing walls. It’s magnificent.
Though the amazed wonder I felt at my first visit to the Tree House has long since faded, it hasn’t ceased being beautiful each time I go back. Get there early (the complex opens at 8:30am) if you want any photos of the place without dozens of other tourists in the background.
For the 50nt you spend to get into the treehouse, you also get access to the Tait & Co. Merchant House, a history museum of sorts.
The second floor still has the hilariously bad wax figure dioramas that I saw there in 1997 on a school field trip, and it appears they haven’t been dusted since whenever it was they were installed in 1979.
Next door to the museum, there’s a peaceful, gorgeous calligraphy exhibition space with an area for visitors to practice their own calligraphy with water on absorbent stone. Recently opened, it’s definitely worth a few moments on your way out of the complex.
(photo credit to Connie of circumnavacation.com because I forgot to take any photos of this.)