Origin of the Keteleeria Formosana Hayata Community
Located near the campus of National Taiwan Normal University in the Daan District, Taipei City, the Keteleeria Formosana Hayata Community is a fine specimen of community building project. It stared around 2001, when a group of parents from the community began to meet regularly to discuss educational affairs and to take care of the trees in the Community. In 2002, in the process of intense community building projects, members discovered the precious Keteleeria formosana among the Japanese-style dormitories near the Jing-An Park. Towards the end of 2003, many Japanese-style dormitories, along with precious old trees, in the region were gradually replaced by concrete high-rise buildings. To better protect the environment, the Community members moved from protection of trees to protection of historical sites.
On 31 March 2006, the Japanese-style dormitories in the Community were officially declared to be municipal historical sites. Taipei City Government named the site “Dormitory of Forest Section, Governor General’s Office.” In 2008 the Association began to take up an empty field deserted after a fire and build an Educational Garden of Taiwan Native Plant, which, along with Keteleeria formosana and Japanese-style Dormitories, form the tree distinctive characteristics of the community, namely historical sites, cultural history, and ecology.
Keteleeria formosana, one of the endangered species of the world and officially declared to be one of rare and valuable plant species in Taiwan. Keteleeria formosana is an evergreen plant of the Pinaceae family; up to 35 meters in height and 2 to 2.5 meters in diameter. They generally grow near mountain ridges and, as glacial plant relict, serve many scientific purposes and genetic preservation.
The population of Keteleeria formosana is extremely rare, primary exists in the north and south ends of Taiwan, Da-Wu in Taitung and Pinlin in Taipei and Jiaoxi in Yilan. Seeds of Keteleeria formosana are spread by wind and thus have weaker competitive ability in natural environment; it is even more difficult to find them in urban areas.
Planted by a technician from the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period, the Keteleeria formosana is more than eighty years old. It was about 150 cm when planted; currently it is about 7 meters in height and more than 50 cm in diameter. It is not only a jewel of Taipei but also the only old tree cared for by community groups. Its existence gives us a rare opportunity to observe nature in such a close range. Let’s look after it together.
Japanese-style Dormitories: Historical Sites and Buildings
After the Japanese colonial government obtained Taiwan from the Qing government in 1895, they began a series of systematic urban planning, attempting to build the Taipei City as the center for their colonial expansion. In the beginning of the colonial rule, however, Japanese found the traditional Taiwanese wooden buildings in dire lack of light, ventilation, and hygiene. After a few years’ experience, the Japanese colonial government established new directions and laws for building and architecture.
To adapt to the climate of Taiwan, the Japanese-style dormitories took up a different form from those in Japan. Here, the wooden buildings were enhanced with designs to endure the humidity and heat. While the Japanese-style dormitories were built following the policies of the Japanese colonial government, these types of building were indeed endowed with better lighting, ventilation, and hygiene. Under the colonial policy of Japanization, the Japanese-style dormitory became a symbol of nobility, making it a popular type of building even among the local Taiwanese people.
The group of Japanese-style dormitories in the Keteleeria Formosana Hayata Community were built in 1930s according to the Architectural Standards of Official Buildings of the Office of Governor-General of Taiwan promulgated in 1922, probably for lower level officials. Today, there remains five complete buildings and one half building, all hand-built wooden buildings. On 31 March 2006, Taipei City Government declared these buildings historical sites according to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act. These buildings preserve for us the well-ordered spatial and bureaucratic hierarchy of the colonial Japanese architecture.
Ecological Garden of Taiwan’s Indigenous Plants
Keteleeria Formosana Hayata Community provides an amazing view of urban ecology. Besides the Keteleeria formosana preserved here, many native and foreign trees and plants can also be found within the Community.
There are many Taiwan nagtive plants here. The Celtis sinensis var. sinensis can purify the city air. The reddening of Liquidambar formosana’s leaves hints at the coming of autumn. The bark of the Cinnamomum camphora is deeply fissured, emitting a smell of camphor and providing feasts for birds with its fruit. Livistona chinensis var. subglobosahas strange-looking leaves which are used to produce hat, fan, and raincoats. Also, you can find Podocarpus macrophyllus, it’s going to declare preservation. These old trees are more than fifty or sixty years old.
Other trees witness the change of time and history. Archontophoenix alexandrae were grown under the promotion of the Japanese government. Cedrela sinensis Juss, on the other hand, was commonly seen in veteran villages during the early retrocession period. Eucalyptus robusta was first introduced into Taiwan as street tree.
Keteleeria Formosana Hayata Community has a rich historical, cultural, and ecological diversity. You are welcome to linger here, to appreciate its many aspects of beauty, and to cherish and protect it together.