Photos: Gao Zanxian
A long-term plan has been put in place to revive Dadaocheng's glory days of the 1920s. This plan was initiated by the founder of ArtYard (小藝埕), Jou Yi-cheng (周奕成).
In the film Twa-Tiu-Tiann, the character Professor P (played by Chu Ke-liang (豬哥亮)) says that, “That was Taiwan's golden era. Everyone was working hard and everyone was making big money. That was Dadaocheng.” In 1921, Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), who is considered “the father of Taiwan's new cultural movement”, established the Taiwanese Cultural Association (台灣文化協會) in Dadaocheng. Thus, it is not difficult to imagine how this would have been a place of economic and cultural prosperity.
Hoping to revive some of that prosperity, Jou rented several buildings along Dadaocheng's historic streets. Through a model of joint ownership and operation, he has attracted people in the creative and cultural industries to set up shop in Dadaocheng and infuse the streets with the creativity and vitality of the young generation.
ArtYard founder Jou Yi-cheng has been working to breathe new life into the old streets of Dadaocheng. (Photo: Gao Zanxian)
Building a Micro-enterprise Base to Bring New Ideas to Traditional Businesses
Jou says that Dadaocheng is dependent on the support of the government and the private sector to preserve its unique historical atmosphere and landscape. However, it is not enough just to focus on external appearances. Fulfilling Dadaocheng’s internal connotation is the only way to restore it to its former glory. During these modern times when traditional industries are experiencing a gradual decline, it is not enough to depend on the original models of operations and management in this once important commercial area. Therefore, Jou's guiding principle is to “attract new vitality and creativity in line with the preservation of old traditions.”
This concept formed part of his resolve even before setting up ArtYard. In the future, a base will be established for microenterprises related to one of the five traditional industries of Dadaocheng : tea, textiles, agricultural products (traditional Chinese medicine, traditional groceries), drama (traditional opera, puppet theater, nanguan and beiguan traditional music〔 南北管〕) and architecture. The missing link in the chain of supply of each of these industries will be provided by these new entrant entrepreneurs.
Creative stores are hidden among the lanes and alleys bringing pleasant surprises to passersby. (Photo: Gao Zanxian)
Jou provides an example, saying that, “In terms of the textile industry, Taiwan is the strongest in manufacturing, but not in fabric design. In response to this situation, inBlooom (印花樂) fabric design studio opened in Dadaocheng.” He adds that, “In terms of tea, Dadaocheng possesses tea sellers, but no teahouses.” Therefore South Street Delight (南街得意) opened on the second floor of one of the New ArtYard branches ( 民藝埕) and the ASW Tea House opened on the second floor of ArtYard to attract more young people and international tourists to sample Taiwan tea.
Collecting Taiwanese Products in One Place and Creating A New Wave of Cultural Revival
In July of this year, Jou's newest creative development project opened. This store is called Taiwan Busan (台灣物產). On its exterior is the preserved Watsons Pharmacy sign inherited from long ago. Behind this little shop is the knowledge that he hasaccumulated over many years. Jou says that, “Because I studied international relations, I realize that from the perspective of peopleto- people diplomacy, foreigners discover what makes Taiwan such an interesting place through its ‘products.’” For a long time, “Everyone has had similar experiences. Every time that we want to buy a gift we cannot think of something that is truly representative of Taiwan.”
The role of Taiwan Busan is to search out and collect goods from all over Taiwan. Jou points out that, “This gift box will have a theme, for example the beautiful indigenous culture of Taiwan. It will include unique indigenous food items or handicrafts from Nantou (南投), Chiayi (嘉義) and elsewhere.” Jou has invited Taiwanese illustrators and graphic artists to produce Taiwanese goods maps that will enable tourists to gain a better understanding of Taiwan from different perspectives.
In one building after another on these historical streets is one creative designer after another working to create a series of unique and exquisite handicrafts. Together, they are building an industrial and cultural hub. Jou hopes that ArtYard can become a destination for cultural talent that embraces a dream. This year, in October, he worked with Zhang Zhelong (張哲龍), director of Thinkers' Theater (思劇場), and Chiang Chao-ken (蔣朝根), the executive director of Chiang Wei-shui's Foundation (蔣渭水文化基金會), to launch the Tua-Tiu-Tiann International Festival of Art (大稻埕國際藝術節) and to create a new wave of cultural revival.
On the exterior of Taiwan Busan is preserved the Watsons Pharmacy sign. (Photo: Gao Zanxian)
The purpose of Taiwan Busan is not just to sell unique items, but also to allow tourists to gain a deep understanding of the cultural value of the different regions of Taiwan. (Photo: Gao Zanxian)