You may recognize the Chungshan Building from the back of the 100 NT dollar bill. Originally built as a meeting place for the now defunct National Assembly, the building is now rarely used for events. The fact that is the only building in the world built right on top of a sulfur vent means that it is hard to maintain, and many parts of the building are under constant repair. However it is full of precocious art and beautiful architecture, and it is open daily for tours.
The land that the Chunghsan Building Currently rests on an active sulfur vent, formerly known as the Caoshan Hot Springs. During the Japanese era, this place was home to an elementary school and was the source of hot spring water for local hot spring hotels (and still is).
After the KMT took Taiwan, the reason this location was chosen by Chiang Kai-shek for a government building was because of the locations remarkable Fengshui. The location aligns perfectly with nearby mountains and valleys to create the perfect stream for Fenshui to flow.
The Chungshan Building started construction in October 1965 and was completed in November 1966, with construction time totaling only 13 months. This was due to planning from the architect Ms. Xiu Zelan (修澤蘭) and the backbreaking nonstop labor from the KMT military, which would be sure to break all labor laws today. Another reason for the speedy completion was that it was needed to be ready to commemorate the 100th birthday of the father of the ROC, Sun Yat-sen.
In order to cope with the constant sulfur vents steaming out of the mountain, the building is equipped with giant exhaust pipes that go through the center of the building. This also helps to keep the building warm in winter.
The foundations of the building go down 12 meters into the sulfur soil, and are coated with tar and aluminum to prevent corrosion. Also, much of the building is plated with pure gold to prevent corrosion.
This is the only building in the world built on top of a sulfur vent.
The building was meant to be the place for the National Assembly to meet, and also a place to show off the elegance of China to foreign dignitaries. Taiwan was thrown out of the U.N. in 1971, after which many fewer foreign heads of state visited Taiwan.
The National Assembly was established in 1948 to elect the president of the Republic of China. Its power was then granted to the legislative Yuan and the Taiwanese people in the 1990s, in the wake of free elections in Taiwan, and it was officially disbanded in 2005, meaning the building no longer served any real purpose. Also in 2005, it was declared a national historical monument.
The assembly hall as capacity for 1800 people and the cafeteria has room for 2000 people. Besides paid tours daily, sometimes presidential events and art exhibitions are held here.
Price: 80 NT
Tour times are 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3 PM daily and the tour lasts about an hour and a half. I highly recommend it. Be sure to get there about 10 minutes early.
Be wary that for some national holidays the building is closed to the public.
How to Get There:
By Bus: Take bus 260 from Shilin Station. The bus ride to the Chungshan Station stop takes about an hour.
By Car/Scooter: Drive up provincial Highway 2A up into Yangmingshan National Park. The building sits at the intersection between Highway 2A and Yangjin Highway. There is free parking in front of the building.
Map: Please see below:
I finally made it to the Chungshan Building in Yangmingshan, which is also on the back of the 100 NT bill, and I was very impressed. I have come here two times before, first time I missed the tour time, second time was the week when it was closed for voting day. Third time's the charm.
Be careful you are aware of the tour times, take a good look. Do not come too late or on a day they are not open, because that could be a waste of a trip up the mountain.
Entrance is only permitted right before tour times. Do not try to come at any other time.
Once you come at the right time, they will permit you to drive up to the entrance where there is a parking lot. The day I went they were re-tiling the roof, which needs to be done quite often due to the sulfur corrosion and typhoons.
You will be remiss to not take a 100 NT note with you to take selfies with.
A closeup of the Chungshan Building on the 100 NT note. The second level balcony is the presidential suite, the one that the current president still stays in. See the gallery above for two more photos.
Main entrance to the building.
Be sure to walk in before tour time starts.
Steps leading up to the building.
Here you pay for a ticket, which looks like a 100 NT bill. Be sure you pay for the ticket with a 100 NT bill, or else you are a boring person.
Floor map of the main floor.
The main entrance hall features a statue of Chiang Kai-shek, or is it? Actually it is a statue of Sun Yat-sen, meant to look like Chiang Kai-shek as to not offend the Chiang family. The architect was actually a bigger fan of Sun Yat-sen.
See the gallery above for more photos of this room.
The main hall in the Chungshan Building, where the former National Assembly used to meet. It has some great acoustics.
The National Assembly was established in 1948 to elect the president of the Republic of China. Its power was then granted to the legislative Yuan and the Taiwanese people in the 1990s, in the wake of free elections in Taiwan, and it was officially disbanded in 2005, meaning the building no longer served any real purpose.
This is where the tour starts. They will show you a brief documentary about the history of the building in Chinese here and I think English translation is available. But don't count on it.
You can see more photos of the main hall in the photo gallery above.
In the hallways on the first floor there are usually art galleries in place. However, there isn't a lot of time on the tour to check these out.
There is also a gift shop on the first floor that sells trinkets and jewelry.
The main room on the right side of the first floor was meant to host foreign guests. All American presidents that visited Taiwan before 1971 came here. The pillars are inlaid with gold.
For more photos of this room, see the gallery above.
The tour also take you behind the national assembly hall where there is an old press box, old telephone booths, and a stairway to the cafeteria. For more photos of the area, please see above.
There is enough seating in the cafeteria for 2000 people.
Because the silverware here reacts with the sulfur in the air. the silverware must be switched our every 20 minutes to prevent corrosion.
See above for more photos of the cafeteria.
This six foot plum blossom ornament in the Chungshan Building cafeteria is plated with pure gold, and has a glowing dark red light illuminating it. They needed to use a lot of gold in the building because sulfur would wear out other metals.
Also near the cafeteria is this place to take selfies.
There are more displays of precious objects in the hallway leading off from the cafeteria.
On the third floor is a presidential meeting room with a round table, kind of resembling the fellowship of the ring in Rivendell.
On the second floor balcony is this sign. As you can see the gold paint has already lost its shine. This was repainted only a year before I took this photo. Obviously there was a problem with the supplier cutting corners.
You can see here the amazing Fengshui of the building, which perfectly aligns with the valley and converging mountains below.
You can see above for a brief sneek peek of the tour outside the meeting room on the second floor.
The marble handrails here were harvested from Hualien.
Flower painting on the wall.
On the second floor is the presidential suite. We were not allowed inside, but rest assured the president does come here to vacation sometimes, but it is not known to the public.
View of the main staircase in front of the presidential suite.
Another view sideways.
View of the ceiling decor.
In addition to the miniature of the Chungshan Building above, you can see many miniatures of other buildings in Taiwan in the hallway on the second floor. See the gallery above for more.
Last of all the tour will take you to the presidential office on the first floor. This is where Chiang Kai-shek would promote generals etc. It is not used by presidents of Taiwan any more.
Here also are some priceless porcelain works of Mountain and Water paintings given to Chiang Kai-shek's wife.
After the tour is over, you can check out the grounds around the building. There is a nice Chinese garden down the steps from the main building.
View of the Chinese garden.
See above for more views of the Chinese garden, including the ancient Chinese fountain with jade ornamentation. There is an old bath house at the bottom of the steps which is no longer in use due to lack of maintenance, which is a pity because this could be a world class hot spring location.
Cherry blossom season is another great time to visit. There are cherry trees and plum trees all around the building.
See above for more plum blossom photos. If you venture beyond the small garden gate, things get ugly fast though.
Although the building is grand and elegant, you don't have to go far to find the ugly parts. To be fair this was the work site for the roof remodeling.
Rusty ornaments on the railing going outside.
From the second storey, you may notice a huge eyesore, the Jieshou Hall (介壽堂). It was used as a dormitory and meeting hall for KMT military personnel, before it fell into disrepair. I think a typhoon hit it a few decades ago which destroyed the roof, and after that it was pretty much abandoned.
See more photos of the Jieshou Hall above. I did not bother to go inside because it was locked up for the most part.
There are also tons of abandoned residences here. I assume many of them were hot spring retreats that for some reason have been disused and abandoned.
I think these houses belonged to government officials, but were later abandoned due to the maintenance costs.
There is an entire abandoned village here. It seems silly but that is the state of things now.
The hot springs here are still the source of water for many hot spring hotels down below.
After you are done touring, there is still lots to explore in Yangmingshan.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.