According to Taiwan’s National Cultural Heritage Database Management System, Nangang district in Taipei only has 5 registered historical buildings. The most recent of these is the Que Family Ancestral House “闕家祖厝”, also known as Decheng Residence “德成居.” This house was added to Taiwan’s list of historical buildings in May of 2017, much to the chagrin of the houses’ current owner, causing a dispute between the family and the Ministry of Culture, which I discuss further in this post.
This building, which comprises of a Sanheyuan (Three sided courtyard) and one side having a second storey watch tower, was built in 1924 by the Que Family who had emigrated from Quanzhou, Fujian, China. The house is built in Southern Min red brick style, with imported materials from Fujian. The roof was originally made of grass, then later replaced by modern materials. When first built, it stood in front of a small pond and was surrounded by cattle pasture, which was considered very good fengshui. After Academia Road was build in front of it, its fengshui was thus cut off, and has fallen into decay ever since (supposedly). It is an example of some of the best architecture and artistry of the Japanese era in Taiwan.
Members of the Que family have been very influential in the leadership and development of the Nangang-Xizhi area, especially in coal mining and brick making. Que Shankeng (闕山坑) was the first democratically elected leader of Nangang Town in 1946 during the ROC era. The Que family has many members that have since participated in politics. Currently there are huge numbers of Que family descendants in Nangang, Xizhi, and Neihu. Some elementary schools in Nangang used to have over 20 students in one class named Que. Now the family is very wealthy and has built two ancestor halls to worship their forebears, one in Xizhi being14 stories high.
Controversy and Drama over Que Family Ancestral House:
The current owner of the plot of land that the house stands on is not happy that his property has been changed into a historical building by the city government. Originally the owner claimed that his land was appraised at 500 million TWD, but now that the house has been classified as a historical building, it is only worth 50 million TWD. The family also claimed that the government is encroaching on the family’s livelihood by diminishing the value of the property, by protecting a “dilapidated house” that has ”no value,” even though they still live in the house!
However, another government official disagreed with the 50 million NTD assessment, stating that the current property with a historical building on it can still build a 7 or 8 storey apartment building, and the surrounding land is still very valuable. However, as you can see by the map below (which can be found for freeon the government's website), the land plots surrounding the house circle around like rings of an onion, so it might be hard to organize a build among remaining property owners, and I assume this has stopped them in the past. The family currently owns plots 176-2、177、178、178-3、179、179-1、180、180-1、181、185、and 186 in the map below.
My Visit There:
The Que ancestral house is located at No. 120, Academia Rd Sec 1, Nangang District, Taipei City (臺北市南港區研究院路1段120號). This structure is not far from the MRT Nangang Exhibition Center station. Map:
My first reaction to coming here was: wow people actually still live here!
You can see the words "德嚴居" Deyan Residence still visible above the door. This part of the house contains two storeys.
There is some beautiful jade ventilation near the apex of each residence. The roof has been remade into tin on the bottom floors. The second storey of the Deyan Residence was used as a watchtower and armory (a place to safe-keep guns) to protect against thieves.
Old mixed with modern appliances and poorly placed electric wires.
To the left is another house that is connected. All of these places are very much lived in by people.
As I was taking this picture a lady walked up behind me and ignored that I was there. I would have investigated the place further if this was not someone's personal residence. In the center is one of the Que ancestral halls in Nangang, which I am sure many Que family member come to worship. Notice the missing roof on the left; I think this came off during the last typhoon because it was there in earlier photos that I have seen. I don't know what kind of rot and other damage is going in there. I was thinking, if you live here how hard would it be to put some more plastic roofing on the precious ancestral hall?
Random shed in front of the building that looks like it was built from garbage. Again, this is built on land that is supposedly worth 500 million NTD.
Another side of the house that looks very unkept. Although to be fair these weeds had been mowed down the last time I passed by.
This part of the house has a tin roof as well as sliding glass windows installed. The original roof on the house was made of cogongrass, but because it was too hard to maintain, eventually the family installed more modern tile roofing, and now simply tin roofing.
One last view of the Que family ancestral home: one can see colorful dragon and animal designs on the roof of the second floor still intact, made from colored ceramics. Also the wooden doors above look pristine (wooden doors are also used in the ancestral hall). I give credit to the Que family for keeping the house in as good condition as it is, but weeds growing on your roof is not going to win you any prizes from the homeowners association.
Our Opinion on the Controversy:
In my opinion, the current Que descendants that own the land around the house can't entirely blame the government for any loss of value for their land. I mean, you own a house that you and your kids have never paid rent on. Where is your salary going if you have been living here free your whole life? You had almost 100 years to fix up and replace this house, but you let it sit there and decay. You live there every day, but you don’t do much of anything to maintain the appearance of the house and let weeds grow everywhere. You had all the time in the world to convert this precious edifice into modern apartment buildings but you didn’t. You also don’t appreciate the work of your forefathers who have created one of the most beautiful buildings of its time in the area, and say it has no value. If I were your ancestors, I wouldn’t be happy about that, and I especially wouldn't be happy that you still haven't fixed the roof on my ancestor hall.
That being said, the government is also pretty lame for all of the sudden making this a historical building without the family’s permission. Seeing that the family is still living in the house, making it a historical building does basically nothing for the general public at large. Its still private property. If the family would have agreed to it, then perhaps they would also agree to let the public freely enjoy this historical edifice as well.
It will be interesting to see what happens to this house in the coming months and years. Though the family says they want the sell the property or build new apartment buildings on it, I don’t think that will happen as they have not done anything thus far in 93 years of the house's existence, and also the housing market recently has slowed down considerably in Taipei.
For now the house has been declared a historical building, and the family will have to decide how they are going to deal with that classification going forward. Thank for joining me on this journey. Please leave your comments below, and don’t forget to like and share!
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.