The Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church is the first church built in Taichung and the city’s only surviving church constructed before Taiwan’s retrocession. The old building, a Basilica-type Christian church featuring a Romanesque exterior with Gothic elements, places great emphasis on providing sufficient lighting and good visibility, making it an excellent example of traditional Christian churches. It also incorporates certain Chinese elements into its architectural features. Its combination of historical and spatial attributes make it unique among modern-day churches in Taiwan. In recent years, the church was restored and turned into a place for meetings and church gatherings, making it a classic example of the preservation and re-purposing of historical buildings in Taiwan.
In 1865, Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell (1836 – 1921), a Presbyterian missionary, was dispatched by the Presbyterian Church of England from his post at Xiamen to Taiwan’s Cijin District (Kaohsiung) to promulgate the faith there. In 1870, the doctor healed a patient from Aoran Village (modern-day Ailan Village, Puli Township, Nantou), who had injured himself during a hunt. This provided Maxwell an opportunity to begin preaching the gospel, leading to the subsequent establishment of the first-ever Presbyterian church in central Taiwan. Because no churches existed in the city of Taichung at the time, followers from that area had to walk for hours to get to Maxwell’s church. Thus in early 1898, Rev. Campbell N. Moody, a minister there at the time, asked his congregation to scout out a site in Taichung in order to establish a Presbyterian Church there. They found a rammed-earth building located in the alley to the front left of the present-day Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church. The building was used for the church—then known as Dongdadun Church (Dongdadun was the old name of the street where Liu-Yuan Presbyterian church stands today)—before Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church was constructed at its current location. Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church was built in 1915 using the plans of a Scottish Presbyterian church. Today it is known as the Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church Monument Chapel. In 1965 and 1998, new church buildings were raised to accommodate the congregation’s growing number of members. Designs that incorporated concepts from three different eras were used to develop the new church buildings, while the old church building underwent renovations and restoration to serve as a place for church gatherings, making it a successful example of the re-purposing of old buildings. In 2002, the Taichung City Government officially declared Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church a historic building.
1Architectural Style of the Chapel
The architectural style of the Monument Chapel is characterized as a hybrid Romanesque/Gothic style Basilica-type structure. The simplicity of the structure allowed the builders to save money on construction and this resulted in good exterior lighting and an excellent line of sight for anyone within the chapel. On the exterior, the church features small deep windows and semi-circular arched entryways. The windows are tripartite designs, with the central section relatively larger than the sides. Thick, stocky supporting pillars around the building use square stones as capitals. The chapel, made of brick and wood, is single-storey building with a mezzanine inside. The steeply sloping ceiling adds significant visual height to the chapel. Its exterior incorporates both Chinese and Western architectural styles. The front facade of the church is a gable wall with a cross standing at the peak of the building. Crosses are also inlaid into the front façade on either side of the central arched window. The walls were built using Qingshui red brick, and the stairs leading to the vestibule of the church create a small yet beautiful visual effect.
2The Chinese Dragon-Fish Gargoyle
At the top of the Monument Chapel are two waterspouts in the shape of a Chinese dragon-fish (áolóng), auspicious creatures of Chinese mythology with the head of a dragon and the body of a fish. In general, dragon-fishes are most commonly found on the beams and roofs of Chinese temples and traditional buildings. The decision to create the gargoyles in the front cornice of the Monument Chapel in the form of these mythical Chinese beasts was really quite ingenious, and it is certainly unique among Christian churches in Taiwan.
3Internal Truss-and-Beam Structure of Alishan Chinese Fir
The beams and roof of the Monument Chapel are made of Alishan Chinese fir. The church was renovated in preparation for its hundredth anniversary, and damaged or decayed items such as beams, plates, columns, and windows were rebuilt or replaced. A gallery was added along the sidewalls using steel beams to separate the old and new architectural construction and to diversify the use of the internal space.
The Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church is an old Basilica-style Christian church featuring an exterior with both Romanesque and Gothic elements. On the walls on the two sides of the facade of the church are arched tripartite windows that provide extra lighting and add richness to the beauty of the church, exemplifying the ingenuity of its design.
The Monument Chapel and the Central Taiwan Christian History and Culture Exhibition in the chapel are not open to casual visitors. However, group reservations are accepted; each tour is approximately one hour long. At 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, the Monument Chapel is open to its church members for the Sunday service.