【English】Chen Cheng-po outdoor Art Museum

Chen Cheng-Po Outdoor Art Museum is exhibiting twelve pictures of Tamsui scenery by the first fine-art painter Chen Cheng-Po (1895-1947). The exhibition introduces viewers to historical aspects of the paintings, leading them into the Tamsui of former years.
During the mid-1930s, Chen visited Tamsui frequently. He portrayed various natural and cultural products from the local area with paint, fountain pen, or pencil, on canvas or sketchbook. It is rare in Taiwan, even in the whole of Asia, for a painter to create such a great number of scenic works depicting a single location, so these paintings are special.
Chen’s works are not only of value in terms of art history, they are also evidence of Tamsui’s history. Many scenes and buildings depicted in Chen’s works are still well-preserved. Guests may visit famous spots like Jinkang Street, Tamsui Red Castle, Chapel of Presbyterian Church, Tamkang Senior High School, and Customs Wharf, which have been depicted in Chen’s paintings. One may experience the history of the town of Tamsui through these incredible artworks.
The exhibition is hosted by Tamsui District Office and Chen Cheng-Po Cultural Foundation, and is on display at the art gallery in front of the Presbyterian Church Chapel. Through a Beacon mobile guiding system, the visitor is able to view a detailed analysis of the painting while appreciating the works, and listen to the audio tour in Chinese, English, and Japanese.

選擇介紹點

Tamsui Scenery (1) 1935 Oil on wood 19×24 cm Private collection

Standing on the slope of a small hill behind a church, the scene of the small town in the eyes of Chen Cheng-po appears as a kind of harmonious contrast—the limpid light blue of the sky and river to the dark red concocted by the roof tiles, brick walls, tree trunk and sailboat. The humid air peculiar to Tamsui is rising in the painting’s scene. The rough lines of the scenery along the shore seem to be faintly moving. But the distant water and mountain remain silent. The slow boat on the river casts a tranquil reflection. The slight drag of the tree branches hint of a gust of wind, dissolving the contrast of the red and green, the action and stillness blending a distinctive aesthetic sensibility.

1. Tree
The spectacular broadleaf tree grabs the close view; its trunk and branches wantonly sprawl forth. The lower plants encircling the tree also exude a vivid kinetic potential. The oil paint on the crown of the tree has been swiped forming a large expanse of textured dark green strokes; these are highlighted by the single color of the water and sky which blossoms forth an exuberant vitality. The brush strokes vector slightly to the right making the tree branches on the right have a swaying image suggesting the touch of a light breeze.

2. The lines of the scenery
Compared to the other works of Chen Cheng-po about Tamsui, this small wood panel painting has comparatively heavy use of a stump; the oil paint is also relatively thick. Having returned to Taiwan from Shanghai, Chen Cheng-po was confronted with Chinese ink painting, or as well it influenced his conception of this painting, so he took pains to express movement in the lines of the scenery.

3. Sailboat
A single masted sailboat is slowly sailing. Of old Chinese sailboats can be used in various ways like inland river transportation, open ocean navigation, coastal fishing, etc.; several hundred years before the sailboats were already sailing in Tamsui harbor. The artist expressly arranged the sailboat and the buildings along the shore to have the same red brick color, perhaps to hint at the same kind of heavy historical deposits.

4. Shoal
The light green mass on the water is a shoal covered with green vegetation. The Taiwan writer Wang Chang-xiong in his Tamsui River Ripples wrote, “Green shoals quietly traversing along the River,” and the sparkling water waves and a profusion of street scenes seem to be “palace maidens wearing cloud garments of a color made in heaven”—Is that perhaps the color Chen Cheng-po had in mind?

5. Guanyin Mountain
The southern foot of Guanyin Mountain enters the right side of the painting in the distant view. In the midst of the gradual soaking of the humidity and the gentle care of the warm sunshine, the mountain slope on the opposite side of the river also exhibits a mild yellow-green. The light warm color connects with the tree crown of the near view. The vitality of nature delicately flows between the far and the near.

6. Tamsui church
The clock tower of the Tamsui church behind the large tree faintly appears in contour. In the feeling of the artist, the Gothic style tower rising up in the small town seems not to have been taken as out of place. The brick red western-style building and the red brick color of the surrounding different Min-style buildings blends to make a harmonious whole.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:蘇文魁老師(淡江中學校史館館長)

picture 4 : Photo Credit:http://taipics.com

Tamsui Golf Course 1935 Oil on wood 23.5x33 cm Private Collection

The diverse vegetation unfolds an expanse full of green; the water and sky also have a flourishing green tint which exhibits a jasper green color. On the left side a large tree little by little opens its arms and its crown props up the sky. Guanyin Mountain in the distance seems to move following the river and clouds and displays wave-like continuous undulations. Walking into the shrubs and thicket on the side of the golf course, Chen Cheng-po makes the flourishing vitality of nature become the oil paint colors on the mixing palette; on this small drawing panel he paints a pure and lovely green world.

1. Tree
The tree in the left corner probably is the goal tree of the fairway finish and it is used to suggest the site of the greens. The ever changing subtropical forests of Taiwan are always an important subject in Chen Cheng-po’s landscape paintings. This painting also painstakingly uses various kinds of skills like dots, left strokes, wipes, hooks, etc. to represent the lines of the trunks and branches of different tree types, tree crown shapes, and forms of leaves.

2. Shrubbery
Golfers need a spacious line of sight and clean greensward; the plants in a golf course usually select small crowned evergreen trees with few deciduous leaves. The plant with the red green leaves in the picture is likely Elaeocarpus sylvestris; this kind of tree is also seen in the natural vegetation surrounding the golf course. The tree’s leaves change from green to red before falling off.

3. Red
In the flourishing scene of vegetation, the eye-catching sight of several dots of red leaves or small red banners expresses a special charm. In Chen Cheng-po’s works various contrastive juxtapositions frequently appear. A few dots of bright red standing out in a big swath of green is one such frequently appearing visual arrangement.

4. Greens
The light-green grass is the greens of the golf course; one is situated at the end of each fairway. The hole is within the level area of this grass. After the golfers hit the small white ball on the green, they often squat down to judge the texture of the grass, guess the route of the ball and then test the appropriate amount of force needed to hit the ball into the hole.

5. Guanyin Mountain
Guanyin Mountain is the last formed volcano in Taiwan. Several hundred thousand years before, it once erupted three times and it is the result of accumulated layers of lava, fragmented rock, and volcanic ash. It forms the repeated pinnacles and piles of green or the “Eighteen Connecting Peaks” in the painting. The volcano also provides good quality andesite; from the Qing dynasty to the present, this stone has been extracted without stop from the quarries at the foot of the mountain.

6. Tamsui River
The emerald green Tamsui River flows from the foot of Guanyin Mountain north to the sea. This river waters a large area of ground in north Taiwan. It provides water to the inhabitants of the extensive river basin. After the 18th century, commerce and small towns sprang up along its banks. Large numbers of sailboats also plied its watercourse network, coming and going and making a flourishing water transport system.

7. Tamsui Golf Course
The Tamsui Golf Course is the first golf course in all of Taiwan; it was completed in 1919. Its construction was advanced by individuals who were enthusiastic about this sport such as the head of the civil administration Hiroshi Shimomura and others. Afterwards many gentry and businessmen one by one became fans. The old Tamsui Golf Course has constantly cultivated numerous top-notch golfers and has had a development of great significance for the sport of golf in Taiwan.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:岡田紅陽撮影,臺灣國立公園協會編,《臺湾囯立公園寫真集》(臺北市:臺灣國立公園協會,1939),照片編號12,〈淡水ゴルフ場より觀音山を望む〉,中研院臺史所臺灣古籍研究資料庫。

picture 4 : Photo Credit:臺灣總督府交通局鐵道部編,《風光臺灣》(臺北市:臺灣總督府交通局鐵道部,1939),頁28,〈淡水二景〉,中研院臺史所臺灣古籍研究資料庫。

Sunset in Tamsui 1935 Oil on canvas 91.5×116.5 cm Private collection

From the height of Qizaiding looking in the distance in the direction of the sea, the small town and the world are linked together in this historical view. In the painting going along Beacon Street, the street zigzags like a snake—the ringing of the church clock tells the story of George Leslie Mackay’s missionary work; the wharves and ships along the riverbank bespeak of how commerce promotes the prosperity of modern Tamsui. Fort San Domingo on the distant hill seems somewhat indistinct just like its past. The historical deposits in each and every corner of the small town in the painting radiate in the sunset of Tamsui sparkling off the glimmering waves.

1. Ships
In the old days various kinds of ships sailed in and out of Tamsui harbor. The nearby large seagoing steamship was going to faraway foreign countries; the sailboats along side the wharf sailed the southern coast of China or possibly headed up the upper reaches of Tamsui River. The clacking engine sounds of the small steamboats carried passengers back and forth between Dadaocheng and Tamsui.

2. Lighthouse
The dazzling white light fades and then shines from the lighthouse on the shore; during the night it guides the ships in and out of the harbor. At the end of the 18th century in Tamsui’s Shalun, there was already the “Viewing Tower”, a joint building venture of the local inhabitants. After the 19th century, due to the frequent shipwrecks of foreign commercial vessels, the Qing government built another lighthouse on the shore of Youchekou to be used as marker of the ship channel.

3. Douglas Lapraik & Co.
The two storey western style building and the long relatively lower building are the Douglas Lapraik & Co. employee dormitory and warehouse. During the Japanese colonial period, it was already commandeered by the government as the Post Office dormitory for single personnel. The Douglas Lapraik &Co. once held the monopoly in Taiwan for foreign shipping. However at the beginning of the 20th century, it was subject to the shipping company competition fostered by the Japanese government and eventually declined.

4. Customs Wharf
The protruding portion of land in the river is the Customs Wharf. At the beginning of the Japanese colonial period , it was built upon a landfill; the long buildings are warehouses. After open port trade was established, Tamsui customs had the responsibility to collect customs duties on the merchandise of foreign vessels. Afterwards the Japanese government as well continued to expand its size. Along side the wharf there was of series of installations such as bollard, boarding port, etc. to make it convenient for ships to berth.

5. Beacon Street Section
The curving street is the end of Tamsui’s Old Street; formerly called Beacon Street Section. The area of this street was previously in Qing times the location of the assembly hall of the navy officers and men. After open port trade was established, the area attracted numerous foreign businessmen to gather there to build warehouses, wharves and offices in order to conduct import and export trade of various kinds of commodities.

6. Fort San Domingo
Sitting on the distant hill, the contours of the Fort Santo Domingo’s battlements are visible and the adjacent building with the black roof and red wall should be the British consular office. The two buildings respectively symbolize the contact between the 16th century Europeans and this island and in addition the history of modern Taiwan after the establishment of open port trade. These are all important cultural assets of Tamsui Township.

7. Church Bell Tower
The Tamsui Church Bell Tower stands imposingly on the right side of the picture; the stained glass at the base of the tower up to today is still the same. In the picturesque scene, we seem to be able to hear the faint sounds of the bell coming from the tower as it reverberates above the small town. In the near view we can see the chimney on the roof of the Mackay clinic. Both historical buildings are still preserved on Mackay Street.

8. Tamsui Prefecture Hall
The Japanese style building with the roof having black roof tiles and the “hankirizuma-zukuri” is the Tamsui Prefecture Hall. In 1920 after Tamsui Prefecture was established, a new government center was built. In the later period of the Japanese administration, many public gatherings of Tamsui Prefecture were held in there. The building was demolished after the Nationalist government moved to Taiwan; the New Taipei City Police Department Tamsui Branch is presently located on the site.



picture 3 :Photo Credit:淡水文化基金會

picture 4 : Photo Credit:Mr. Chen Cheng-po

Tamsui (1) ca. 1935 Oil on canvas 91x116.5 cm Private collection

From the position of the Tamsui Public Hall overlooking the street below, there really are a lot of people. Among the group of simple buildings, electric poles go straight along the street arranged in two rows; the area of the street that has been modernized reveals a neat orderliness. At the same time the white colored walls of houses, scattered high and low, stick their heads out one after another pulsating with an entertaining sense of rhythm. The sunlight in the small town reflects a large stretch of a warm orange-red color which impeccably matches the gem-like dark blue of the river. The Tamsui in the painting seems to be a bewitching dreamscape that is both elegant and innocent.

1. Shoal
The lower watercourse of the Tamsui River is level and shallow; add to that the backflow of the river during the rising tide and during the period of the Sino-French War wrecked vessels were piled up in the harbor, thus the pile at the river mouth affected the town’s prosperity. In the long run, silt accumulated and although it is a beautiful shoal in the painting, it influenced the function of Tamsui as a port making its shipping increasingly decline over time.

2. Masts
The two tall erect poles are the masts of a junk. According to the Taiwan Association Report of 1898, Chinese style sailing vessels going to and fro between China and Taiwan would fly various colored triangular ‘Headboards’ to indicate their place of origin. Since a red color indicated Guangdong, we thus know the berthed Chinese style sailing vessel was from Guangdong.

3. Rickshaw
The depiction of the rear of a carriage and tires should be a rickshaw. The modern rickshaw was invented in Japan in 1869; later it was imported to Taiwan and became a common form of transportation. In 1925, it only took 25 sen to go from the Tamsui Train Station to Fort San Domingo, even cheaper than taking a bus.

4. City Rectification
With the straight and broad streets just having been finished not long before, in 1933 this is the result of the “City Rectification.” The Japanese government was imitating the idea of modern western city planning. Often in Taiwan the cities and towns of each area undertook similar kinds of reconstruction projects. Besides working on the appearance of the wider street and the facilities of the street foundation, they also improved the drainage system of the entire area.

5. Electric Poles
The electric poles like the straight streets even more advance the image of modernization. At the beginning of the Japanese colonial period, the undertaking of electrification of each large city sprang up, and gradually the electric pole merged into the view of every day life. It became an important representative topic in Chen Cheng-po’s paintings; at the same time he uses it as a major element to represent a sense of spatial distance.

6. Red Tiles and White Walls
Lime was smeared on the triangular wall faces. The large swaths of white color in the sunlight and on warm days were especially attractive. In rainy Tamsui, a layer of lime smeared on the exterior walls of buildings was able to prevent water seepage. The lime for the small town was most often provided by “Ash Kiln” in the north. In early Taiwan there were many locations where lime was produced; most places have similar names.

7. Japanese Tiles
The black roof tiles and the red tiles on the roofs of the buildings in the surrounding area form a contrast. The one with black tiles is likely a Japanese building. Because of the considerable quantities required for this kind of building, Taiwan during Japanese times once imported many “Dharma Kiln” produced black tiles. Among the common folk they were popularly called “Dog Head Kiln”. The black colored kiln pieces are in the process of firing exposed to black smoke which has the result that carbon affixes itself to the pieces.

8. Pediment
A building with a four-sided pyramid roof should be a western style building; its front side has the lines of a simple pediment. This kind of embellishment that protrudes out at the top of a façade originates in ancient Greece. Later in Taiwan, buildings imitating a Baroque style largely used this. The front side of a pediment frequently has complex lines of beautiful low relief engraving which adds to the style of the building.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:淡水文化基金會

picture 4 : Photo Credit:http://taipics.com

Tamsui Landscape (Tamsui) 1935  Oil on canvas 91x117 cm Collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The gradually ascending side street is Three-Storey House Street. In old times the people’s residences in Tamsui were built following the terrain. Western-style and Japanese-style houses were constructed one after another; the buildings of different cultural traditions are scattered about high and low and are freely mixed—this is a metaphor for the accumulated layers of history. The side street is the axis, and the two squarely erected western buildings on the right form a harmonious contrast with the irregularly stacked up Fujian-style buildings on the left. The small town in the painting is a self-contained world; in the pile there is neatness and in the disorder there is stability.

1. The Gutter and Stone Bridges
The era of the sewage treatment system was still not in a complete form. The open drains followed the zigzag of the streets and bore the drainage of the entire area of the street letting rainwater and domestic wastewater both flow into the Tamsui River. The winding side street often has small stone bridges spanning over the gutter arousing people’s curiosity to head into the mysterious world of the hillside town.

2. Propped up Windows
In the old days Tamsui houses occasionally had window plates that were pushed outward and supported by a wooden prop. This kind of window though not advantageous for house lighting was convenient for keeping the rain out. In humid Tamsui to have indoor air ventilation and protection from rain and wind were equally important. The design of the propped up windows appropriately could be flexibly opened or closed in response to changes in the weather.

3. Staffage
Two people, father and daughter, deep in the side street facing straight on are walking forward hand in hand. The figures in the scene represent a parent-child relationship which is an important element in Chen Cheng-po’s painting. Letting parents lead their children along to roam the boundless universe is perhaps the means whereby the artist himself thinks of his own faraway departed parents.

4. Red House and White House
Standing straight up on the hillside the two buildings with features of outside facing verandas and arches are Red House and White House. These two western buildings are both landmarks of early Tamsui and perhaps are common as creative themes for many early period painters. The classical perspective and the bird’s eye view utilized by Chen Cheng-po in the painting are also visible in the works of Ni Jiang-huai and Chen Hui-kun.

5. Bird Rest
The inverted “u” shaped lines that protrude on the side of the gable are the “bird rest”. Apparently they were a place provided to give a perch for birds to rest on. Actually they were there to prevent water from running down the wall and entering the window below. Later the Bird Rest gradually took on a decorative function with the styles becoming complicated and flamboyant.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:蘇文魁老師(淡江中學校史館館長)

picture 4 : Photo Credit:臺灣創價學會

Tamsui Scenery (2) 1935 Oil on canvas 72.5x91 cm Private collection

At the foot of the hill lifting his head to look up, one peculiar building with a ninety degree extension blocked Chen Cheng-po’s line of sight. One foreign building with a row of arches along the veranda has an eye-catching expanse of white in the midst of the surrounding community of local buildings. At first sight it appears there is something unexpected. However upon closer examination, the red roof tiles and wall bricks of the houses really only exhibit strong local characteristics. The Western and Chinese buildings are well matched; the scene mixes the foreign and local. This painting seems to epitomize the history of this town projecting the different cultures meeting and merging in Tamsui.

1. White House
White House was completed at the end of the 19th century and was the house of Yan Qinghua, the premier student of George L. Mackay. He engaged at that time the most famous builder in Tamsui, Hong Zaiquan, to oversee the construction; he built this peculiar building mixing Chinese and Western cultural elements. After WWII, White House changed hands may times, and finally in 1992 it was reconstructed. Today one can still see the remains of part of the outer wall.

2. Kinoshita Seigai’s Former Residence
Japanese painter Kinoshita Seigai started in 1918 to make paintings in various locations in Taiwan. Later because he was infatuated by the scenery of Tamsui, he rented long term this small house with an unobscured line of sight and buried himself in his painting. Gradually he obtained some accomplishment in painting. He participated in establishing the first painting exhibition in Taiwan. It became an important stage for later artists like Chen Cheng-po and others.

3. Hisashi
The “hisashi” (or “kiriyoke”) extending out from the eaves is a rather eye-catching feature of Kinoshita Seigai’s Former Residence; it is also represented in the works of many painters. The “hisashi” is commonly seen in Japanese buildings. This structure besides being able to block wind, rain and sunlight at the same time can also create layered changes to the house’s exterior appearance.

4. Bull’s-eye Window
In the humid climate of Tamsui, regardless of local houses or foreign houses, the buildings often place a window at the top of the side gable in order to promote air circulation inside. The gable of White House has a round Bull’s -eye window. The round window is seen in Japanese era imitation baroque buildings. Beside air circulation and ambient lighting, the angular edges on the wall has a decorative effect.

5. Door couplets
Door couplets are a cultural feature of Chinese society. It is a custom to put up writing on the entrance door to attract good fortune. It originated in “Peach Wood Charms”; these were charms made of peach wood to counteract evil. In the time of Chen Cheng-po, although the Japanese government encouraged abolishing the Lunar New Year, it still acquiesced to a few local cultural traditions, of which the door couplets in the painting are an example.

6. Outside the frame of the painting
In the time of Chen Cheng-po’s youth, he in the company of his painter friends would go to various places to travel and to paint. The painting below, “Midsummer Tamsui”, by Yang San-lang was selected in 1935 for the Taiwan Art Exhibition. The features in the scene in the painting are similar to Chen Cheng-po’s work. The two artists probably arranged to paint at the same place and complete their own individual works.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:蘇文魁老師(淡江中學校史館館長)

picture 4 :Photo Credit:臺灣創價學會

Hill 1936 Oil on canvas 91x116.5 cm Private collection

A tall tower of an unusual style stands in command in the distance. Below the tower a large swath of farmland spreads out following along the hillside; a lush green flows into each corner. The horizontal lines of the field banks, road and tree crowns are like the rising and falling of a musical staff; the egrets in the fields and the electric poles also are in harmony with the melody; the horizontal composition jumps and pulses delightful variations. Like a great composer, Chen Cheng-po briskly dances the colorful brushes in his hands over the canvas to compose a beautiful and lively symphony of the rural scene on the hill.

1. Tamsui Middle School
The Tamsui Middle School is now known as Tamkang High School; it was the first middle school in northern Taiwan provided for students of Taiwanese ancestry to study at. This school was established in 1914 by George William Mackay, son of the well-known missionary Dr. George Lesley Mackay. The religious background of the school made the way the school was run quite different from others. The first rugby team and choir in Taiwan both originated in the campus of the Tamsui Middle School.

2. Octagonal tower
The Canadian missionary Kenneth W. Dowie designed the octagonal tower with the concept of a western tower building yet boldly blended it with the cultural elements of a Chinese pagoda and san-he-yuan. The tower was completed in 1925 and was a newly constructed school building of Tamsui Middle School after funds were raised for it. The octagonal tower with its unusual style later became the most representative historical totem of the school.

3. Guard tower
The guard tower in the castles of Medieval Europe principally was developed for its defensive function. Later it was imported into modern architecture. A guard tower placed in a corner besides increasing the building’s up and down contours also was able to serve as a foil to the main building’s impressive grandeur. In Taiwan a few baroque style buildings erected during the Japanese Colonial Period also display this guard tower design.

4. Electric poles
Electric poles were for Chen Cheng-po a kind of artistic subject that he concentrated on and was fascinated by. From the point of view of a Taiwanese painter in the Japanese Colonial Period, the island’s scenery in the tide of modernization was in the process of rapid change; this impact upon their vision also was reflected in their creativity. Modern things like steel bridges, roads, and so forth often became the main subject or element of a landscape picture.

5. White egrets and farmland
The white egrets on the paddy banks are using their long pointed black beaks to peck up insects in the paddies to eat. The white egret is a kind of resident bird that likes to stick together. They generally appear in the farmlands of the different locales around Taiwan. Various local artistic creations frequently take the white egret as subject matter using it to present a kind of nativist image or to link it to the author’s concern for nature.

6. Tree
The tree leaves that are bursting open like feathers are pulsing with a lustrous life force. In Chen Cheng-po’s paintings that take Taiwan’s local scenery as their subject matter, there often appears luxuriant vegetation. In his later paintings, he goes a step further for he comprehends from ink paintings the skill of using a stump and assimilates it into the depiction of the tree scene so as to express the exuberance and glory of the natural vegetation.

7. Staffage: One wearing a conical bamboo hat with a shoulder pole load
The worker wearing a conical bamboo hat and carrying a shoulder pole with a load is a type of staffage that is usually provided for in Chen Cheng-po’s paintings. The laboring people with steady hardworking dedication were constantly on the move in each corner of old Taiwan. Their forms, in the heart of this artist who has such a deeply native feeling, leave a very profound impression.

8. Road
Comparing the 1945 aerial photograph and the road which horizontally extends across the painting with farmland on both sides, it is likely the present day New Life Street. Chen Cheng-po’s Tamsui paintings usually depict a road from far to near using it to guide the line of sight and draw out in the distance a line of perspective. However, the road in this painting intends to cut through the picture which in terms of composition has an entirely different effect.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:中央研究院淡水百年歷史地圖系統

picture 4 : Photo Credit:蘇文魁老師(淡江中學校史館館長)

Tamsui Riverside 1936 Oil on canvas 90x116.5 cm Private collection

The yellowing oil paint is the color of the old days, and the heavy story seems to be caught up in a maze of old streets and houses. Any historical person who has fallen into this maze is bound to be delayed quite a time before finding the road back to home. Looking from afar both time and memory are stacked into the sea which lies in the abnormal space at the base of the hill, the still sluggish sea; there are only seagulls overlooking the never ceasing river and unhurriedly soaring.

In the series of oil paintings in which Chen Cheng-po takes Tamsui as the subject matter, the story atmosphere expressed in this painting is widely different from his other works. The light in the scene is pale yellow and bleak, the community of buildings is uninhabited, the river is endlessly vast, a leafless withered tree is on the hillside. All the details in the painting everywhere are brewing a powerful sense of desolation.

In the far distant line of sight, the red bricks of Red House as before are an impressive brick red. Nevertheless, the small town at the foot of the hill which has lost its color seems to be forever stuck in the old times. One old house after another without any order is variously scattered about. It leaves one with the illusion of having disappointedly gone astray.

The line of perspective displays something genuinely interesting. Looking from the direction facing the small town, the line of sight from close to far has depth. The line of perspective proportions with the other scenery in the picture seems by no means to be balanced. The line of sight shifts between high and low. It indistinctly has some odd sense of disharmony.

As for the space arrangement of landscape paintings, Chen Cheng-po really has his own special thinking. In his works, we often are able to see fanciful visual effects which multi-point perspective induce. Considering the painstaking effort to make the lonely atmosphere of this painting, all the vagueness and misalignment in the general appearance perhaps is the arrangement of the painter adopting an original approach. Putting yourself in the town of Tamsui, have you or have you not encountered before the antiquated image inside this picture?


The dim light of twilight in the scene in the picture, the community of uninhabited buildings, the vastness of the river, the sparse branches and leaves of the withering tree on the slope of the hill: all of these details in the picture everywhere brew a strong sense of desolation.

The heavy story seems to be sealed in the labyrinth of the old streets and houses. From afar time and memory both in the unusual scene at the bottom of the foothill are stacked up into the sea—the silent and sluggish sea. There are only seagulls looking over the ceaselessly flowing river in unhurried flight.



picture 2 : Photo Credit:日本旅行協會臺灣支部編,《臺灣鐵道旅行案內》(臺北:日本旅行協會臺灣支部,1940),頁164,〈詩と繪の淡水〉,中研院臺史所臺灣古籍研究資料庫。

picture 3 : Photo Credit:臺灣創價學會

Back from a Full Catch 1936 Oil on canvas 72.5x90.5cm Private collection

Looking at Tamsui from a northern hillside of the small town, the pedestrians on the main road are moving directly facing the faraway community of red tile houses. Farther along the streets is the harbor with a ship billowing smoke berthed beside the staging platform; this displays a little of the vigor of the commercial port. The Tamsui river off of Bizaitou zigzags like a piece of silk ribbon. Xiaopingding Mountain which stretches full-width across the upper part of the landscape is gathered into the painting. The scenery on the periphery of this town is relatively less noticed by other painters. To take an angle with an original approach also reflects Chen Cheng-po’s careful examination of the local life.

1. The pedestrians on the main road
The sky is light but not fully so; this is the time of Tamsui at dawn. The general populace living north of Chengzaikou get up early and go out to make their purchases; they together with the small businessmen carrying shoulder poles are all heading for the town which has not yet completely awoken. Following the lead of the electric poles the footsteps of the people going along slowly proceed forth: are you anticipating the coming scene of the streets or not?

2. Lumber of the Shi He Fa Trading Company
The imported China fir timber from China’s Fuzhou or Japan’s Hokkaido is neatly piled beside the riverbank in preparation of being sent to the Shi He Fa Trading Company’s lumber factory to undergo processing. In 1930 Shi He Fa was the largest lumber business in all of Taiwan. Its factory was established at the intersection of sea transportation, the river way and railway thus cutting the transportation costs.

3. British Merchant Warehouse
The low red brick building projecting out along the riverbank is the British Merchant Warehouse which was constructed at the end of the 19th century. During the Japanese Colonial period it became a hub of oil storage and transshipping for the Foreign Shell Company. Imported oil underwent packing and transshipping to all parts of Taiwan. During WWII, this stinky oil warehouse which emitted a pungent stench was bombed producing a big fire.

4. Landing Platform and Ship
The wooden landing platform on the right side of the Shell Company Warehouse is connected with a ship and has the silhouette of busy workers probably carrying out the job of adding oil, of replenishing the two large-scale oil tanks on the bank. Up until 1941 before the last oil tanker left, the Tamsui river still had not completely silted over, and it was sufficient to bear as in the painting large size ships, which even exceeding 3000 tons, could still smoothly pass in and out.

5. Huang Dongmao Mansion
The western-style house faintly appearing in Bizaitou is the Huang Dong-mao Mansion. Huang Dongmao from Xiamen was in his early years the representative of foreign firms in the oil business. Later he also invested in enterpirses like brick manufacturing, coal, railways, etc.; his financial ability was really strong. The inhabitants of the town could look in the distance at this mysterious mansion up until 1939 when it was torn down for the construction of a water airport.

6. Xiaopingding Mountain
The hill stretching across the top part of the painting is Xiaopingding Mountain; its old name was “Yuanzaitang Hill”. Before North Tamsui Highway and the railway were established, the old road going through Xiaopingding and running to Beitou district was the major road connecting Tamsui and Taipei.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:淡水文化基金會

picture 4 :Photo Credit:U.S. Department of Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Civil Affairs Handbook - Taiwan (Formosa), Taihoku Province, 1944, p.61.

Tamsui Scenery (3) Date unknown Oil on canvas 35.7×42.6 cm Private collection

Chen Cheng-po, who has the habit of taking nature as his painting studio, perhaps in the outskirts of Tamsui town found this kind of beautiful landscape scenery. A fisherman on a small boat is leaning against the mast taking a nap; a flock of ducks are freely swimming on the water surface. The other side of the river is a wide swath of fields extending all the way to below the faraway Datun Mountain. In the wide field of vision, you can vaguely see the silhouettes of farmers quietly working in the fields. The years of the mountains and river are quietly serene. Are the two people, the father and son, who are sitting on the riverside and fishing, also loose in that kind of tranquility?

1. Zhuangzinei Stream
The Zhuangzinei Stream belonging to the Tamsui River System flows before our eyes; the alluvial waters of the valley floor provide fertile farmlands. In the early period, many villages were established along this stream. In recent years with the urbanization of Tamsui, the lower reaches of the Zhuangzinei Stream has been buried in the dark recesses of a concrete jungle being submerged in the dirty, silted-over covered sewers of the city.

2. Raising Ducks
The red-faced ducks freely swim in flocks on the surface of the water. The Muscovy ducks originating in South America were introduced into Taiwan in the 17th century, and were raised by many farmers. The ducks can eat the harmful pests in the fields, supply very large duck eggs, plump duck meat and also rich nutritive value. It’s no wonder “the duck herder” is the representative image of the farming village in old Taiwan.

3. Duck Mother Boat
The sampan moored beside the flock of ducks is likely a “Duck Mother Boat”. In the Tamsui river system, there were often small boats carrying ducks, looking for a sand bank to release the ducks on to look for food and then to carry them back home. In the eyes of foreigners releasing ducks is a peculiar scene of Taiwan. In 1923 when Prince Hirohito came to visit Taiwan, he also went to the Keelung riverbank to see the scene of rearing flocks of ducks.

4. Small fishing boats
The small boats moored on the river have low semi-circular boat screens composed of bamboo slats or bamboo casing; they were created by the people on the boats to form a rest area to be able to shade themselves from the sun or block the wind. The prow of the boat has a small mast which can carry a sail. If not relying on the power of the wind, they can paddle with oars; their movement is very free.

5. Boneless (Mogu) Technique
The near view of the three tree trunks is similar to the Boneless (Mogu) technique used in Chinese ink painting; there is no linear outline rather the momentum of the brush is directly wielded to render the tree trunk. In the decade of the 1930s, Chen Chen-gpo was consciously blending the techniques of Chinese painters such as Ni Zan, Bada Shanren, etc. In this work we also seem to be able to see to some degree the artistic conception of landscape painting.

6. Fishing
Chen Cheng-po probably was in this painting citing a few customary concepts from Chinese painting. The angler which frequently appears in landscape painting also is used here to adorn the painting. Actually the Tamsui of Japanese Colonial Period was known far and near as a ‘holy’ fishing spot. On every holiday numerous anglers from afar would assemble on the seacoast and riverbanks.

7. Datun Mountain System
The uninterrupted rising and falling of the mountain peaks in the distant view should be the Datun Mountain system. The slope at the base of the foothill seems to have a village of rammed earth houses. The Japanese author Nishikawa Mitsuru considered that the mountains behind Tamsui were full of a masculine atmosphere and formed a strong contrast to the softness of Guanyin Mountain. Availing ourselves of what is depicted in the painting, we seem to be able to feel the majesty and magnificence of the mountains.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:http://taipics.com

picture 4 : Photo Credit:臺灣總督府編,《共進會記念臺灣寫真帖》(臺北:臺灣日日新報社,1916),無頁碼,〈淡水河の家鴨放飼〉,中研院臺史所臺灣研究古籍資料庫。

Tamsui After Rain Date Unknown Oil on canvas 45.5x53 cm Private collection

Under the dense cloud cover of the Pacific Ocean war, Tamsui after rain seems to be enveloped in a layer of haze from the warfare. Although the big red character “Blessing (祝)” on the banner set off on a campaign is eye-catching, the sparse number of people in the formation seems to lack the same joyful atmosphere. The entourage following Jiukan Street turning up is in Tamsui’s old neighborhood; this kind of nostalgic place is perhaps more suitable for a parade bidding adieu to one’s hometown. Watching the procession of people leave, Chen Cheng-po silently outlines the shadow of the times and leaves his witness to history.

1. Fare-well Party
During WWII men were either conscripted or volunteered to join the military, but before going to the battlefield the local government usually mobilized the public, students and various organs and groups to hold a boisterous fare-well party for them. In the painting all the people in the procession are holding the national flag in their hands; they are just about to proceed into Jiukan Street to publicize the glory of the soldiers going to war.

2. Banner set off on a campaign
In order to make going on campaign a glorious affair, the ceremony of bidding adieu often set up this kind of big banner; the banner had the Japanese national flag, Hinomaru (The Sun), or the pattern of the rising sun representing the Japanese military painted on it along with the name of the one going on campaign written on it. Holding the banner up high besides wishing the soldier martial glory, also was actually a kind of propaganda move for wartime mobilization.

3. Jiukan Street
Jiukan Street in back of Fuyou Temple was a street of commercial shops formed at the end of the 18th century. Since the space on the river bank was relatively narrow and the Tamsui population continued to increase, this street followed up the slope to Qizaiding to extend the residential space and develop the scale of the town.

4. Brick Arch
In order to accommodate the topographical changes of Tamsui’s hillsides, one house of Jiukan Street used brick arch construction to make the foundation of a platform connecting to the entrance of the building above. Two eye-catching brick arches still exist today on Jiukan Street. Although the direction depicted in this painting is not the same, the style is more or less the same.

5. Fuyou Temple
The “swallowtails” that stick up at either end of the roof ridge are commonly used in the construction of temples in Taiwan. If you consult the relative position of Jiukan Street, you can conjecture that the building is the Fuyou Temple along the riverbank in Tamsui. Fuyou Temple devoted mainly to the worship of Mazu was constructed in 1782. The temple was the common site of worship for the early immigrants coming to Tamsui from Fujian and Guangdong.

6. Shops
The shops along Tamsui’s streets usually had a long narrow layout. The shop facing the main street used the rooftop attic as a warehouse and the rear area was connected with the shopkeeper’s family. The towns near many of the harbors in Taiwan, such as Lugang, Anping, etc. all had this kind of long-style of shops.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:臺灣總督府民政部編,《記念臺灣寫真帖》(臺北市:臺灣總督府民政部,1915),無頁碼,〈淡水市街〉,中研院臺史所臺灣研究古籍資料庫。

picture 4 : Chen Cheng-po’s 1933 painting “Old Market Street in Lugang” . The shops on both sides all have the same long narrow style with a long room layout.

Tamsui Collaboration 1941 Ink-colour on paper 27.2x24.2cm Private collection

The house below the mountain, the small sail boat, and birds were painted by Chen Cheng-po.

The mountain was painted by Yang San-lang.

The tree on the left was painted by Li Mei-shu.

The large boat was painted by Lin Yu-shan.

The road in front was painted by Guo Xue-hu

The water waves in the center were painted by Chen Jing-hui.



picture 3 :Photo Credit:臺灣國立公園協會編,岡田紅陽撮影,《臺湾囯立公園寫真集》(1939),〈淡水河と觀音山〉,中研院臺史所臺灣研究古籍資料庫。

picture 4 :Photo Credit:http://taipics.com

Hill 1936 Oil on canvas 91x116.5 cm Private collection

A tall tower of an unusual style stands in command in the distance. Below the tower a large swath of farmland spreads out following along the hillside; a lush green flows into each corner. The horizontal lines of the field banks, road and tree crowns are like the rising and falling of a musical staff; the egrets in the fields and the electric poles also are in harmony with the melody; the horizontal composition jumps and pulses delightful variations. Like a great composer, Chen Cheng-po briskly dances the colorful brushes in his hands over the canvas to compose a beautiful and lively symphony of the rural scene on the hill.

1. Tamsui Middle School
The Tamsui Middle School is now known as Tamkang High School; it was the first middle school in northern Taiwan provided for students of Taiwanese ancestry to study at. This school was established in 1914 by George William Mackay, son of the well-known missionary Dr. George Lesley Mackay. The religious background of the school made the way the school was run quite different from others. The first rugby team and choir in Taiwan both originated in the campus of the Tamsui Middle School.

2. Octagonal tower
The Canadian missionary Kenneth W. Dowie designed the octagonal tower with the concept of a western tower building yet boldly blended it with the cultural elements of a Chinese pagoda and san-he-yuan. The tower was completed in 1925 and was a newly constructed school building of Tamsui Middle School after funds were raised for it. The octagonal tower with its unusual style later became the most representative historical totem of the school.

3. Guard tower
The guard tower in the castles of Medieval Europe principally was developed for its defensive function. Later it was imported into modern architecture. A guard tower placed in a corner besides increasing the building’s up and down contours also was able to serve as a foil to the main building’s impressive grandeur. In Taiwan a few baroque style buildings erected during the Japanese Colonial Period also display this guard tower design.

4. Electric poles
Electric poles were for Chen Cheng-po a kind of artistic subject that he concentrated on and was fascinated by. From the point of view of a Taiwanese painter in the Japanese Colonial Period, the island’s scenery in the tide of modernization was in the process of rapid change; this impact upon their vision also was reflected in their creativity. Modern things like steel bridges, roads, and so forth often became the main subject or element of a landscape picture.

5. White egrets and farmland
The white egrets on the paddy banks are using their long pointed black beaks to peck up insects in the paddies to eat. The white egret is a kind of resident bird that likes to stick together. They generally appear in the farmlands of the different locales around Taiwan. Various local artistic creations frequently take the white egret as subject matter using it to present a kind of nativist image or to link it to the author’s concern for nature.

6. Tree
The tree leaves that are bursting open like feathers are pulsing with a lustrous life force. In Chen Cheng-po’s paintings that take Taiwan’s local scenery as their subject matter, there often appears luxuriant vegetation. In his later paintings, he goes a step further for he comprehends from ink paintings the skill of using a stump and assimilates it into the depiction of the tree scene so as to express the exuberance and glory of the natural vegetation.

7. Staffage: One wearing a conical bamboo hat with a shoulder pole load
The worker wearing a conical bamboo hat and carrying a shoulder pole with a load is a type of staffage that is usually provided for in Chen Cheng-po’s paintings. The laboring people with steady hardworking dedication were constantly on the move in each corner of old Taiwan. Their forms, in the heart of this artist who has such a deeply native feeling, leave a very profound impression.

8. Road
Comparing the 1945 aerial photograph and the road which horizontally extends across the painting with farmland on both sides, it is likely the present day New Life Street. Chen Cheng-po’s Tamsui paintings usually depict a road from far to near using it to guide the line of sight and draw out in the distance a line of perspective. However, the road in this painting intends to cut through the picture which in terms of composition has an entirely different effect.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:中央研究院淡水百年歷史地圖系統

picture 4 :Photo Credit:蘇文魁老師(淡江中學校史館館長)

Tamsui Landscape (Tamsui) 1935  Oil on canvas 91x117 cm Collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The gradually ascending side street is Three-Storey House Street. In old times the people’s residences in Tamsui were built following the terrain. Western-style and Japanese-style houses were constructed one after another; the buildings of different cultural traditions are scattered about high and low and are freely mixed—this is a metaphor for the accumulated layers of history. The side street is the axis, and the two squarely erected western buildings on the right form a harmonious contrast with the irregularly stacked up Fujian-style buildings on the left. The small town in the painting is a self-contained world; in the pile there is neatness and in the disorder there is stability.

1. The Gutter and Stone Bridges
The era of the sewage treatment system was still not in a complete form. The open drains followed the zigzag of the streets and bore the drainage of the entire area of the street letting rainwater and domestic wastewater both flow into the Tamsui River. The winding side street often has small stone bridges spanning over the gutter arousing people’s curiosity to head into the mysterious world of the hillside town.

2. Propped up Windows
In the old days Tamsui houses occasionally had window plates that were pushed outward and supported by a wooden prop. This kind of window though not advantageous for house lighting was convenient for keeping the rain out. In humid Tamsui to have indoor air ventilation and protection from rain and wind were equally important. The design of the propped up windows appropriately could be flexibly opened or closed in response to changes in the weather.

3. Staffage
Two people, father and daughter, deep in the side street facing straight on are walking forward hand in hand. The figures in the scene represent a parent-child relationship which is an important element in Chen Cheng-po’s painting. Letting parents lead their children along to roam the boundless universe is perhaps the means whereby the artist himself thinks of his own faraway departed parents.

4. Red House and White House
Standing straight up on the hillside the two buildings with features of outside facing verandas and arches are Red House and White House. These two western buildings are both landmarks of early Tamsui and perhaps are common as creative themes for many early period painters. The classical perspective and the bird’s eye view utilized by Chen Cheng-po in the painting are also visible in the works of Ni Jiang-huai and Chen Hui-kun.

5. Bird Rest
The inverted “u” shaped lines that protrude on the side of the gable are the “bird rest”. Apparently they were a place provided to give a perch for birds to rest on. Actually they were there to prevent water from running down the wall and entering the window below. Later the Bird Rest gradually took on a decorative function with the styles becoming complicated and flamboyant.



picture 3 : Photo Credit:蘇文魁老師(淡江中學校史館館長)

picture 4 : Photo Credit:臺灣創價學會

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