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Shuzhuang Garden --- A Centennial Legend[2016-11-09]

Lin Erjia and poets in Shuzhuang Garden

Lin Erjia (the second one on the left) and his family members in Shuzhuang Garden

Foreign guests

Shuzhuang Garden is located in the Southeast of Kulangsu. It is a classical traditional Chinese garden which includes pavilions and platforms. The hill and the sea stay in perfect harmony, which is the finest view in the garden. Shuzhuang Garden has long been a place for the admiration of beautiful flowers and the sharing of literary works and views. Literary men from Min Nan expressed their patriotism and promoted traditional Chinese culture through the gatherings in Shuzhuang Garden, which made it a unique cultural icon on Kulangsu.
Feature of Shuzhuang Garden---Sophisticated Techniques of Building a Hill and Taking Advantage of the Sea
Shuzhuang Garden, a traditional Chinese garden, was built on a hillside in the east of Gangzihou, which located in the southeast of Kulangsu. However, the owner was still unhappy, for he worried about the country’s future. By the time the garden was built, Mr. Lin Erjia was 39 and he had left Taiwan for 18 years. In 1895, China signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the failure of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. The patriotic Lin Family would not be the slaves of Japan. Lin Erjia followed his father, Lin Weiyuan, to settle down on Kulangsu. But Mr. Lin Erjia missed his occupied house in Taiwan. He planned to build a house similar to that in Taiwan on Kulangsu to soothe his homesickness.
Shuzhuang Garden is built beside the sea. But a wall at the entrance blocked the view. For those who do not know the Garden is built beside sea might think the Garden is far away from the sea. While they go around the wall, they feel the sea breeze and see the vast ocean. What a surprise! This is one of the building techniques of Shuzhuang Garden---taking advantage of the sea. The other technique is building a hill. Previously, the site of Shuzhuang Garden had no hills. Mr. Lin Erjia used artificial buildings and constructions, including Wanshishanfang House, the Twelve Grottos and Shuaizhen Pavilion, to make up for the hill. Either technique was used by Mr. Lin Erjia to express his patriotic feelings, for he hoped that the lost mountains and rivers could come back to the motherland and the destroyed land could be rebuilt again.
Shuzhuang Garden was also a garden where men of letters gathered to express their worries about the country. In July, 1914, Shuzhuang Poetry Club was established and it became a bond linking cross-strait poets and a bridge connecting compatriots in the Mainland and Taiwan. In the following 30 years, numerous refined scholars from Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Peking, Guangdong and even oversea Chinese from Japan, Singapore and Indonesia were attracted to Shuzhuang Poetry Club. In its heyday, there were 1,978 scholars attending the activity, which made Shuzhuang Garden a true Garden of Poets. The seats were always taken and the glasses were never empty. Mr. Lin Erjia and the scholars talked about the country’s future and looked forward to driving the enemies back to their country and recovering Taiwan. When he was 70, his wish came true. It was comforting that Shuzhuang Garden had accompanied him for over 30 years.
Virtues of Shuzhuang Garden---Saving China by Engaging in Industry
Lin Erjia, born in 1874, styled himself Shucang. Why used the name Shuzhuang was because Shuzhuang sounded like Shucang. Lin Erjia was the grandson of Chen Shengyuan, a famous general in Xiamen who used to fight against the Britain. When he was young, he was adopted by Lin Weiyuan, the richest man in Taiwan. Even if Lin Erujia was not adopted by Lin Weiyuan, he could also have a life with high position and great wealth. Lin Erjia was what we now call the Second-Generation Rich and Third-Generation Official. For others who had such position and such wealth might lead a life of pleasure, but not Lin Erjia. In Mr. Hong Puren’s opinion, a cultural and historical researcher in Xiamen, Lin Erjia was different from his peers. He was not interested in pursuing official career through taking imperial examinations, while he liked to talk about the politics and the situation of talents. His noble personality drove him to pursue his great ambition of saving the country.
Troubled, improve yourself; valued, improve the world. The wealthy Lin Family, unlike other officials, did not only think about itself in time of adversity. In face of national calamity, the Lin Family would not surrender to the Japanese and abandoned its huge properties in Taiwan. Lin Erjia, at the age of 21, followed his father to move to Kulangsu. In Xiamen, Lin Erjia devoted himself to saving the country by engaging in industries.
In 1904, Lin Erjia, at the age of 30, was in charge of Xiamen Bureau of Commercial Affairs and was the general manager of Xiamen Chamber of Commerce. In the following six years, he proposed to reform economy and to develop industries. He advised the government to attach importance to the development of commerce, industries and import and export and suggested to open up mines and mint silver, build railroads, regulate tax revenues and cut down redundant personnel, in order to guarantee the balance of state revenue and expenditures. He abolished outmoded regulations and irrational practices to facilitate the commercial and tourist activities of overseas Chinese. He took charge of the formulation of the Regulations of Land Sale and the Regulations of Chinese and Foreign Trade, in order to guarantee the interest of overseas Chinese and promote foreign trade. In 1907, Xiamen Chamber of Commerce established electrical equipment company and intended to install electric lamp and telephone in Xiamen. Back then, people seemed uninterested in it. Lin Erjia invested 300,000 silver dollars in the business and others dared to follow. When Fujian Province planned to build railroads, Lin Erjia was generous with his money and donated half of the expenditure.
Many of us do not know that one of Xiamen’s titles, International Garden City, is related to Lin Erjia. It is hard to imagine that at the beginning of the 20th century, Xiamen was a smelly city. It was not until 1920 that the situation was changed. In 1920, Xiamen established municipal council and Lin Erjia was in charge of it. Lin Erjia made a great contribution to the renovation of Xiamen. He guided the construction of modern Xiamen, including building new roads and relocating houses which were not up to the standard. When confronting the obstruction from local conservative forces and foreigners, he could always handle the affairs impartially. With his great efforts, the municipal construction could proceed smoothly.
(Note: Materials used in the article is from interview of cultural and historical researchers of Kulangsu Cultural Heritage Application office and the materials is verified by various documents including Kulangsu Cultural Heritage Application Text)
Interesting News
Chiang Kai-shek has been to Shuzhuang Garden
Mr. Cai Wentian is 77 years old and he still remembers one of his experiences in Shuzhuang Garden when he was a little boy. Mr. Lin Erjia’s wife, Mrs. Gong Yunhuan, was Mr. Cai Wentian’s grandmother (his grandfather’s sister), thus he often played in Shuzhuang Garden when he was young. “I met Chiang Kai-shek in the summer of 1949. Back then, Kuo Min Tang was stationed in Shuzhuang Garden. I was familiar with the soldiers. One time, the head of the guard asked me not to play in the courtyard, for the chairman was to come. I followed the guard to Wanshishanfang House. After a while, five or six people wearing Chinese jacket came in. I asked the guard who was the chairman. The guard pointed one of them and said “this one”. I was young and had no idea what Chairman meant. When I grew up, I realized that Chairman was Chiang Kai-shek. ” Mr. Cai recalled.