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Looking towards Chiayi



1934, 畫布油彩, 73×91cm

oil on canvas





    A profusion of green flows throughout this vast landscape; it crawls up tree trunks and curls into verdant, wing-like branches. Similar to notes in a musical suite, different layers of bright, lively yellow-greens and darker, more somber jade-greens are woven into a resplendent composition. In the distance, a large building is ornamented with flecks of glimmering blue-green, like a precious stone nestled in a jeweled setting.






    The sea of green extends out to the aquamarine sky, half-shrouded by white clouds at the horizon. Gazing out over his city, Chen Cheng-po poured his heartfelt love into this work, creating a beautiful, engaging landscape abundant in life and cheer.






Two sketches





    In two preliminary pencil sketches, Chen took note of the smokestacks and the large building at the far end of town. The sketches suggest that he initially planned to include figures in the foreground but omitted them in the final painting.




 展望諸羅城-SB13:34.8.21  1934   紙本鉛筆   24×18cm


Looking Towards Zhuluo City-SB13:34.8.21  1934    Pencil on paper   24×18cm


諸羅の町を望む-SB13:34.8.21  1934  紙、鉛筆 24×18cm



嘉義公園(2)-SB13:34.2.28  1934   紙本鉛筆   24×18cm


Chiayi Park(2)-SB13:34.2.28  1934    Pencil on paper   24×18cm


嘉義公園(2)-SB13:34.2.28  1934  紙、鉛筆 24×18cm



Vantage point





    Chen noted “Looking Towards Zhuluo City” on one sketch and “Chiayi Park” on the other, indicating the subject matter and vantage point from which he completed these sketches. Nowadays, a forest of high-rise buildings blocks the view, but this painting gives us an idea of how the city must have looked years ago from way up high at the park.










    At the other end of the city, modernization is afoot. Smokestacks pump out thick black fumes which are dispersed by strong winds into the clouds. Like other cities across Taiwan, Chiayi underwent rapid industrialization in the mid-Japanese colonial period. On its west side, state-of-the-art factories were constructed to produce ice, tiles, lighting appliances, and other goods. These industrial facilities left their mark on the city skyline, which was thereafter studded by towering smokestacks.










    In 1934, the year that Chen completed this landscape, there was still a great expanse of farmland lying between Chiayi Park and the city streets. According to Chiayi City Planning Map, drawn up at roughly the same time, almost all roads lying to the east of the Dongmen traffic circle had not yet been built. Dongmen Public School and the Chiayi Agriculture and Forestry Public School were still surrounded by large tracts of cultivated fields.






Chiayi City Planning Map (1935), taken from Taiwan’s 100 Years of History in Maps, published by the Center for GIS at Academia Sinica. 





Fengmao Hardware Store





    In this bird’s eye view of Chiayi, one local landmark stands out. The light-yellow building punctuated by emerald green is possibly the Fengmao Hardware Store, located in Chiayi’s Yuanding neighborhood. Chen used a similar color scheme in Chiayi Street Scene, also painted in 1934, to depict the three-story structure—the city’s tallest at the time.




6. 大通

Datong Road





    Lined with electric poles, a modernized road runs from the city outskirts towards the city proper. Referred to as “Datong” during the Japanese era, this road is now known as “Zhongshan.” Datong stretched eastward toward the park and was one of three main thoroughfares radiating from the Fountain Roundabout. In the early colonial period, several important government offices, such as City Hall, lay along this road. Today it is still one of the main arteries of Chiayi.