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A Hipster Tour Through an Old Urban District

A Hipster Tour Through an Old Urban DistrictIn recent years, the hipster way of life has exploded in popularity. For those unfamiliar with this subculture, look no further than the "hipster guide" that went viral in Taiwan. It consists of 45 rules for distinguishing a hipster, ranging from tight pants and handcrafted thick-rimmed glasses to the feeling of being racked with anxiety. To see hipsters in their natural habitat, head to a creative fair or eslite Bookstore (誠品書店). The rise of hipsters has been accompanied by a rise in hipster travel, which essentially entails avoiding clamorous scenic sites at all costs, instead gathering at places that are independent, tranquil, and not overtly commercialized or popularized. Core spirit and aesthetics of hipsters include literature, music, art, and innovative works.

Ri Xing is the only operating type foundry in Taiwan.For this hipster-inspired tour, we follow a leisurely itinerary that includes the old shops and boutiques specializing in creative and cultural products congregated around Taiyuan Road (太原路), Changan West Road (長安西路), and Chifeng Street (赤峰街). First, we stop and pay tribute at the Ri Xing Type Foundry (日星鑄字行), the last foundry of its kind in Taiwan. From there we meander to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA, 台北當代藝術館) to admire a photography exhibition and installation art, then head to Cans Book House (罐子書館) to read and have a bite to eat. In the afternoon it's time for a stroll around Chifeng Street to admire Japanese floral designs and lifestyle goods followed by a cup of handcrafted coffee and a piece of chiffon cake. Don't forget to use a single-lens or Lomo camera along the way to record interesting moments. It's time to explore Taipei hipster-style!

A One-Day Hipster Tour Type foundry history at Ri Xing Type Foundry → art appreciation at MOCA followed by lunch at Cans Tea House → Japanese lifestyle aesthetics and art along Chifeng Street → English-style afternoon tea at Covent Garden

09:00-10:00 Ri Xing Type Foundry The Beauty of Traditional Chinese Characters Reproduced Via Typography

Children in Taiwan learn how the Chinese inventor Bi Sheng (畢昇) created the first known example of movable type by arranging and inking movable molds crafted from clay. Following improvements such as switching from clay to wood and metal types, movable type replaced traditional transcribing and prospered for more than 1,000 years before it too was replaced by computer typog raphy and lithography. "Over just a few short years, virtually all the type foundries in Taiwan closed," says Zhang Jieguan (張介冠), the CEO of Ri Xing. According to Zhang , in the movable type industry, type foundries and printing houses were di stinct. The printing houses provided documents to the type foundry, which produced frames called "forms" that were then sent back to the printing house for printing to commence. At one time there were more than 5,000 printing houses in Taipei that would regularly buy tens of thousands of types a day. Later, sales plummeted to just 2,000 to 3,000 types a year, and by 2006, Ri Xing was the only type foundry in Taiwan. As operator of the oldest operating type foundry in the Chinese-speaking world, Zhang feels responsible for keeping the practice alive. "Preservation of movable type means preserving complete techniques and practices, from type production, type check, and typesetting to printing and binding," Zhang says. "Future generations will then have a channel to see traditional artistry and techniques associated with movable type."

Ri Xing continues to produce Chinese characters in regular, Song, and boldface script with sizes ranging from 7.5 to 42 point. Among its thousands of antique bronze type molds of every size, there are many that have been used since the day of the company's founding. Together with seven antique type-casting machines they have turned Ri Xing into a living movable type museum. While few print houses use movable type today, tourists come in search of types to produce name cards and greeting cards that will serve as unique souvenirs. With the rows of type pieces shining under the shop's dim lights and the whir of type-casting machines in the background, a half-century of stories created at this type foundry continue to be passed down.

MOCA features an eye-catching interior style.10:30-13:30 Art Appreciation at MOCA Lunch at Cans Tea House

Taipei residents are familiar with an impressive brick red building with slanted black-tiled roof located near the corner of Changan West and Zhongshan North roads. In 1921, during the Japanese era, Jian Cheng Elementary School (建成小學) was opened to educate ethnic Japanese children living in Taipei. Following retrocession, it served as office space for the Taipei City Government. After it was designated as a historic city landmark in 2006, work began on turning the central hall into a museum and its two wings into classrooms of Jian Cheng Junior High School (建成國中), making MOCA a pioneering example of a museum integrated with a public school. This arrangement has injected new life into one of Taipei's most historic structures.

MOCA is hosting a pair of solo exhibitions between spring and summer 2015. Artist Yu Wenfu (游文富) created a scaffolding-type woven structure comprised of more than 100,000 strips of bamboo each measuring 8 meters in length. The bamboo surface extends over 1,000 square meters, wrapped around the museum's façade as an expression of the simplistic beauty and expansionary energy inherent in this common material. Another work, Wall of Thorns (朿刀辟土; 刺壁), consists of thousands of bamboo sticks that pierce the wall in an expression of danger described in the Chinese saying "regard every bush and tree as an enemy." The work Hiding in the Clouds (雨云身朵; 雲躲) uses 200,000 feathers and bamboo sticks to produce a large funnel-shaped installation that engulfs a person's body, leaving only the lower legs exposed in an intense expression of freedom and refusal to surrender to reality. On the second floor, photographer Chou Chinghui (周慶輝) displays props, such as syringes, rocking horses, and glass bottles, that have been used in his photographic works. They are presented as installation works to initiate a dialogue with the museum space. In addition, animal and environmental sounds recorded during photo shoots at Hsinchu Zoo (新竹動物園) and Shoushan Zoo (壽山動物園) can be heard, forming a connection between the space and the artworks and expanding the experience and imagination of the audience.

Having already taken in your fill of art, and with noon arriving, what could be better than a meal accompanied by a book at the nearby Cans Tea House? Feel free to open the windows to enjoy the sunlight and fresh air under the high ceilings of this old building. Stark, rough concrete walls and simple wooden tables and chairs perfectly complement the ceramic dinnerware and books, tea implements, and ceramic artworks on display in the long central corridor. The lunch selection includes threecups chicken and sweet and sour Thai-style fish, both with a flavor that matches the elegant setting. Sitting in this tea house, you can see how hipster influences have pervaded culinary tradition. MOCA and Cans offer a wonderful combination of art and food, set amidst a century-old brick building.


Chifeng 28's warm displays; Exquisite implements reveal the texture of life

Yu Wen-fu's Hiding in the Clouds



14:00-16:00 Japanese Lifestyle Aesthetics Art Along Chifeng Street

Chifeng Street has changed dramatically from its early days when it was known as "iron street." As time passed, the scrap metal dealers that lined this thoroughfare were replaced by imported metal hardware shops and automobile parts dealers, turning this into "auto parts street." In recent years, the street's old buildings have attracted shops specializing in handcrafted baked goods and other food items. While there are still metal forging shops, there are also florists, household utensil vendors, and cafés. This has led to an interesting juxtaposition of loud metal pounding and quiet shops.

Xiao Qi (小器), a Japanese lifestyle goods shop, is considered a pioneer on Chifeng Street for boldly opening three years ago when the area was dominated by auto mechanics and machining shops. Today, there is the Xiao Qi gallery, Xiao Qi restaurant, and a plum wine shop. Joining Xiao Qi at Chifeng 28 (赤峰28) is the Japanese florist Nettle Plants, a design laboratory of Kobayashi Kazuto (小林和人) and Studio m'. Xiao Qi's influence has made it the shop most representative of Chifeng Street. As you browse the lifestyle goods series and items from Shotoku, Noda Horo, and Classiky, admire the flowers and enjoy a glass of cool and refreshing plum wine.

Chifeng Street's allure is not limited to its shops. Colorful street art covers the walls that line its lanes and alleys. Beside No. 32-1 is Blue Robo-Fish, (藍色機器魚) which pays tribute to the street's unique history of automobile parts dealers and metal forgers. Adjacent to No. 8, Alley 33 is Dreams of Home, (夢想.家), which uses gears to represent the forging of the stages of life that we all pass through. Next to No. 6, Alley 3, Lane 3 is Illuminate the Nighttime Stars, (點亮夜裡的星星), which brings a burst of life to this narrow backend alley. Dream Monster (大樹夢 獸) at the corner of Lane 35 and Lane 25, Nanjing West Road attracts the highest number of tourists due to its prominent location and eye-catching theme. As Chifeng Street becomes modernized, these narrow lanes, which are only large enough to fit pedestrians and bicyclists, retain a slow pace of life for which many people yearn.

Trademark chiffon cake; Covent Garden Café is reminiscent of the English countryside.16:30-18:00 English-Style Afternoon Tea at Covent Garden

Hipsters are right at home in cafés. With small, antique windows that face the leafy alley, Covent Garden feels a lot like a Taipei version of Masa Kitchen (瑪莎廚房). Solid wood tables and chairs, brick walls, and a wrought iron fence complement the understated music, miscellaneous goods, and comfortable fairy tale decor that seems like it was plucked straight out of the English countryside. The aroma of baked cakes and biscuits coming from the in-house bakery attracts passersby. Other popular items include freshly made cheesecake, apple pie, handmade biscuits, and chiffon cake as fluffy as a cloud but made without oil or baking soda.

So what exactly is a hipster? Hipsters reject the pursuit of the mainstream. Generally, they are friendly to others and indulge in sensory aesthetics, including indie pop. When traveling, they seek both sensory and cultural appreciation as well as nourishment for the spirit and mind. Perhaps it's time to ask how closely your way of life aligns with the hipster ideal.

Style Afternoon Tea
Ri Xing Type Foundry 日星鑄字行 Add 13, Ln. 97, Taiyuan Rd. (太原路97 巷13 號)
Tel (02)2556-4626
Xiao Qi Lifestyle Goods 小器生活道具 Add 29, Chifeng St. (赤峰街29 號)
Tel (02)2552-7039
MOCA, Taipei 台灣當代藝術館 Add 39, Changan W. Rd. (長安西路39 號)
Tel (02)2552-3721
Chifeng 28 赤峰28 Add 28-3, Chifeng St. (赤峰街28 之3 號)
Tel (02)2555-6969
Cans Tea House 罐子書館 Add 39, Changan W. Rd. (長安西路39 號)
Tel (02)2550-8506
Covent Garden Café 柯芬園咖啡館 Add 8, Ln. 18, Nanjing W. Rd. (南京西路18 巷8 號)
Tel (02)2559-4217

Source: TAIPEI quarterly