Taiwan unveiled its first-ever national venue dedicated to xiqu, or traditional Chinese performing arts, on Oct. 3 amid blessings from President Tsai Ing-wen for the Xiqu Center of Taiwan to one day become the hub of Asia-Pacific performing arts.
Situated in Taipei’s Shilin District, the Xiqu Center of Taiwan (also known Taiwan Traditional Theatre Center) is a 1.76-hectare new cultural landmark accessible by the Taipei Metro’s Zhishan Station on the Tamsui (Red) Line. Its facilities include two auditoriums, of which one has a capacity of 1,035 seats while the other has 300 seats.
In a nod to its xiqu roots – a traditional performance genre comprising Chinese drama and musical theater – the architectural design draws from the “one table and two chairs” setting in Peking opera.
Head architect Kris Yao (姚仁喜) created two separate buildings (two chairs) for performance and office space, and a separate venue (one table) that connects the two buildings for audiences and performers to interact.
The Xiqu Center also serves as residence space for the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan (臺灣國樂團), Guoguang Opera Company (國光劇團), and the Taiwan Music Institute (臺灣音樂館) – the latter of which maintains an archival collection of Taiwan’s ethnic music, Asia-Pacific music, and world music.
Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun elaborated on President Tsai’s comments on how the Center will serve as home base for all traditional performance groups in Taiwan, explaining that the Xiqu Center will join the National Center for Traditional Arts in Yilan and the National Kaohsiung Center for Traditional Arts as a new triad promoting traditional arts in Taiwan.
The Center began with a proposal in the Executive Yuan in 2007, primary construction took place from Jan. 27, 2012 through Aug. 3, 2016, and a soft opening was held starting Oct. 7, 2016 after operational permits were received. The year-long trial opening was held to ensure the quality of operations and service, and a similar process will be applied to the Kaohsiung Center for Traditional Arts following its completion in 2020.
The Minister noted that, to help the Center fulfill its aspirations as a world platform for all traditional arts, the Ministry of Culture has held intangible heritage workshops, worked with veteran groups to train more successors, connected a new generation of performers with incubation programs, and subsidized local festivals to help more people experience the beauty of traditional arts.
Now, as part of its creed to connect Taiwan to the international community through the arts, the Xiqu Center of Taiwan will be hosting the 16th edition of the Asia-Pacific Traditional Arts Festival from Oct. 3 to 15. The Mekong River-themed event will bring 18 troupes from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam to perform in Taiwan.