Last time I visited Shenkeng (深坑) I was disappointed to find the Yong-an House (永安居) was only open on weekends and holidays. I returned there again today and enjoyed a tour of the house. I was quite impressed and it was well worth the trip.
I constantly lament the fact that so many of Taiwan's old buildings are neglected and aren't valued. This house is a wonderful exception. The quality of the restoration is superb and highlights the quality of the original materials and workmanship. The house is classified as a third grade historical site (三級古蹟).
Construction of the building began in 1912 so it is still less than one hundred years old. The house is a three-sided enclosure. The roof beams which turn up at each end are a distinctive feature of the Minnan (閩南) style.
The guide that showed me around pointed out many interesting small details of the house. The picture above shows "rabbit's ears" (兔耳). A pole can be inserted though the hole in the brick and things can be hung on it to dry.
The bricks in the photo above contain a swastika pattern indicating that the household practiced Buddhism.
Although it is not visible in most places the bricks are stamped with "S" representing the name of the brick manufacturer.
The detail is not just in the brickwork, but in the wooden carvings, tiles and paintings that adorn the building. Much of the original furniture and tools can still be found in the house and my guide took the time to explain some of the features of these. For example, the legs of a man's bed are carved with decorative motifs while those of a woman's bed are unadorned.
Yong-an House is a great place to see and appreciate some of Taiwan's vernacular architecture. Shenkeng is easy to reach by bus or taxi from Muzha in the south of Taipei. When you have finished visiting the house you can enjoy the culinary delights on offer in the nearby Shenkeng Old Street (深坑老街).