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TAIWANfest 2022: Taiwanese couple find joy in restoring Indonesian heritage buildings and helping others in Java

Eden Liu, a Taiwanese heritage advocate, has a simple philosophy. If you do what you love, money will follow. It took him on an astonishing journey to the historic district of Semarang, a port city on the north coast of Java.

There, he and his wife, Jade, oversaw the restoration of the two-story Sousmans Kantur colonial building. When the Dutch ruled Java and Sumatra, it was the office of the Susumans Immigration, Sales and Commissions Office, which supplied workers.

Today, the building is home to a social enterprise run by the Liu family, which hosts cultural events and provides activities and employment for Indonesian women, including companies owned by Taiwanese.

“I love old culture, old buildings,” says Liu. straight Zoom from Semarang. “I do what I love. I believe the money will come.”

Semarang has several such Dutch colonial buildings.

Through the “Soesmans 1866” project, Liu and his wife built a bridge between Taiwan and Indonesia. He is advising politicians in the local government of Semarang, his ninth-largest city in Indonesia, as it seeks to add a historic Dutch section to the United Nations World Heritage List.

“Semarang sets an example of a multicultural trade city in Southeast Asia,” says Liu.

He points out that the port city has been home to Javanese, Chinese, Malay and Arabic cultures for centuries. For a considerable period they were under Dutch colonial rule, developing classical European buildings and European streetscapes in the old town.

“This footprint in architecture, urban form, and technology marks an important exchange of human values ​​in early 19th-century Asia,” says Liu.

Liu will share his experiences in a video at this year’s TAIWANfest, September 3-5 in downtown Vancouver. Liu’s talk is part of the festival’s annual Dialogue with Asia series, this year’s focus on Taiwan-Indonesia relations.

Semarang came under Dutch rule in the late 17th century, when Javanese ruler Sunan Amankrat II handed over most of the island’s north coast to the Dutch East India Company, returning him to power.

The Dutch later named Semarang “Europeesche Buurt”. Today the Old Town is often called Little Holland.

Liu developed an interest in old buildings when his family took him to Lukang, a historic Taiwanese port, when he was a child. Coincidentally, Lukang was a trading center for the Dutch when they colonized Taiwan in the 17th century.

The Soesmans Kantoor building houses social enterprises and Taiwanese enterprises.

Five years ago, Liu was working in a traditional manufacturing industry when he visited the company’s factory in Semarang.

At the time, Jade was his girlfriend, completing a master’s degree at Waseda University in Japan with the goal of starting a social enterprise that supports women. Jade she was inspired by a famous Indonesian feminist named Kartini.

“She told me if I could help her build her foundation. [her dream] In Semarang, she won’t go back to Japan, she will stay with me in Indonesia,” Ryu says. “I love her so much that’s why I did it.”

Near the end of the interview, Liu revealed that he had gained a new perspective from the people of Indonesia, noting that most people are happy with their lives. He also found that despite everything that had happened, they held no grudge against the Dutch over their colonization.

“They still have a strong relationship with Holland,” says Liu. “They don’t hate. They say, ‘History is history. The past is the past. We need to focus on the future. That’s what I’ve learned.'”

TAIWANfest 2022: Taiwanese couple find joy in restoring Indonesian heritage buildings and helping others in Java

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