Located on the Yuanshan (Round Mountain圓山) and overlooking Taipei City and the Keelung River, the Grand Hotel (圓山飯店) is a splendid, eye-catching landmark full of historical significance. It is believed that the hotel was constructed in response to a suggestion by Madame Chiang (Soong Mei-ling), wife of Taiwan’s late president Chiang Kai-shek, to accommodate international dignities. It is also known for its many mysterious tunnels.
Please watch this video of the Grand Hotel:
Established in 1952 with 500 rooms, the majestic 14-story palace-like hotel is owned by the Duen-Mou Foundation of Taiwan (財團法人台灣敦睦聯誼會), a non-profit organization under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC). It was founded with the mission of developing international tourism business and talents, promoting Taiwan through non-official activities, and enhancing friendship with international communities.
The Grand Hotel has received about 100 heads of state, such as U.S. President Eisenhower, Iranian King Pahlavi, King Tupou IV of the Kingdom of Tonga, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
Many important events have also been held in the hotel over the years, such as the negotiations regarding the severance of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and the U.S., the founding of the current ruling party and other opposition parties, constitutional negotiations between ruling and opposition parties, National Affairs Conferences, and cross-strait negotiations between Taiwan and China.
Supported by red pillars and with golden roof tiling, the Grand Hotel was constructed with the elegant elements of classic Chinese architecture. As it is full of the fine expression of Chinese art upon a foundation of modern Western architecture, it is therefore much like a majestic palace.
A striking feature of the Grand Hotel is that it was constructed and decorated with a dragon motif, as the dragon is commonly regarded by Chinese people as a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. It is estimated that there are over 230,000 dragon carvings or drawings used to decorate the hotel inside and outside, earning it the name “The Dragon Palace.”
Another highlight of the hotel is its century-old Golden Dragon. Made of bronze and gilded with 24K gold, the Golden Dragon is displayed in front of the Golden Dragon Restaurant. This dragon is unique because it has three claws, unlike the four or five claws of dragons that are commonly found in traditional Chinese art. It is traditionally believed that only emperors could have things with five-clawed dragons, while civilians could only use things with three- or four-clawed dragons.
The Grand Hotel was voted the Best Hotel by Holiday magazine in the U.S., which described it as: “A calming oasis within the hustle and bustle of the world.” It was also once rated by Fortune magazine as one of the top 10 hotels in the world.
The Grand Hotel’s mysterious tunnels
In addition to the beauty of the hotel, two mysterious underground tunnels measuring 67 meters and 85 meters in length remain a curiosity.
Besides the stairs, the spiraling underground passage on the western side is equipped with a slide to facilitate the escape of Chiang and his wife. It boasts one of the longest slides in the world, on which one could escape to the outside in about 10 seconds.
It was rumored that these two secret passageways were leading to the Presidential Office and the Shilin Official Residence. Nevertheless, the hotel authority explained that when the hotel was refurbished, they were designed to be tunnels for evacuating guests in case there was an emergency.
Watch this video from The Young Turks — Reporter Freaks Out on Slide at Grand Hotel:
The “king-size VIP chairs,” specially designed for visiting King Tupou IV of the Kingdom of Tonga, are displayed at the Grand Hotel Museum.
The Grand Hotel Museum is one of the places visitors may like to check out. Various hotel artifacts, files, and photos of major events, as well as the precious objects left behind by key figures, are on exhibit. They provide important reminders of Taiwan’s political and economic development over the past decades.
Marveling at its architectural beauty, wonderful natural scenery, and historical significance, the Grand Hotel is one of the most popular attractions for both Taiwanese and foreign visitors.