The menpai 門牌 (Address Plate)


This old, weathered 門牌 (menpai) has stood along side the gate into the small courtyard leading into Mei-O's family's old, long-abandoned, house for many, many years. It reads:

Taichung City, East District, Lixing Road, Lane 241, Number 19

(Click on the picture to see the translation.) I didn't realize how long it might've been there until it "came into my possession" during our visit to Taichung in November of 2006.

For many years, each time during our many trips back to Taichung, I've always wanted to grab this menpai as a souvenir, but I never really had the opportunity. Now, the entire neighborhood surrounding Mei-O's old, long-abandoned house was being modernized, with new buildings going up in place of the old, and I figured this could be my last chance before the place was torn down. One day, before leaving Mei-O's brother Mingshun's house where we were staying during our visit, I put a screwdriver in Mei-O's purse. Planning to visit the old house, I decided to finally make my move. Mei-O's younger sister Meihui dropped us off at the old house, and I went to work.

The menpai came off easily, although I broke a couple of brittle corners. As I held it in my hands, I really felt a sense of fulfillment. It sounds silly, I know, but that old house held a lot of memories for me. Mei-O and I were married there. We lived there for a year while I attended Tunghai University (1972-73), and when Chris was born in Changhua, Taiwan, this was the house we brought him home to live in for the first three months of his life. A lot of memories....

When I showed this to Mei-O's mother later, she revealed some astonishing facts concerning the old house to us, stuff neither Mei-O nor her siblings knew. It turns out that Mei-O and her younger brother and two sisters were all born in that house - literally born in the house - not born in a hospital and brought to the house a few days later, but actually born in the house. And then Mei-O's mom dropped the bombshell. She herself was also born in that house and, up until she and Mei-O's dad moved in with Mingshun and his wife Bilan sometime in the late '90s, she had lived there all her life! Wow!

So the menpai took on a whole new significance to me. Mei-O's mom says it's been there as long as she can remember, but I can't believe it's as old as she is (77 years!) Regardless, it's a treasure that I'm glad to finally have in my possession. Next time we go back for a visit, I'm guessing the old house will be gone forever....

December 12, 2006


Update: Since 2006 (when this web page was created), every time we returned to Taiwan to visit family, which was almost yearly, we'd visit the old house. And surprisingly, while a lot of new construction was going on right alongside it, it hadn't been torn down. Here is a picture from our 2015 trip; the window with bars was our bedroom, the only room left standing, with the rest of the house now lying in ruins to the left. It was pretty much the same when we were there in 2017. Despite the old house being gone, people were still living in the one right next door!