The Last Type Foundry in Taiwan Won't Be Sold for even Billions of Chinese Yuan

The Last Type Foundry in Taiwan Won't Be Sold for even Billions of Chinese Yuan
Photo Credit: GARY ZHOU 日星鑄字行 - 正體鉛字的瑰寶 影片截圖
What you need to know

The second-generation owner Chang Chieh-kuan says that Taiwan is one of the few places in the world that uses traditional Chinese characters. He believes that he needs to contribute to traditional Chinese characters and promote them to the world. Therefore, he has decided to devote his life to preserving the typing craft.

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Hidden in the narrow alleys of Taipei is the last type foundry left in Taiwan, Ri Xing. In a time where one can easily access all kinds of printing, Ri Xing preserves the oldest printing craftsmanship.

The second-generation owner Chang Chieh-kuan says that Taiwan is one of the few places in the world that uses traditional Chinese characters. He believes that he needs to contribute to traditional Chinese characters and promote them to the world. Therefore, he has decided to devote his life to preserving the typing craft.

Chang says he’s aware that digitalization will eventually eliminate the type-founding industry, so he has started to transform the type-founding industry into a cultural industry, relieving it from the restraint of the commercial business model. Through the help of media reports, Chinese type founding has finally been seen by the international society.

PeoPo reports, in recent years, Chang has combined traditional Chinese type founding with the cultural and creative industry. He not only sells small type packages for people to experience the ancient craft, but also opens the foundry to the public and lets people choose and purchase the types they like. There is also an apprentice from Hong Kong in the foundry who is learning the craft and help promoting it.

Chang says, “Nowadays people receive all kinds of information, but no matter how well spread the information is, the people and the production process of certain industries have been pushed to the very back where people don’t even see them. However, with the help of lead type, people can remember the existence of the people behind the process."

Taiwan People News reports, from the 1960s to the 1980s, there were around 20 type foundries in Taiwan, which was the most glorious era for the traditional Chinese type-founding industry. However, after digitalization came to life in 1986, the foundries were shut down one after another, leaving Ri Xing the last type foundry in the country.

Chang also says that under the control of the Communist Party, the publishing industry and type foundries are all closely monitored in China, banning all private-owned companies in the industry. In recent years, factories in Liaoning, Shanghai and Shenzhen saw business opportunities in lead type and started to repair the old type-founding machines, running the business in a low-key.

“However, they use simplified Chinese characters. They can’t substitute the market of traditional characters in Taiwan," Chang says proudly.

China Times reports, authorities in China have been negotiating terms with Chang through various channels. They tried to buy the type foundry and Chang’s craft altogether offering the owner billions of Chinese yuan.

Nevertheless, Chang turned down every offer. He insists that the island bred Ri Xing and its significance to Taiwan cannot be measured by money. He says that even though he has suffered operating deficit, he never thought about giving up the foundry.

UDN reports, in 2014, the dean of the University of Bath Spa in the UK visited Ri Xing to exchange thoughts and ideas with Chang. Moved by the foreign scholars’ passion and eagerness to learn, Chang immediately decided to give them lead types that were worth more than NT$ 1 million (approximately US$ 30,000).

Chang says, “As long as there is one printing factory in Taiwan that still wants to use lead type, Ri Xing will never turn off its light."

Translated by Vic Chiang
Edited by Olivia Yang

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