A little country in the city for Taiwan envoys

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments
The living room is a simple, bright space, decorated with imposing Chinese rosewood chairs and tables.

The living room is a simple, bright space, decorated with imposing Chinese rosewood chairs and tables.

Up a long shaded driveway, hidden from view on the eastern shore of McKay Lake, there’s the home where David Tawei Lee, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, and his wife, Lin Chih, a former banker and now an IT consultant, have lived for the past five years.
The residence is a lavish four-bedroom stone mansion designed by noted Ottawa architect Barry Hobin and built in 1989 for businessman Ronald Sumner. Mr. Sumner sold the luxe digs to Taiwan in 1994, thus providing the country’s representatives with an elegant and almost country-like estate. From their large slate terrace, the couple can hear the call of bullfrogs, ducks and birds and, if they wish, they can take a walk through the woods on a country-style path behind their house.

 

Dr. Lee and his wife, Lin Chih, in their living room.

Dr. Lee and his wife, Lin Chih, in their living room.

A circular driveway invites guests to enter a small tiled foyer and, from there, into the vestibule leading to the two-level main hall and staircase of the house. Dark oak flooring lines the living room — a simple, bright space with a marble fireplace topped with a cherrywood-engraved mantel and glass doors, which lead to the terrace overlooking the lake. French doors open to a sunken sunroom. The room is decorated with imposing Chinese rosewood chairs and tables carved with delicate oyster shell.
The floors are covered with Chinese carpets and the walls with paintings and objets d’art from places as diverse as Central America, Africa and, of course. Taiwan. Most of the art belongs to the well-travelled couple, and that includes the Chinese landscape that dominates the room. An ebony Chinese Buddha comes from Swaziland and a carved wooden warrior, Chung Kuei, is poised near the door, ready to fight.

 

Two calligraphic scrolls, by Hsu Shih-chang, president of China from 1918-1922, hang in the front hall.

Two calligraphic scrolls, by Hsu Shih-chang, president of China from 1918-1922, hang in the front hall.

“He is always placed facing the front door,” Dr. Lee laughs. “Just in case some vicious spirit comes in, he will be ready.”

Taiwanese pottery decorates the residence.

Taiwanese pottery decorates the residence.

A delicate, jade-encrusted screen is one of the home’s treasure while two calligraphic scrolls hang in the front hall. They are the handiwork of Hsu Shih-chang, president of the Republic of China from 1918-1922. They were a gift to Dr. Lee’s grandfather, a financial backer of the president. The calligraphy was part of an examination undertaken by those wishing to join the government.
The house also contains a sunken study with a marble fireplace, enhanced with a burled walnut mantel and a large dining room with glass doors leading to the terrace. Charming pieces of Quemoy pottery are on display during the parties and dinners hosted by the couple. Quemoy is an island in the Taiwan Strait under the jurisdiction of Taiwan.

 

The exterior of the home is a classic design, made to blend with its Rockcliffe surroundings by architect Barry Hobin.

The exterior of the home is a classic design, made to blend with its Rockcliffe surroundings by architect Barry Hobin.

“We always serve Chinese food, of course,” says Dr. Lee, who is very proud that a local publication picked his national day as the best diplomatic reception of the year.
“We work closely with the Chateau Laurier, where we hold the party, to make sure the food is as authentic as possible.” While Dr. Lee agrees that Taiwan is not recognized everywhere, and he is not invited to all diplomatic events, he stresses that his office runs exactly like an embassy, communicating with a variety of government departments.

 

Dr. Lee and his pooch, Chucky.

Dr. Lee and his pooch, Chucky.

Perhaps one of the most dramatic stops in the house is the vast kitchen, a luxurious space that would show up well on a Food Network show. With its gray walls, white appliances and counters, it is an oversized playground for the residence’s cook. Big enough to prepare for a banquet, there is also space for two breakfast tables and chairs and a TV area, complete with a small sofa.
Since almost every main-floor room leads to the large terrace, that’s the spot where the representative holds garden parties, a place where guests can feel they are in the country. And if there is wind and rain, then it’s a mere few steps to the large party room, an indoor swimming pool in a former life.

 

A kitchen worhty of Food Network.

A kitchen worhty of Food Network.

The diplomatic couple will leave Canada this summer and move home to Taiwan for the first time in 11 years. They were posted in Brussels and Washington before coming to Ottawa.
Dr. Lee has enjoyed Canada and Canadians, but winter wasn’t his favourite time of year. And as for his adored schnauzer, Chucky, well he’s the real diplomat in the family with four passports or rather, computer chips, of his own … Canada, Taiwan, Belgium and U.S. Perhaps Chucky will look back happily to his comfortable Rockcliffe home and his regular promenades on the little path beside the lake.

 

Margo Roston is Diplomat’s culture editor.

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Margo Roston is Diplomat’s culture editor.

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