毗鄰中正區牯嶺街，前身為日治時代台北城南古亭町，一直以來便是日本人的重要聚集地，其方東美寓所與高等官舍群於 2007 年分別被指名為歷史建築與市定古蹟，如今老宅華麗蛻變，背後靈魂人物乃是力麒建設郭淑珍董事長。談起修復東美院的機遇，她笑答一切緣分皆來自「佛經」，當初至寓所附近查看建案，卻意外發現房舍殘舊不堪，探聽下得知為方東美教授故宅，而方東美一生致力於華嚴經研究，恰與郭淑珍有著深厚連結，不忍望其荒廢樣貌，便起心動念投標修復，「因為他是一個哲學大師，研究華嚴經這麼深入，也希望將來有人在這邊可以講經、講人生哲學給社會大眾理解。」延續人文精神底蘊，並還原日式格局，一草一花一木、枯山水至心字池，皆是郭淑珍悉心下的種種巧思，悄然體現追求卓爾的個人特質。「透過預約制，吃完懷石套餐後，移動到對面的空間喝茶，兩邊有不同的景色跟視角，我都很喜歡。」
Within the courtyard deep and still, willows pile up smoke as curtains waver lonely in the hill, once wrote an old Chinese poem that captures the residence of the late philosopher, Thomé H. Fang. Following the gravel path, we slowly enter the tranquil forest of ancient pine trees. Savor the rich aroma of pu’er tea, taste the seasonal ingredients of Japanese kaiseki cuisine and appreciate the contemporary art and culture that construct a new imagery for the century-old elegance. As the awakening of spring arrives, the cherry blossoms on the branches can no longer contain their vitality and bloom like the sheepish smile of a young girl. Hidden amidst the bustling city and in peace as destiny will show its way for travelers, Thome Courtyard awaits.
The Past and the Present
Located next to Guling Street in Zhongzheng District, the place was formerly known as the Kuting District of Taipei City during the Japanese colonial period and has always been a central gathering place for the Japanese. In 2007, the Thomé H. Fang Residence and the cluster of dorms where Japanese high-level military officials used to live were coined as historic buildings and city monuments. Today, the old mansion has undergone a gorgeous transformation and the person who made it all happen is Chairman Shu-Chen Guo of Rich Development. Speaking of the opportunity to restore Thome Courtyard, she laughs and says it is all because of the Buddhist scriptures. Originally, she visited a construction project for inspection near the old residence and was surprised to find the house in disrepair. Upon inquiring, Guo learned that it belonged to the late Professor Fang, who devoted his life to the study of Buddhāvataṃsaka Sūtra. Feeling a deep connection towards him and his studies, she was unwilling to see the residence remain in a state of neglect and was eager to bid for the restoration project. “Since he was a senior philosopher who devoted his life to studying scriptures, hopefully in the future someone would be able to come here and share his or her philosophy of life to the public through giving sermons as well.” To inherit the humanistic and cultural spirit and restore the Japanese interior, every flower, plant, tree, Japanese dry garden, including the Shinjiike, are planted by Guo with delicate care, which also reflects her pursuit of excellence. “Through making reservations, guests can move to the opposite space to enjoy their tea after finishing their kaiseki meal. I really like the scenery and landscapes on both sides.”
Promoting Art and Literature
Emitting a distinctive philosophical atmosphere, Thome Courtyard serves as a multifunctional arts and cultural space. It is a tea room, a gallery for artwork and crafts and also a venue for hosting art exhibitions—this is exactly the vision Guo hoped to build to bring new meaning to old buildings. Dedicated to supporting local artists and their hard work, she is excited about the possibility of inviting foreign artists to further promote the idea of beauty appreciation in life. A ceramics enthusiast, she once bought a pottery wheel to wheel throw at home and then brought her work to the classroom for glazing. Living in a house filled with all kinds of pottery, she laughs and says with pride and joy that they are still in use. The tearoom at Thome Courtyard also displays many of Chairman Guo’s private collections, including Japanese antique teapots, bookshelves, bowls, Bali-style boat tables and chairs. A symbol of past times, the weathered paint echoes with the vintage interior of the tearoom, adding a touch of whimsical imagination to visitors by blurring the concept of time. Take a seat in the washitsu and enjoy the gold, glistening tea as the aftertaste, fresh and floral, brings a sense of zen tranquility that blooms from within the heart.
Follow the Natural Course
With an emphasis on seasonality, the essence of kaiseki consists of three key elements—utensils, seasonal ingredients and sensibility. The utensils are carefully selected from Japanese lacquerware and antique tableware, seasonal ingredients are chosen locally from Taiwan and Japan, while sensibility is achieved by using seasonal flowers and plants to establish the ambiance. With his rigorous training and 27 years of experience, Head Chef Xiangfu Wang perfectly inherits the spirit of kaiseki. Having worked at famous restaurants such as Shintori and Mihan Honke, he has accumulated a unique set of culinary principles over the years. Tapping into the changes our five senses undergo throughout the seasons, he transforms them into classic appetizers, suzakana and soup dishes and makes sure each mouthful exhibits excellent freshness. “The spring menu is designed around the cherry blossom season. Spring ingredients are added to the hassun, our second course, such as octopus cooked in red beans, clove fish, asparagus tofu and mochi made from cherry blossom and its leaves.” To Chef Wang, kaiseki is a romantic way of conveying time. Through savoring each dish, guests are immersed in the historic beauty of Thome Courtyard, as they are acknowledging the story and meaning deeply embedded in each bite. Aspiring to build a dining experience that is comfortable from the inside out, he continues to strive forward with determination and loyalty.