Interview #03

Interview with the life story continuator

The Old House Inn in Tainan

Written by RMM

In our last article, we have introduced The Old House Inn in Tainan to you. The Old House Inn is not just a residential place, but it is even a potential space that brings history forward. It is an unforgettable experience for RMM to have a face-to-face interview with Kyle Hsieh, the owner of The Old House Inn. This thirtyish young man's eyes sparkle when he is giving us a full account of the details and heart-felt experience of preserving the old houses. His persistence in retaining the old houses manages to touch many people's hearts.

The Old House Inn at Bao'an Road. It is the last Old House Inn of the "Old House Club". The Old House Inn project in Tainan is officially finished.
Photo ©RMM

The Old House Inn at Bao'an Road. It is the last Old House Inn of the "Old House Club". The Old House Inn project in Tainan is officially finished.
Photo ©RMM

What does an old house need?

There are five basic elements for an old house. They are tatami, mosquito nets, quilts, bamboos and terrazzo stones. I have found five experts in making these objects to work with me. They are my grandmother’s good friends. Their age is over four hundred altogether. As a local, I have established connections. It is easier for me to find ways to solve the problems I face in repair work. But it is unavoidable to have conflicts when we work together as they are very experienced and professional. Even their disciples are over seventy years old, so it is difficult for them to agree with my modern style. We need to make adjustments for one another when we repair the old houses together. I treat the whole process a learning experience. We have repaired five old houses already and these old masters can fully understand what I want now.

The handmade tatami, mosquito nets and quilts by the old masters are definitely one of the attractions of The Old House Inn.
Photo ©RMM

We have spent exactly one year for planning and real repair work. I have been living in the old house for almost thirty years, so I have deep familiarity and bonding with the old house. That is why all we have to do is to keep 70% of its original structure and simply adjust its proportions. I have heard that it is a bit complicated for antiquities in Hong Kong. But since our house is only sixty-year-old rather than a hundred-year plus architecture; together with the fact that only a few knew about the issue of old house preservation, the entire process wasn’t that difficult when it came to official procedures. The entire project is self-funded and done entirely on our own. Although the remaking of the old house is very difficult, I have a strong belief that it is a revolution. Starting from six years ago when I first saw two important antiquities were torn down in Tainan, I knew that I must do something for this city.

Left: Every brick, tile and stone is extraordinary. They form the unique style of the old house. Photo ©RMM

Middle: Just as what the words denote, "Hsieh" is Kyle Hsieh's family name whereas "House" is the home. The Hsiehs has left their traces of life both within and outside the old houses. Photo ©RMM

Why would you preserve more than one house? Did you plan that right from the start?

I couldn’t plan right from the start as I didn't know if I could succeed. The idea is right, but time is also important. I mean, when I started the project six years ago, the old house still existed and we still had time to do something. But could the public accept this idea? Six years ago was the time when Tainan was ready to develop its old houses, yet it doesn't guarantee that the entire Taiwan is ready. Each city differs. Each has its own ethos and stories, so it would be entirely different when it comes to executing the idea. The revolutionary journey of starting from zero is the key for our success in preserving one old house and eventually five old houses.

How would you continue your project in the future? Do you have other planning? How would you introduce The Old House Inn to guests overseas?

We have finished five old houses. We will not continue to do the same project in Tainan. I want to start the old house business in Kyoto. Taiwan is very influenced by Japanese culture, and I believe that the most ancient city of Japan has the best old houses. I want to let the Japanese know that the Taiwanese also offer good service. I don’t have to earn a lot of money, but I have to make our idea global. Our Facebook page also covers Hong Kong, and I wish to see more people joining our platform in the future.
I have introduced to some foreign guests about our vision in preserving old houses. To Europeans, the sixty-year-old houses are not as old as their two-hundred-year-old homes. But the proportion of our time sense is so different, as the time that they are talking about refers to two hundred years over one thousand years. In contrast, we are talking about sixty years over four hundred years of history. I believe they will accept our belief as they understand that if we can’t even preserve the sixty-year-old houses, how are we going to sustain the upcoming one hundred years? What is more, The Old House Inn contains traces of life, which is why it touches people’s hearts. I truly believe that this is precisely the real worth of The Old House Inn.

These are the photos of the stoney floors taken by Kyle from other old houses. Once upon a time, families in Tainan loved to use the stones on their floors to make puzzles of interesting shapes. Actually, there are many interesting stories behind each of the picturesque works done by the families.
Photo ©RMM

Thank you Kyle for the interview. His old house preservation journey proves to us that even when change changes itself, the old house and the human touch still remain. These deeper qualities in life will move along with the wheels of modernity and continue to make history in an endless breath.
For more information about The Old House Inn, please visit its Facebook page:

This energetic and passionate man is Kyle Hsieh, the owner of The Old House Inn.

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