Ri Xing, The Last Type Foundry in Taiwan

Photo of Paul entering RiXing Type Foundry in Taipei by Tomomi Sasaki, on Flickr

It all started with the background image for an exhibition poster in Taipei during our week-long trip there early December with Tomomi and Naoki. The detailed photo of a lead type foundry shelf struck a cord in all of us and no one could resist adding such singular destination to the masterfully planned visit of the island prepared by our friend Leonard. This single photo sent us on a multi-day quest which ended at Ri Xing Typography (日星鑄字行), the last type foundry in Taiwan.

We visited the tiny factory building on a nondescript side street near Taipei’s main station on our last day in Taipei. The picture above is me walking through a corridor lined up with metal type cast from the purported last complete set of traditional Chinese character copper molds in the world.

The owner’s wife told us that in 2007, the now only remaining factory from the 5000 or so 40 years ago, started an effort to preserve this important piece of Taiwan’s cultural legacy and promote letterpress printing to younger generations. The Ri Xing Letterpress Rehabilitation Project is currently composed of a group of volunteers who meet regularly to prepare awareness campaigns (日星鑄字行 Rixing Type Foundry on Facebook), letterpress printing training, and font preserving activities (the main font named Kaishu 楷書 is being digitized for reproduction and distribution).

The factory (now more of a working museum) is open nearly daily and visitors are free to roam the corridors and buy the lead type casts as souvenirs for friends etc. At the beginning of our visit, we were handed a little booklet containing a preview of the different fonts available (Chinese, Roman and even Japanese Katakana and Hiragana) and spent an hour hunting all of our friends’ names and favorite Chinese characters. Individual lead type cost between NT$30~80 per piece and our gifts created a sensation when brought back to Japan.

Address: 13, Ln 97, Taiyuan Rd, Taipei City (台北市太原路97巷13號) Telephone: (02) 2556-4626

A selection of photos from Tomomi’s Flickr:

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    Based in Paris & Tokyo, Paul Baron is a senior product manager for hire. Ex-@AQworks. Co-founder of cultural platform Tokyo Art Beat.
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