Taipei Story House (台北故事館), the architectural equivalent of a cupcake, is currently hosting the perfect exhibition for it: Story of Dolls (娃娃的故事). It is geared towards families with young children and school groups, but the displays also touch on Taiwan’s manufacturing history and economic growth over the last century. For more information, please see my Taipei Times article.
One of the first rooms is dedicated to Barbie dolls, which were once manufactured in what is now New Taipei City’s Taishan District (泰山). When Mattel decided to move its flagship factory away from Taishan in 1987, the area took a big financial hit.
Refined ceramic figures like the one above were manufactured in Gongguan Township (公館鄉) in Miaoli County during the 1970s and 1980s for export to Europe. I had no idea about this, even though my mother’s family is from Gongguan (though I am sure there are lots of things I don’t know about Gongguan).
Taiwan Story House took paper dolls that were popular during the late 1970s and early 1980s and blew their outfits into lifesize “costumes” that visitors can hold up to themselves in front of a mirror.
Store bought dolls were considered treasured possessions by most families before the economy started to take off in the 1970s. Japanese pose dolls like the one above, for example, were carefully displayed in cases. (On a personal note, I LOVE JAPANESE POSE DOLLS, especially the ones with the little mod minidresses inspired by fashions from the postwar Showa era.)
These Japanese dolls were given to a young couple as a wedding present. A lot of families made playthings for their kids, sometimes using skills that they had learned from doing piecework at home for factories. By the early 1980s, however, greater prosperity and lowered custom taxes meant that all hell broke loose for parents as kids were able to beg for all on the Doraemon, Disney, Hello Kitty, Snoopy and Pokemon stuff that their hearts desired:
I remember chewing on a lot of these when I was little: