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June 26, 2017

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Museum celebrating Taiwan saxophone maker's life opens

TAIPEI--A saxophone museum documenting the life of Taiwan's first saxophone maker and the development of saxophone making in Houli, central Taiwan, opened to the public Thursday.

The Chang Lien-cheng Saxophone Museum is named after a local resident who made the first saxophone in Taiwan on his own, sparking the development of the saxophone production industry in Houli, which is now one of the largest centers of saxophone production in the world.

Located in a town that is nicknamed Musical Instrument Town, the museum will display a collection of saxophones. Previously a memorial hall dedicated to Chang, the museum site now has a new two-story building, a concert hall and a tourist-friendly factory that allows visitors to see how the instrument is made.

"The museum is certainly not the only saxophone museum in Taiwan, but it is definitely the only one with a lot of stories to be shared," said Wang Tsai-jui, the granddaughter-in-law of Chang, in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

Chang, born in 1912, was a farmer's son who abandoned the family's farmland to become a painter. He later joined a band when he was in his 20s.

"No one during the 1930s was actually playing any kind of Western instruments, but Chang was fascinated by the saxophone," his granddaughter-in-law said.

When Chang's saxophone was damaged in a fire, he was determined to build the brass tube by himself. He started from observing the shape of the instrument on canvas. Three years into the making of the saxophone in 1948, he lost eyesight in his right eye when a piece of copper flashed into his right eye ball. But the incident did not stop Chang from continuing his pursuit, and the first locally-made horn was born shortly after the incident.

"The museum is really about showing the personality and perseverance of a person who loved music so much," Wang said.

Up until Chang's death, he had trained a number of apprentices, helping saxophone making become a lucrative export industry for Taiwan from the 1950s to the 1990s. It's no longer as profitable as before due to competition from China.

Two of the must-see horns in the museum are an intricately- made saxophone with the decoration of a dragon on the tube, specially made by Chang, and a 160-year-old saxophone produced by the world's saxophone inventor Adolphe Sax, which was found and bought by Wang's family through laborious trips to Belgium, Wang said. "We knew from the start that the museum is about more than showcasing the locally-made instruments; we want to tell the very first story of the fascinating instrument," Wang said.

Wang's four daughters are all saxophone players.

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