The Blessing of the Big Fish Monument, Tainan

The Blessing of the Big Fish art installation in Anping Fisherman's Wharf

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Once a derelict sliver of harborside lawns and plazas, Anping’s waterfront has been revitalized with a series of beautification projects in the last decade or so. Erected in the late 2010’s is a life-sized sculpted whale that now adorns the bustling Fisherman's Wharf. Fashioned from a hefty amount of steel, the Blessing of the Big Fish art installation pays a tribute to Taiwan’s nascent nationhood while offering sweeping views from its mouth-shaped viewing platform.

Stretching along the waterfront of Taiwan’s oldest city, Historic Harborside Park was up until recently a part of an urban wasteland where neglect reigns supreme. In an attempt to rebrand Tainan’s Anping District, the entire area around the old harbor was facelifted and then dotted with multiple art installations, including an eye-catching sculpture which aptly resonates with the nearby ocean.


Created in 2019 by the locally renowned artist Yang Shih-Yi, the Blessing of the Big Fish is, as its name implies, a sculpted figure of a Cetacea, sandwiched between Anping Fisherman’s Wharf and the aforementioned park. With a width of 10 meters, a height of 8 meters and a length of a whopping 23 meters, the 2-story structure bears an uncanny resemblance to its real-life counterpart and source of inspiration.


Instead of a thick skin and layers of fat, though, Anping’s land-based whale is made almost entirely of metal. In fact, the sculpture’s uppermost part was intricately assembled from 3,714 individual stainless-steel pipes. To imbue the mesh with a seamless appearance, the pipes were all welded together, without the use of any rivets or bolts.


Accessible by a wide stairway that runs through the whale’s space-filled belly, the sculpture’s upper deck is centered around a mosaic of stained glass, whose contour and bulge are reminiscent of the island of Taiwan. Interestingly, this is no coincidence as this cluster of 448 colorful pieces of translucent glass deliberately mimics the geographical features of Formosa with the intent of conveying a deep message.


According to the sculptor, Taiwan is akin to a big whale which safely navigates through the choppy waters unscathed (the country’s tumultuous past and present) while carrying its ginormous weight (the Taiwanese people). Even if you find it hard to relate to these lofty ideas, one thing is hardly disputed – the expansive vistas of Anping during sunset, abundantly offered from the whale’s perpetually opened maw, are awe-inspiring.