Taiwan’s ‘Arabian King’ dies at 83

Lin made his fortune in Saudi Arabia and built a Middle Eastern palace on the Yilan coast

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The 'Little White House' in Waiao along the coast of Yilan County.

The 'Little White House' in Waiao along the coast of Yilan County. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Businessman Lin Shao-wen (林昭文), known as Taiwan’s “Arabian King” due to a palatial mansion in Middle Eastern style he built on the island’s northeast coast, died at the age of 83, reports said Thursday (May 2).

As a young man, he made his fortune in Saudi Arabia before returning to Taiwan and founding the Yoai Department Store in Yilan City in 1997, the Central News Agency reported.

The store would eventually close down in 2016, but by that time Lin had gained prominence due to the building of a grandiose white palace in Arabic style along the coast in Waiao, a neighborhood of Toucheng, also in Yilan County.

While closed to the public, the structure was clearly visible from the nearby coastal road and railway line, and became a popular spot for wedding photos. From the beach behind the palace, visitors could also view Turtle Island (龜山島), one of the region’s main landmarks.

Plans to establish a hotel in the building a few years back met with vigorous opposition, mainly from environmentalists who feared the beach and the ocean would suffer.

Lin reportedly tried to sell the property, known locally as the “Little White House,” for an estimated NT$3.3 billion (US$106 million), but it found no buyers.

The businessman died at Taipei Veterans General Hospital on April 28, leaving the palace to his heirs, CNA reported.