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Taiwan: Alishan National Park, Kaohsiung, Sun Moon Lake, Tainan, Taipei, Taitung, Taroko National Park, Yehliu Geo Park
Tainan, Taiwan: Former Capital city
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Tainan, a city on Taiwan’s southwest coast, was the island’s capital from 1683–1887 under the Qing dynasty. Today it’s known for its centuries-old fortresses and temples. One of its most famous sites is Chihkan Tower, an 18th-century Chinese complex with gardens, intricately carved towers and a temple erected on the foundations of Fort Provintia, a Dutch outpost dating to the mid-1600s.
It took us 3 hours to touch Tainan. Since the weather was kind and sun was out, we made a few stops to savour and picture the Taiwanese countryside. Its manicured tea-estates and valleys offered us some much needed views. We also made a stop at a private museum in the city of Chiayi. The owner took pains to create an exact replica of the erstwhile general's house. Alongside the house, rooms with murals show the various vendors of the era gone by and also a few rooms depicitng the life after death... the heaven and hell.
Our first stop in Tainan was the Confucius Temple.
The Tainan Confucius Temple, with its three and a half century old history was the first Confucius Temple constructed in Taiwan (of which there are now many) and is considered to be the first real "school" in Taiwan. The temple today serves as a popular tourist attraction and is an important historical site where ancient tradition is both practiced and preserved so that future generations can continue to experience not only Confucian philosophical values but also the Taiwanese folk traditions which have helped shape Taiwan into the country it is today.
The current look and layout of the temple comes from the 1917 renovations done during the Japanese era, though many of the structures are much older. At the heart of temple is the main hall, known as Dacheng Hall - its roof dates back to 1719. It is surrounded by an enclosure of halls that connect to the greater temple grounds though Dacheng Gate. In front of Dacheng Gate is the main courtyard. Here, in addition to Banyan trees and open ground, we find two ceremonial gates known as the Li Gate and the Yi Path which symbolize the main disciplines of Confucianism.
Talking of trees, Taiwanese consider banyan, willow and mulberry trees as inauspicious. These trees are never planted in one’s backyard as they are considered to be the abode of the ghosts. However, it’s OK for them to be in and around temple premises.
In front of the central courtyard is the Pan Pond, a semi-circular stone pond that was also a site of ceremonial rituals. Next to Dacheng Hall is the Hall of Edification, or Minglun Hall, where you can find Confucian text displayed in beautiful calligraphy. Tucked in the corner behind Minglun Hall is the Wen Chang Pavilion, built in 1886 and very recently restored. This is a three story pavilion dedicated to the literature deity, Wen Chang. Surrounding this compound are great red walls. Two gates, known as East Dacheng Gate and West Dacheng Gate, allow access through these walls. The east gate sits on Nanmen Road, making it the main gate and a common symbol for the temple as a whole. Across Nanmen Road is the Pan Gao Stone Arch, which was added in 1777.
Since our car was parked further away, we spent some time in a lane opposite the temple. At the other end, Steven was waiting for us. Our next stop was the famous Chikhan Tower.
Built by the Dutch in 1653, the Tower was once known as “Fort Provintia” and the Han People also called it "Chihkan Tower" or the “Red Haired Tower.” The Tower’s walls, made of red bricks, are adhered by a specially designed cement mixture, made of sticky rice, sugared water and oyster shell; thereby, making it withstand the test of time. When there are examinations, students often come here and pray Kuei Xin Ye, the god who guards students, for good grades. The pen held in Kuei Xin Ye’s hand was therefore often stolen!
Just across the road, is a shop that sells winter melon juice. It's a traditional business that's been handed down for generations. A walk in the fortress will surely make you thirsty... and trust me the drink out here will quench you well. It has my recommendation... one of the advantages of having a local guide!
We now drove towards Kaohsiung.
Tainan Image Gallery Photo viewer
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