Lukang, Part 3

26 10 2007

We wrapped up our visit to Lukang with two Taiwan Living Heritage Artist shops, shrimp monkeys in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and a quick peek at Tianhou Temple.

The main north-south artery that runs through the historic part of Lukang is Jhongshan Road.  On the southern end of Jhongshan Road are the Martial Temple, Wenchang Temple, and Wenkai Academy.  Longshan Temple is also in the southern section of the historic center on Sanmin Road, which is perpendicular to Jhongshan Road.   Meanwhile, the entrance to the cleaned up part of 9-Turns Lane is just off Jhongshan Road on Sinsheng Road north of Longshan Temple.  Tianhou Temple caps off the northern end of historic Lukang and Jhongshan Road.

The first place we visited, at 312 Jhongshan Road, was Master Wu Dun-Hou’s Folk Lantern shop.

I wanted to buy one of the lanterns displayed outside (shown below) but my mom laughed because most of these lanterns were run of the mill lanterns for restaurants, and say things like “fried noodles” or “fish” on them.

Folk Lantern Shop - Lukang

Master Wu Dun-Hou is a renowned creator of traditional Chinese lanterns who is one of the winners of the Living Heritage Awards in Taiwan.  The Living Heritage Awards are given by the Ministry of Education to recognize Taiwan’s top craftsmen.  Lukang is unique in that it claims 6 Living Heritage craftsmen, the most of any city in Taiwan.

Master Wu Dun-Hou

Master Wu has been making lanterns in the traditional way for over sixty years and has devoted his life to developing and passing down this traditional art form.

Folk Lanterns - Lukang

Although Master Wu was not there when we visited, we met one of the artisans who told us about the lanterns.  Most of the lanterns are still hand painted, but some of the smaller, cheaper lanterns are partially printed and finished off by the artisans.  The lanterns inside the store are more suitable for inside the home, unlike the ones displayed outside!  When you purchase a lantern, you can pick an auspicious saying that they will paint on the lanterns for you.  You can then pick them up in about an hour.

Amidst dozens of lanterns are the artist’s paint brushes:

Folk Lantern Artist Tools

We got the yellow lantern with the dragon in the bottom right hand corner of the photo above.

After the lantern shop, we walked up Jhongshan Road to the Tianhou Temple area to eat lunch.  There is a small square outside the temple with dozens of food stands, tea shops, and restaurants.

Lukang - Main Square

Main Square

Like most tourist destinations in Taiwan, Lukang has a bunch of local food specialties. They include oyster omelettes, deep fried oyster cakes, shrimp monkeys (fried mud shrimp), ox-tongue cake, and steamed port buns.

We had oyster omelette and shrimp monkeys for lunch.  Honestly, we were not too impressed with the food here.  It could just be this restaurant, though, which was a little too hole-in-the-wall for our taste, if you know what I mean.
Shrimp Monkeys (Fried Mud Shrimp)

Shrimp Monkeys

Since it started raining again, we were only able to catch a quick outside glimpse of Tianhou Temple.

Tianhou Temple

Tianhou Temple

Our last stop of the day was at another Living Heritage shop called the Divine Woodcarving Shop.  I didn’t realize until we found the shop that its name was literal.  This shop carves religious statues for temples around the island.  It was just past Tianhou Temple on 655 Fusing Road, but it was difficult to spot because it looked like the living room of someone’s house.  One of the master carvers was hard at work carving, but I didn’t want to disturb him.  He was shy about pictures, but let me photograph the wood carvings on display.

Heavenly Carvings

We had to end our trip to Lukang at this point because it started pouring rain.  I would have really liked to see some more sights though!  I think we missed some good stuff.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Craig Ferguson, a photo blogger, did a great series on Lukang with beautiful pictures (on a very sunny day!).

Wandering in Lugang, Part 1

Wandering in Lugang, Part 2

Wandering in Lugang, Part 3





Lukang, Part 2

21 10 2007

After we finished with Longshan Temple, we set out to look for other historic sights in Lukang, including Nine Turns Lane and Gentleman’s Lane. Nine Turns Lane is a long narrow lane, more like an alley, with lots of sharp turns that was built to repel bandits and cold winds in September. Thus its name is not derived from the number of turns, but rather refers to the month of September. The houses and walls running along this lane are among the oldest still standing in Taiwan.

We had a little difficulty finding this narrow lane, and actually ended up walking through real, modern alleys and the non-restored part of the historic lane before we happened upon the part of Nine Turns Lane that is featured in guidebooks. There are signs posted of all the historic sights, and we had a map, but it was still a little hard to find. I suppose if we had come on an ordinary non-rainy day, we could have just followed the crowd. The easiest thing is to just ask a local, but that mostly only works if you speak Chinese or Taiwanese.

We sought out Nine Turns Lane because it sounded really intriguing and romantic. My first impression of this area was that it was a lot smaller and more rundown than my expectations. Obviously, my expectations were off base, and it makes sense that the scale of these historic buildings would be much smaller than modern abodes. People grouped themselves close together to defend against strong winds and pirates, as the name implies.

Lukang Alley

With crumbling structures and mold surrounding it, this part of the lane was not as “touristified” as the official Nine Turns Lane. Old structures, some abandoned and some still occupied, were surrounded by teardowns, more modern but ugly buildings, and empty lots full of detritus, which I felt no need to photograph. There were still some historic gems among the signs of modern living, however. The non-restored buildings also seemed more authentic.

Lukang Alley

As you can tell by the scooters parked outside and the trash piled next to them, local residents still live here. They must have thought it odd that people would find their homes interesting when Lukang first became a tourist attraction. I’m sure they are used to the gawking tourists by now, though.

Lukang Alley

I love the woodwork and brick on these buildings.

Lukang Lane

My mother was not impressed with these houses because they brought back bad memories for her. To her, these buildings represented the poor conditions people lived in when she was a child in Kaohsiung before more modern homes were built and people’s living conditions improved. Her comments really gave us a different perspective of these historic lanes and brought home the point written offhand in many guidebooks – that Lukang only had historic buildings because it refused to modernize when other parts of Taiwan had. So while it is good that these buildings have not been torn down (especially since Taiwan is generally bad at historic preservation), the people of Lukang did pay a price when the town did not modernize. Ideally, the townspeople of places like Lukang should recognize and preserve historic buildings, but then move to more modern abodes either in Lukang or elsewhere. Unfortunately, not everyone has the means to do this.

Lukang Lane

Ugly, more modern (but not that modern), buildings peek out behind the historic buildings.

Lukang Lane

A neighbor has beautified this corner of the lane.

Water Pump

My dad was intrigued by this old water pump. He used them a lot when growing up because there was no running water inside the home. Also, he is an engineer.

Brick Window

Old Windows were made in this brick formation, as you can see in this abandoned building.

Brick Window

Window

The slightly more modern version of these windows, circa 1950. Actually, I think Taiwanese buildings still use these type of security bars on their windows.

Start of Nine Turns Lane

Ah, we have finally reached the “official” part of Nine Turns Lane!

Start of Nine Turns Lane

Signs like these are all over Lukang, so look UP!

Nine Turns Lane

Oh wait, we are still seeing cement buildings!

SHIH YIH HALL
Shih Yih Hall

Shih Yih Hall

Shih Yih Hall

Shih Yih Hall

Shih Yih Hall

Nine Turns Lane

Looking back to Shih Yih Hall

Nine Turns Lane

This door looks hundreds of years old.

Approaching one of the many turns of Nine Turns Lane…

Nine Turns Lane

Nine Turns Lane

Here a Turn…

Nine Turns Lane

There a turn…

Nine Turns Lane

Hi Dad!

Nine Turns Lane

Around the bend…

I guess on nice days, vendors sell food in this lane.

Nine Turns Lane

Description of Nine Turns Lane

Here is official description of Nine Turns Lane.

Nine Turns Lane

Looking Back at the Last Turn

Nine Turns Lane

Another Turn…

Nine Turns Lane

Nine Turns Lane

Nine Turns Lane

Another twist and turn.

After we reached the end of Nine Turns Lane, we came to a large (modern) intersection that had lots of food stands. We asked a vendor where to find Gentleman’s Alley, aka “Touch Breast Lane.” It was just a few blocks from Nine Turns Lane.

Gentleman’s Lane was so named because it is so narrow that only one person can go at a time, because otherwise touching someone else is unavoidable.

Gentleman's Alley

It was so narrow, we nearly missed it but for this sign. It looked like a gutter from the street.

Gentleman's Alley

We were kind of scratching our heads about why this was an attraction, but I believe the whole of Lukang is better than the sum of the parts.

Lukang

We were rewarded with this juxtaposition between old and new, although the picture looks a lot nicer than the reality.

Next: Lukang, Part 3.





Lukang, Part 1

14 10 2007

We finished up our visit to Central Taiwan with a trip to nearby Lukang (Lugang), one of Taiwan’s oldest and most historic towns. Our visit was actually on the day that Typhoon Wipha passed by Taiwan, so it was pouring rain much of the day. Luckily, we were still able to see a lot of Lukang in between rain showers. We visited several sites pointed out by our travel guides, including Longshan Temple, Nine Turns Lane, Gentleman’s Alley, Tianhou Temple, and two workshops/shops owned by Living Heritage artists.

Lukang, or “Deer Harbor,” was given this name because long ago herds of deer roamed in the grassy lands next to this natural harbor. Because of this harbor, Lukang became a large and important port for years. At its zenith in the 1600s, Lukang was Taiwan’s second largest town. The harbor began to silt up in the late 1800s, however, effectively marking the end of the town as a commercial center. When the Japanese closed the harbor to large ships in 1895, Lukang largely became a backwater until it was rediscovered as a historic site in the twentieth century.

Lukang Alley

Lukang is, at times, a deceptive tourist attraction. When you first arrive, the town looks like any other small, unremarkable Taiwanese town. In fact, it looks even more rundown than usual. Like many historic areas that are still populated, the actual historic site is dwarfed by the dirty, modern city surrounding it. In addition, not every historic site in Lukang is impressive at first glance. Some are humbling, some are ramshackle, and some require a historical understanding to fully appreciate. Most importantly, in some cases history is not preserved in a building or location, but through artistic tradition and its people.

Lukang is full of two to three hundred year old dilapidated houses surrounded by ugly, more modern cement residences.

An Alley in Lukang

A kindly grandmother agreed to pose for me in this picture. She has lived on 9-turns lane her entire life, and has many grandchildren.

A grandma in Lukang

LONGSHAN TEMPLE

Our first stop in Lukang was Longshan Temple, which is considered the best preserved Qing Dynasty temple and one the most famous Buddhist temples in Taiwan. The origins of the temple shrine can be traced to 1653, but it was moved to its current site in 1786. This historic temple did not disappoint, and was actually above and beyond our expectations.

The Main Entrance to Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

Unfortunately, much of the temple, including its main hall, was destroyed in the 921 earthquake (September 21, 1999) so visitors will not be able to view the entire temple. Restoration efforts have been underway to repair the damage for many years. About 2/3 of the temple restoration has been completed, so it’s certainly still worth a visit. If you walk down the red brick alley to the right of the entrance of the temple complex, you will come to a side entrance that leads to the Rear Hall of the temple. From there you can walk back towards the middle temple.

The Rear Hall

Longshan Temple

Looking into the Rear Hall

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

A view towards to the Main Hall

Longshan Temple

A view of the back of the Middle Hall

Longshan Temple

Architectural Details

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

Dark close-up of roof detail

Longshan Temple

We decided to take a closer look at the middle hall.

Longshan Temple

The Front of the Middle Hall

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

Dragon Pillars at Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

View from the Front through one of the Side Doors

Longshan Temple

Inside the Middle Hall

Longshan Temple

The Door Guardians

Longshan Temple

Longshan Temple

A View Towards the Rear Hall

Longshan Temple

Next: More on Lukang, including 9-Turns Lane, Gentleman’s Alley, and Living Heritage artists.





Where to go, what to see in Taiwan

3 09 2007

As I finish up reading all the guidebooks I bought for Taiwan (which, I know is overboard for one trip but this is my hobby), I keep wishing we could stay a few more days so that we can see more of Taiwan. Unfortunately, due to limitations to my vacation time, we can only go for about 1.5 weeks. I plan on going back again, as a lot of my relatives still live in Taiwan, but it will be several years at least.

Here are the places we are planning to visit in Taiwan:

Taipei – 2.5 to 3 days
Jiufen/Jingguashi – 1 day
Hualien/Taroko Gorge – 1 day
Lukang – 0.5 day
Kaohsiung – rest of trip
Night Markets

TAIPEI – Longshan Temple and the surrounding Wanhua district, National Palace Museum, Taipei 101, Ximending

Taipei 101
Photocredit: Alton Thompson under GNU

Taipei 101

Longshan Temple
Photocredit: de:Benutzer:HJS65 under GNU

Longshan Temple

Ximending, Taiwan’s answer to Shibuya (Tokyo, Japan)
Photocredit: Diego Trazzi under GNU

Ximending at Night

JIUFEN and JINGGUASHI

Jiufen/Chiufen
Photocredit: This image has been released into the public domain by its creator, Kwb.

Jiufen

HUALIEN and TAROKO GORGE
Photocredit: Allen Timothy Chang under GNU

Taroko Gorge

Todd did a great post on his visit to Hualien last year, with some gorgeous pictures.

LUKANG
Photocredit: Flora / Prattflora

Matzu Temple

Matzu Temple 2

Check out Craig’s beautiful 3 part photo series on Lugang.

Kaohsiung – Visiting family, shopping, Ai He

Liu He Night Market
Photocredit: Henry Trotter, 2003

Liuho Night Market

Night Markets – In Kaoshiung, we are definitely going to Liu He 2nd Street Night Market. In Taipei, we are probably going to Shilin Night Market and the one next to Longshan Temple since we will be there already. I want to have the famous Ai Yu (Ay Yuh). I don’t know which night market is the best one in Taipei.

Readers, which night market is your favorite?

Holly has an interesting post about Shida’s night market this week.

We have figured out that we need to eat every two hours in order to try all the food that I want. I know it will be a challenge, but I am willing to sacrifice myself to do that. On Prince Roy‘s recommendation, I will NOT try the egg drop corn soup from McDonald’s, as cool as it sounds that McD’s actually sells this soup.








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