The Red Hair Well 紅毛井 (pinyin: Hóngmáojǐng) in Changhua City 彰化市 is another curious footnote. Located behind the Changhua Arts Museum at the foot of Baguashan, this well supposedly dates back to the mid-1600s, in the midst of the Dutch colonial era. The Dutch sunk this well to provide for soldiers and missionaries passing through the area but never actually controlled this land. The name derives from âng-mo, which is literally “red hair” in Hokkien or Taiwanese, an obvious visual contrast to the black hair of Chinese people.
The Dutch ruled much of southern Taiwan from 1624 to 1662 before they were unceremoniously kicked off the island by Koxinga 鄭成功, who founded the short-lived Kingdom of Tungning 東寧王國 in modern-day Tainan 台南, the center of Dutch colonial power. When the well was dug this part of Taiwan would have been part of the Kingdom of Middag, an alliance of Taiwanese indigenous villages based in Dàdù 大肚, just across the river from Changhua City 彰化市 in western Taichung 台中.
Nowadays the well is also the site of a small shrine to Tu Di Gong 土地公, the earth god of Chinese folklore. On every occasion I’ve swung by the well I have seen old women washing clothes in the water the runs out of the well. There’s no particular need for this with the preponderance of modern laundries around so I suspect it has something to do with good luck or tradition.