Day four of riding through the Huadong Valley of eastern Taiwan in 2018 began in Yuli 玉里, the midpoint of this bicycle trip from Hualien City 花蓮市 to Taitung City 台東市. From the weather report I knew I’d have another challenging ride ahead—yet again the mercury was due to exceed 35 degrees. Luckily I was in no great rush, as I had allocated an entire week for a trip that experienced riders could easily manage in two days. I made good use of that extra time, making numerous stops and detours to document some of the many historic and cultural sites along the way, many of them quite obscure. I ended the day in Guanshan 關山, slightly more than 40 kilometers down the valley.
Last February I went on a productive day trip around Taichung 台中 without any particular destination in mind. After visiting an abandoned anti-airborne fortification on Dadushan and the eerie Wansheng Zizhu Monastery I breezed through Shalu 沙鹿 on the way to Wuqi Old Street 梧棲老街. While making a pitstop at a 7-Eleven on the side of the highway I noticed what looked like an old Qing dynasty building building obscured by some foliage and went to take a quick peek. Traditional courtyard homes, or sanheyuan 三合院, are an ubiquitous feature of rural Taiwan and yet another thing I regularly document wherever I go—and this one is unusually striking with its red brick archway.
Not long after moving to the capital of Changhua 彰化 in 2014 I published a collection of photographs entitled Postcards from Changhua City. All of the photos in that post were shot in my first few months of residency but I ended up staying for half a year. In that time I gathered more than enough material for a sequel while making my daily rounds. Although long overdue this second collection is now complete so here it is: more photos from my time in Changhua City 彰化市, a historic town in central Taiwan.
Built in 1887, Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院 is one of dozens of Qing dynasty era schools of classical studies in Taiwan. Located in Dadu 大肚, a small town in southwestern Taichung 台中, it provides a window into a time when scholarship was more closely interwoven with spirituality. Apart from classrooms and areas for quiet study the academy also has an altar to the Five Wenchang 五文昌: Kui Xing 魁星, Zhu Xi 朱熹, Guan Yu 關羽, Lu Dongbin 呂洞賓, and, of course, Wenchang 文昌 himself. Collectively these Taoist gods represent classical Chinese culture and several are commonly venerated by students prior to writing exams. Structurally the academy follows a plan similar to a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home or sanheyuan with the addition of a large gatehouse and pavilion.
Daodong Academy 道東書院 is one of many Qing dynasty era academies scattered across central and southern Taiwan. Located in Hemei 和美 in Changhua 彰化, it was built in 1857, the 7th year of the Xianfeng Emperor 咸豐帝 (清咸豐七年), and operated as a private school devoted to classic Chinese literature, philosophy, and ethics, among other subjects. Commonly known to locals as Wenci 文祠 or Wenmiao 文廟, or “temple of literature”, the academy also venerates Song dynasty scholar Zhu Xi 朱熹 and Kui Xing 奎星, the god of examinations.
Yifang Old House 義芳居古厝 is a traditional courtyard home, or sanheyuan 三合院, in the scenic foothills of southeastern Da’an District 大安區, Taipei 台北. It was built in 1876 during the Qing dynasty era by a wealthy branch of the Chen 陳 family. At that time it was far from the commercial centers of Monga and Dadaocheng, both near the other side of Taipei Basin, on an almost lawless frontier. Nowadays this old house is a stone’s throw away from some of the busiest streets in the city as it is located immediately behind the National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學 campus, better known as Taida 台大.
Last year I briefly visited the historic Fahua Monastery 法華寺 in Tainan 台南. Like many of my explorations of temples in Taiwan this one wasn’t planned in advance. I noticed the monastery from the roadside while riding through the back streets south of the train station and stopped to check it out on a whim. As it turns out, Fahua Monastery has quite a long and distinguished history—going all the way back to 1684—and the interior is unusually minimalistic and serene compared to most other temples I have visited here in Taiwan.
Dananmen 大南門, also known as Ningnanmen 寧南門, is one of two great gates remaining in Tainan 台南, the most historic city in Taiwan. Built in 1725, it has been renovated several times but maintains its classical charm. Nowadays it can be found in a gorgeous park just south of the Confucius Temple on Nanmen Road 大南路. The gate itself is surrounded by a secondary fortification, a barbican or wengcheng 瓮城, which provides additional defensive capabilities. As usual, Tainan City Guide has an excellent write-up about this historic landmark.…