Fanjiang Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂

Fanjiang Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂
In front of the main building at Fanjiang Ancestral Hall.

I chanced upon Fanjiang Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂 while out for a bicycle ride around Taoyuan in late October 2015. That morning I set out from my place in Zhongli to see more of the countryside and eventually pay a visit to Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 in western Yangmei. Along the way I made a brief diversion into Xinwu to see whatever might be found there—and this cluster of historic Hakka homes were my reward.

A closer look at Fanjiang Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂
A closer look at the censer in front of the main building.

Xinwu literally means “new home” and is named for these houses, the oldest of which dates back to 1854. The story, as I understand it, is that the unusual two-character family name Fànjiāng 范姜 originated in Guangdong province in the early Qing dynasty when a widow of the Fan clan remarried a man of the Jiang clan. Having previously borne her first husband several sons she bore several more—and out of respect for both fathers the sons adopted both family names as their own. Later on several members of the Fanjiang clan emigrated to Taiwan and established themselves in Taoyuan. As their fortunes grew the clan built the ancestral shrine seen in these photographs and relocated their ancestral tablets from Guangdong in the mid-19th century.

Wooden beam detail at Fanjiang Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂
Details of the painted wooden beams at the main hall.
Another look at the wooden beams at Fanjiang Ancestral Hall
These beams have clearly been restored in recent years.
An old piano at Fanjiang Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂
Inside the ancestral hall are numerous relics including this old piano.

While only the main ancestral hall is open to visitors there are five Fanjiang Old Homes 范姜古厝 along the laneway leading back toward the commercial streets of Xinwu. As with the main historic site these have all been restored and are definitely worth at least a glance as they show different kinds of craftsmanship and design. I haven’t found many good English language resources for learning how to appreciate the architecture of Taiwan’s traditional courtyard homes, also known as sanheyuan, but this Chinese language post has many more photos that may be of some assistance.

Roofing detail at Fanjian Ancestral Hall 范姜祖堂
A closer look at the swallowtail rooftop.
Strange art on the front lawn in Xinwu
Strange art on the front lawn of another one of the Fanjiang homes.
More Fanjiang clan homes in Xinwu, Taoyuan
More Fanjiang clan homes in Xinwu. Look but don’t touch!
Ornate roofting detail in Xinwu
A fieryhorseback gable and an intricate carving on one of the hulongs of a Fangjiang clan home.
Clan homes in Xinwu, Taoyuan
This white-washed Fanjiang clan home at the south end of the row shows some influence from the Japanese colonial era, particularly in the gate and fencing out front.

Naturally this historic site has attracted a great many Taiwanese bloggers who have made more extensive and informed posts than mine. If you’d like to do some additional reading about the Fanjiang Old Homes have a look here, here, here, and here, and here. And be sure to check out the rest of the ride from that same day for some context.

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