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.
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.
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.
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.