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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hitting the tourist trail in Taichū

As I did a month ago, I used my one free weekday afternoon today to play tourist in T'aichung 台中. This time I checked out T'aichung Park 台中公園, which I believe was Taiwan's first western-style park (though I could be wrong). Originally called "New Park", it was established by the Japanese in 1903 on the site of an 18th-century military post called Tatun (an old gate is all that remains of the fort in the park grounds). Though some Chinese touches have been added to the park over the years, anyone who has spent time in Japan will probably find Taichung Park to be very familiar-looking. The symbol of the park is undoubtedly the Wang Yueh Pavilion in the middle of a lake. Built in 1908 as a rest house for Prince Kan'in Kotohito 閑院宮載仁親王, who was in town to observe a ceremony celebrating the completion of the Western Line 縱貫線 railway, it's probably the most recognizable symbol of the city of Taichung:

Taichung Park was also the site of Taichū Shrine 台中神社, of which several relics remain. There is the old torii 鳥居 gate, now lying in pieces on the ground:

The stone lantern-lined path to the shrine itself, though now only the bases are still standing:

There are also two pairs of statues left from the shrine, the koma-inu 狛犬 guardian lion-dogs and a couple of horses:

I also came across this monument hidden just outside the park boundaries, behind the tennis courts. It was erected in 1902 to commemorate Japanese soldiers who died during the takeover of Taiwan. I'm surprised it's been allowed to stand all these years:

After leaving the park, I walked east along Tzuyu Road for about one kilometer (0.6 miles). A perusal of the Taiwan blogosphere will no doubt bring up entries from enthusiastic Westerners about the island's "beautiful" Taoist temples. There certainly are a number of such attractive places, but there are also plenty of examples like the house of worship I visited next, the Nant'ien Temple. The draw here is a garish, 48 meter (157 feet)-high statue of the god Kuan Yu 關羽, sitting atop the structure. Truth be told, I've seen velvet Elvis paintings from Tijuana done more tastefully than this representation. Nonetheless, it's worth a visit, as you can climb up to the sixth floor, just beneath the "Beautiful Whiskered One", for a decent view of Taichung.


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