Yang Bridge Park (楊橋公園) is located in southern part of Lukang. In the park, there is artificial pool, and there are some ducks and fish. Originally, this bridge was not called Yang Bridge. The bridge was built by the Mayor Yang in Qing Dynasty in 1812, and its main purpose was for transportation. If you wanted to get into Lukang from southern Taiwan, this was the only way. In honor of the mayor’s sponsorship and generosity, the folks named this bridge after Mayor Yang.
Afterward, the rain and river destroyed the bridge. In 1995, people found the stele and bridge pier. Local government used these and rebuilt the bridge and built the park. Beside Yang Bridge Park, there is an Earth God Temple. According to locals’ saying, the prayers are answered effectively.
Yaolin Street (瑤林街) and Putou Street (埔頭街) are oldest streets in Lukang. People who emigrated from Mainland China or did business arrived in Taiwan through Lukang Harbor because it was closest harbor to Mainland China. People from Fujian and Guangdong built their houses along these streets and started their new life in Lukang. Recently, the government help the local to preserve this hundreds years old street. Brick streets, red walls, wood windows, and bronze door knockers are renovated by the original design.
In early time, the old market street was beside a river. Workers unloaded and loaded cargo on the river bank, and merchant were busy to pick goods. As time goes by, the old harbor is now all silted up, and there is no more shipping boat around. However, the local cuisine restaurants, folk art shops, and workshops remain along the streets. Also, there are some historical spots worth a visit. Xinzu Temple (新祖廟) is the only Mazu Temple built officially by Qing Empire. Lukang Assembly Hall (公會堂) is a living history of people’s assemblies from Japanese Colonial Era. Half Well (半邊井) is the proof of generosity and kindness from the rich.
Yaolin St. and Putou St. definitely is a must-see attraction in Lukang. In weekends, the old streets are full with tourists. If you are tired and thirsty during the journey, find a tea shop or buy a cup of sweet-sour plum juice (酸梅湯).
In Lukang, there are many narrow and winding lanes and they are collectively called “Nine Turns Lane (九曲巷)”. Nine represents a numerous number in Chinese culture. “Nine Turns” means many turns. Jinsheng Lane is the most well-preserved one in Nine Turns Lane.
There were many purposes that the ancestors built the lane in this way. First, it was for reducing the influence of “Wind of September”, which was the strong monsoon with sand before Moon Festival in September. The ancestors built their houses close to each other and made the lane winding to reduce the strength of wind. Second, it was for defense. In Qing Dynasty, the empire forbad Taiwan people to build town wall. In order to defend the citizens, winding lane made pirates harder to get into town straightly. Numerous lanes also scattered invaders and made defenders easier to defeat them separately. Third, according to folklore, ghosts were only able to walk on straight line. Therefore, Nine Turns Lane could prevent evils outside the town.
There are two famous historical buildings in this lane. One is Shiyi Hall and Remembrance Hall. The first one is not much left, but Remembrance Hall still can be seen from the street. There is a beauty love story behind it. You can get into the pineapple cake shop and try to ask their crews. Maybe you are luck to get the answer from them.
Lukang (鹿港) was an important port in Qing Dynasty. Merchants, fishers, and businessmen gathered here. Temples, houses, lanes, and streets were built and the small town was formed. It is one of the oldest towns in Taiwan, tied with Tainan for the oldest place. Lukang Longshan Temple is well known as its architectural art and its age approaching 400 years. Lukang Folk Art Museum collects many daily-life artifacts, such as cloths, jewelry, furniture, and books, since Qing Dynasty. Not only historic sites but also many Taiwanese cuisines can’t be missed in Lukang.
Changhua City (彰化市) once was the political center of central Taiwan in Qing Dynasty, instead of Taichung City. Great Buddha of Baguashan on a hilltop is the most famous landmark in Changhua City. Fan-shaped Train Garage that nestles couple old steam engines is the only remains of roundhouse train garage in Taiwan. Waking through Xiaoxi Street District, you will find the change between three generations in this city.
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Hidden in a narrow lane in Lukang, there is a wall made by urns. Thirties of urns are piled in layers. The figure and the color make it perfectly fit in with surrounding bricks houses.
According to traditional custom, parents, either rich or poor, ask winemaker to make customized Shaohsing wine (紹興酒) and it will be stored underground. Once their daughter gets married, the parents will open the wine and treat friends and families in wedding. If their child is male, they will open the wine once he grows up. Therefore, there are many empty urns in every family for making walls.
In Japanese Colonial Era, people in Lukang in order to protect their money from robbers, they put valuable belongings into urns. In that time, urn wall (甕牆) was sort of safe box.
Lukang Shingzu Temple (鹿港新祖宮) is the only Mazu Temple in Taiwan built by empire. It was completed in 1788 when China was under Qianlong Emperor’s rule. Therefore, the left guard, Clairvoyant God, and right guard, Clairaudient God*, beside Mazu wear official robes. It is quite different than regular guardians who expose chest and barefoot.
Official administrator came to Lukang Shingzu Temple for worship on every 1st and 15th lunar month during Qing Dynasty. Once reaching the front gate of the temple, official administrator had to dismount from horse and perform the great kowtow ritual (“three kneelings and nine kowtows**”, which involves kneeling from a standing position three times, and each time, performing the kowtow three times while kneeling). On these dates, folk were not allowed to get in. Until now, there is still a dismount tablet (下馬碑 or also called Xiamabei, which requires riders to dismount from horse) in front of the gate.
The most severe rebellion, started with the formation of anti-Qing secret societies, happened in Taiwan during Qing Dynasty in 1786. The empire sent a general with his soldiers to suppress the rebellion. On the sea, they encountered typhoon and most of the soldiers died in this incident. The general asked Mazu to protect them to reach Taiwan safely. Afterward, the sea was calm, the army landed on Lukang, and the general complete the mission. In order to thank Mazu, the general asked Qianlong Emperor to fund the Mazu Temple. In case of confusion with the Lukang Mazu Temple built in 1725, people named this Mazu temple as Shingzu Temple.
* Clairvoyant God and Clairaudient God are two guards beside Mazu. They help Mazu to protect boats, fishers, and anyone on the sea. One has clear vision that he can gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses. The other one has extra-sensory perception wherein a person acquires information by paranormal auditory means. Clairaudience may refer not to actual perception of sound, but may instead indicate impressions of the “inner mental ear”.
** Kowtow, which is borrowed from Mandarin Chinese, is the act of deep respect shown by kneeling and bowing so low as to have one’s head touching the ground.
Molu Lane, or also well known as Breast Touchung Lane (摸乳巷), is a 200-year-old alley whose main purpose was fire prevention. Because the narrowest width of this 100-meter-long alley is less than 70 centimeters, it only allows one person to pass through at a time. As a woman sees a man oncoming in the middle of the alley, she must to protect her breasts to brushing against him. The true gentleman wound wait for a lady to pass first in the end of the alley. Therefore, the alley also used to be called Gentleman Lane. After years, it became Breast Touching Lane. In past days, men and women should keep some distance and shouldn’t get too intimated in public, so women tried to avoid pass through this lane.
There was another reason that the ancestors built their houses so close to each other. Lukang used to be close to ocean and harbor. Wind was strong. Residents built their houses as close as possible to block wind. Also, Lukang was a prosperous city. Every inch of property was scarce and valuable. In order to make good use of limited space and natural light, it’s not possible to make house wider but longer. That was why there were many narrow lanes in Lukang.
In Lukang Folk Arts Museum (鹿港民俗文物館), there are six thousands collections of daily-life artifacts, such as cloths, jewelry, musical instruments, furniture, and books, since Qing Dynasty. The museum itself used to be Koo family’s* mansion, one of the most important noble families in Taiwan. The mansion was the finest Western style building in Japanese Colonial Era in Lukang. In 1973, Koo family donated their house and their collections. Afterwards, people can get in this big house, experience their luxury life, and appreciate these historical items.
The main building was Baroque style and was established in 1919 in Japanese Colonial Era. In the same period, the designer of Koo’s mansion also built Presidential Office Building. Every element of structures in Folk Arts Museum is symmetry., Gable with relief of flowers in the middle hall, two domes on two sides, and red bricks with white concrete make this building a classic one. Beside the main building, there is a old Fujianese style house which is more than 200 years.
Lukang Folk Arts Museum is the place where you can understand how people lived in the past two hundred years. Not emperor is life, but local folks life.
* Koo Hsien-jung (辜顯榮February 2, 1866 – December 9, 1937) was a Taiwanese businessman and politician who enjoyed strong links to the Japanese colonial administration of Taiwan. Depending on exclusive rights of trading sugar and salt, he made his family become one of the richest families in Taiwan. His company, Koos Group, is the largest business group in Taiwan.
Temples in Taiwan are like folk arts museums. They collect detailed stone sculptures and elaborate wood decorations. Lukang Mazu Temple (鹿港媽祖廟) is one of the best in Lukang. Beautiful stone carving from Qing Dynasty can be seen in the back hall. What you see was renovated around 1920s in Japanese Colonial Era, and the original one was built in 1725. The temple was sponsored by locals, and Koo’s Family accounted for a major share.
In the front hall, you can see window carving made by stone and vivid painting with wood sculpture. In the main hall, stone carving is saying the story of Three Kingdoms in 200CE. Above the shrine, there is inscribed board which is given by a Qing Dynasty emperor. In the back hall, there are dragon pillars with five claws on each foot and they were a symbol for the emperor, especially in Qing Dynasty. Most common is three claws, and five claws dragon is rare.
Mazu is the indigenous goddess of the sea who is said to protect fishermen and sailors, and is invoked as the patron deity of all Southern Chinese and East Asian persons. Born as Lin Moniang (林默娘) in Fujian around 960 CE, worship of Mazu began around the Ming Dynasty. Lukang used to be a main harbor. Most of Lukang residents’ living was replied on trading and fishing on the sea. Therefore, Mazu Temple became the most important place for locals. There is a saying that a general came to Taiwan to conquer pirates. He took a Mazu statue and hope Mazu would bless them through the sea. After mission completed, the general asked the emperor to let Mazu stay in Taiwan. Afterwards, the Lukang Mazu Temple was built.
Followers of Lukang Mazu Temple is numerous and all over Taiwan. In every first to third month of lunar calendar, followers come to here for celebrating Mazu’s birthday. Some ceremonies are hold in Lukang and it definitely is crowded.
Longshan Temple (龍山寺) is the largest scale of temple in Lukang, and it’s also the most well-preserved Fujianese style building of the Qing Dynasty in Taiwan. Due to its architecture and historical value, Lukang Longshan Temple is ranked as first class historical site in Taiwan.
Most of the structures in Lukang Longshan Temple were completed in Qing Dynasty in 1831. The most amazing one is Bagua caisson ceiling (八卦藻井) above outdoor stage. This wood structure was precisely calculated. Craftsmen used leverage to sustain the whole ceiling without a single nail. Besides producing better sound effect, caisson ceiling has a function to suppress evils and bring peace to the town. Pillars, gates, and walls made by stone are elaborate, especially dragon pillars in the front hall.
The resident deity at Lukang Longshan Temple is Guanyin (觀音)*, and it’s the same in every Longshan Temples all over Taiwan. In back worship hall, shrines of Dragon King** and Wind God can be found. In every Dragon Festival, Dragon King is invited to bless favorable weather and good harvest.
With lots of effort from specialists, Lukang Longshan Temple was able to be restored from ruins in 10 years after 921 Earthquake. They tried their best to keep it as original.
* Guanyin is the bodhisattva and usually as a female. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin which means “Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World”.
** The Dragon King is a deity in Chinese mythology commonly regarded as the divine ruler of the ocean. He has the ability to shapeshift into human form and lives in an underwater crystal palace. He has his own royal court and commands an army comprising various marine creatures. Apart from presiding over aquatic life, the Dragon King can also manipulate the weather and bring rainfall.