Compass Magazine, February 2002

A Walking Tour of Taichung's Historical Sites

By Nancy Tu Translated by Matt Godsey and Annie Chen

Taichung City Hall>Taichung City Transportation Bureau Office>Testing Center(Min Sheng Road)>Taichung City Police 1st Precinct Headquarters (intersection of Min Sheng Road and San Min Road)>Taichung City Council Building (intersection of Min Chuan Road and San Min Road) > entrance to Second Market> 2, Lane 116, San Min Road, section 2 (Historic Wang Home) > Dr. Ho's Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic> Hao Hua Theater > Taichung Park lake pavilion

Older residents of Taichung will be able to recall the days when the Central District was the busiest part of the city.

Back then, San Min Road and Min Chuan Road vied for the title of "Taichung's First Street" and Tzu You Road was the city's economic and recreational center with Taichung Park, Changhua Bank and Cooperative Bank (originally Taichung State Library). In fact, many essential goods and services--such as food, clothing, housing and transportation--could all be found within a one-kilometer radius of the train station. This was the commercial heart of the city and the birth place of Taichung's economy.

Today, a stretch of historic buildings along Tzu You and San Min roads is the best place to catch a glimpse of Taichung's past. Even after a century of change these old buildings and roads retain their unique charm. Led by Professor Lai Chih-chang, this author and a group of people equally fond of this area began a walking tour from Taichung State Hall (now the Taichung City Hall), to delve into the history of this city we call home.

Towards the end of the Ching Dynasty, Taiwan's governor-general, Liu Min-chuan, put a great deal of effort into the planning and development of Taichung City, designing it as the first and only city in Taiwan with an octagonal layout.

According to Professor Lai, the Testing Center was used to administer tests for government officials during that period and was the only testing facility in Taiwan. However, rather than being tested together in one large room, the candidates were each led to a little cubicle to take the exam in isolation, while the proctor patrolled from an elevated catwalk of sorts, peering down from above. At one time, there were more than 100 such cubicles, but now only seven remain in an alley off of Min Sheng Road. These are open to the public, so all can come and imagine for themselves the ordeal of a Ching Dynasty civil service exam.

During the time of Japanese occupation (1895-1945), Taichung became one of the first planned cities in Taiwan. According to Professor Lai's own research, the initial development of the city followed the model of a Japanese city. With the streets laid out in the even grid of a chessboard, and the Lu Chuan and Liu Chuan rivers flowing through, Taichung gained the nickname "Little Kyoto".

The Second Market is one of the few markets that still retains some of its original buildings. Its other distinctive feature is that each of its entrances connects diagonally with another entrance, creating six paths that criss-cross. Unfortunately, many of the entryways were damaged or destroyed by fire so that, today, the original bricks can only be found beside a few of the entrances, lonely reminders of the storied past of this market.

Taichung City has developed rapidly in the past 20 years. New construction and cultural influences from abroad have combined to transform the city. Nevertheless, the history of this place remains a fascinating study. So, whether just visiting or have lived here a while, take the time to see some of the city's historical sites. The more you know about Taichung, the deeper you will learn to love it.

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Mr. Lai Chih-chang (Professor, Applied Arts, Fu Jen University) and Mr. Wei Chih-hung (Walking Tour Coordinator)

View This Page In Chinese