FYI SOUTH Magazine, December 2006


--By John Matthews Translated by Annie Liu and Mei Lee

One of Kaohsiung's unique features is the 10 roads that run from west to east, laid out in numerical order from YiSin Road on the southern side to ShihChyuan towards the north. Besides providing a helpful reference for navigating the city, these 10 streets and roads-if you've had time to visit them thoroughly-produce some facts that may surprise even the most curious locals and visitors alike. If you're anything like this writer, it may take a while to even notice that Kaohsiung has 10 main roads. Roads that were, in short, named and renamed to inspire the local Chinese culture and national spirit.

Kaohsiung is rich with a well-documented histories, mystery and legends, making much of the local landscape today very different from what it used to be. From the legendary stories of hidden baskets of gold at Mt. Takao, to the tiny inhabited islands that once occupied the entrance to the Love River, Kaohsiung has a truly unique past. However, the thought of this city having roads remotely organized from one to ten can be thoroughly surprising. Most Western cities that have ordinal streets and roads are laid out in such a way that makes them obvious and stand out clearly on a map, not just by their names but also by how they are laid out in a clear grid-like pattern. From east to west or from north to south, these streets ply through cities in familiar straight parallel lines. In Kaohsiung, however, you need to have a keen eye for the city map and, if you don't know your numbers from one to 10 in Mandarin, you could be completely lost.
Much of the facts behind the 10 streets lie in the history of how the administration of the city (or country) changed hands several times. Beginning with Dutch invaders 400 years ago and culminating in the official takeover by the Kuomintang in 1945, the last century has seen at least three different influences on the city's development. The heart of the old city is situated in the community nearest to where the Gushan ferry sits.

ormerly known as Hamasen, it is here where the first village stood and was later filled in to make more land to accommodate more buildings. During the Japanese occupation (1895 -1945) huge dredging projects dumped massive amounts of the sea bottom from the harbour onto the ground at Gushan and eventually at YenChen. YenChen was the second stage of urban development for Kaohsiung, back when the core of the city we know as Kaohsiung's CianJin, SinSing and LingYa districts were just rice paddies and such.
The third stage of urban development began before the Second World War, when Kaohsiung's potential as a major port really came into fruition. So it was the Japanese who began to organize the new city, the modern city of Kaohsiung. But it was Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang government that announced a law in January 1945, changing all street names that once represented Japanese culture to be based on Chinese culture and nationhood instead.

Today, all 10 street names-from YiSin (first) to ShihCyuan (tenth)-are traditional Mandarin words rarely used in common speech. When you look on a map, the first street that may stand out is SanDuo (third). 80 years ago, SanDuo was a road that linked the farmers from Fongshan to the old waterfront at Kaohsiung. Now it is a major commercial zone with department stores (FE21 Mega and Sogo) straddling the large intersection at SanDuo and JhongShan. It is well-known as a street filled with second-hand shops selling rehabilitated household appliances and furniture. SanDuo in Mandarin means "three praises" or one who wishes for speech that praises others.
Fanning out below SanDuo (to the south) from approximately the same major intersection are YiSin and ErSheng (second). Although not particularly significant, ErSheng is a fairly quiet, tree-lined avenue that offers a change from the usual chaos of noisy streets here. YiSin means "one mind", and was mandated to espouse the virtues of togetherness to build a glorious future for the city (nation). ErSheng means "two of the holiest" and was named to reflect the ideal of civil and military units to act completely as one.

After SanDuo, to the north, SihWei (fourth) and WuFu (fifth) are roads that run parallel to each other and begin to take on characteristics of a wide boulevard. On SihWei sits Kaohsiung's City Hall and the city's original Western-style bar (The Pig & Whistle) is located at the other end towards the harbour. SihWei is a difficult translation at best, but represents the four outlines a country should have-courtesy, righteousness, incorruption and shame. WuFu is a well- known street that, today, is being endorsed as an International Tourist Avenue with its shopping, urban spotlight arcade and Central Park. At one time, however, these used to be some of the darkest spots in the area. WuFu in traditional Mandarin means "the five good things of life", which emphasize words like longevity, wealth and honor, health and peace and morality.

LiouHe (sixth) is famous for its night market that has been in official operation since 1950. It is known that about one third of the 170 food stands have been in operation for more than 40 years. Recently, it has become an all-pedestrian thoroughfare, free from the exhaust of scooters and motorcycles. LiouHe means harmony and the virtues espoused from being a universal individual. At night, CiSian (seventh) road is like a small slice of Las Vegas with its neon lights and adulterated entertainment. Originally, CiSian meant the seven talents or scholars who would gather in the bamboo forest during the Jin Dynasty. Now it just means good friendship.

BaDe (eighth) is a peculiar road that suddenly disappears after the intersection at ZihLi. Known for its numerous shops selling imported car parts, BaDe refers to the eight morals of loyalty, filial piety, kindheartedness, love, honesty, righteousness, peace and equality. JiouRu (ninth) is a wide road that extends through the city from end to end, past Fongshan and the other way across the Love River, swinging north into Gushan. The north entrance to the Kaohsiung train station is on JiouRu, as is the Science Museum in SanMin district. JiouRu represents the nine wishes and is significant as it is the top single-digit number before the double digits of the number ten. Finally, ShihCyuan (tenth) road is well known for its jade market and flea market which draw numerous buyers and sellers from around the entire island. The word reflects the need for completeness and perfection in traditional Mandarin.

Though all of the 10 words that were used in naming the 10 roads of Kaohsiung are not in common Mandarin usage today, they still reflect the need to maintain a certain sense of unity and citizenship during a completely vulnerable time in the world.

*All the information gathered for this article can be found at the Information Office of the Kaohsiung City Government or at http://www.kcg.gov.tw/~kcginfo/. Thanks also to Sammy, a generous volunteer at the Kaohsiung Museum of History at 272, JhongJheng 4th Road.