GETTING AROUND THE CITY'S HISTORY: THE 10 ROADS OF KAOHSIUNG
--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
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
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.