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Hsinchu for the Family

by Susan Barnes

Aug 28, 2018

© Richie Chan | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Asia

When you arrive in Hsinchu, the oldest city in northern Taiwan, it likely will not take long to realize why it is called “The City of Happiness and Wisdom.” Hsinchu was originally named Chuchien, which means seashore in Taokas; the Taokas were of the tribes of Taiwanese plain aborigines. The reference to seashore is apt — the city’s coastline is more than 18 miles long; four square miles of wetlands and three rivers are also found here.


In addition to the waters in and around Hsinchu, the city is surrounded on three sides by mountains and the sea on the fourth, creating a funnel-like landscape. As such, when the monsoon winds arrive, they pick up when they enter the city, hence the second nickname of “Windy City.”


Chi he Temple in Hsinchu, Taiwan © Richie Chan | Dreamstime.com


There are three main temples within Hsinchu you will want to try and visit during your stay. First, the Hsinchu Cheng Huang Temple houses the oldest Cheng Huang idol with the highest rank in Taiwan, and its entrance plate, inscribed with “Protect Kinmen,” was given by the Qing Emperor Guan Xu. The main building consists of three separate buildings with pillars carved with dragons and stone lions.


The second of the main temples is the Zhulian Temple, first called the House of Guanyin and built in Qing Dynasty Emperor Qian Long’s 46th year (reigned 1735–1796). It was first called the “House of Guanyin,” and houses three Buddhas, the smallest of which is “3 Mother Buddha” and 300 years old.


Zhulian Temple’s construction is based on the building styles of Fujian. The roof and the beams are embellished with glass mosaics of dragons and other fortuitous animals such as the qiling. The temple is full of details done in a solemn tone, and has great artistic and historical value.


Lastly, the Chang Ho Temple is just outside the old Hsinchu City North Gate and was built in Qing Dynasty Emperor Qian Long’s seventh year. The original stone carvings of the Sanchuan compartment are original to the Qing Dynasty, and the Mazu idol placed here has movable body parts, called a “soft idol.” The hair on the idol has been said to be from the real Mazu. Additional temples to visit include Shuei Xian Temple, Tian Gong Temple, Putian Temple and the Jin Shan Temple.


Art is a big part of Hsinchu, and its universities play a major role. The National Chiao Tung University Arts Center’s theater and exhibition gallery are perfect for local and international artists to perform and display long-term exhibits, and for its students, too. Considered the “birthplace of high-energy, modern-style art in Hsinchu,” the students at National Tsing Hua University Nan-Da Campus Art Institute create painting and painting media, as well as visual art design, to put on display. Taiwanese-trained artists and their works are the focus of annual exhibitions at Tsing Hua University Arts Center; budding artists are encouraged to participate.


For a nibble in Hsinchu, try and find rice noodles, a local specialty. Generations ago, along with the sunshine, the strong winds of Hsinchu helped makers dry out handmade noodles. Though the noodles are mostly no longer dried this way, they do represent the city’s traditional cuisine, along with pork meatballs and pork-stuffed rice balls. Visit the Cheng Huang Temple area to find popular eateries that have served these local delicacies for years.


This is but a taste of all there is to do in Hsinchu and its surrounding areas. What will you discover during your visit?


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