Wed, Jan 10, 2001 - Page 11 News List

Tihua Street braces for shopping frenzy

STAFF WRITER

Shoppers yesterday stroll along the newly decorated Tihua Street.

PHOTO: IAN BARTHOLOMEW, TAIPEI TIMES

Visiting Tihua Street (迪化街) to do New Year shopping is a tradition that goes back decades, but as Chinese New Year has become compressed by the pressures of modern life, the pull of the crowded and noisy street had begun to wane.

Merchants and officials in the main shopping areas of the old city, including Ninghsia Road (寧夏路) and Huaying Street (華陰街), have joined together under the direction of the local administrative authority in order to produce a more varied New Year shopping activity. According to Chan Wen-wen (陳文文) of the Taipei City God Temple (台北城隍廟), who is an organizer of the event, many borough wardens and local people have put a big effort into helping produce an outstanding week of shopping in the runup to the New Year.

Tihua Street, which has undergone a facelift over the past year, is now further decorated for the New Year shopping week. Bamboo stalls have been built along the newly paved street, and red lanterns hang criss-cross between the arcades on long bamboo polls, creating a scene that might come straight out of a kungfu costume drama.

The rich tradition that characterizes the Tihua Street shopping season will offer a short puppet show put on by the Ta-Thiun Thian Puppet Center (大稻珵偶戲館), which features renowned puppeteer Chen Han-chung (陳漢忠). An eclectic skit which combines street humor with Taiwanese glove puppets sets the tone of excitement and anticipation for what shopkeepers in the area hope will be a profitable week of business.

One of the great appeals of shopping at Tihua Street over the New Year season is the opportunity to taste a wide variety of special foods, which are offered to shoppers in the hope that they will come in and buy. Although some local merchants have protested that they are being overcharged to put up their bamboo stalls and that making the street open only to pedestrian traffic will cut deeply into their wholesale operations, Chan said that organizers have followed the majority opinion in organizing the current event. "There always will be people who complain in such a big event," she said.

In the runup to the activity, stall holders where already actively touting their products, which range from freshly pressed sesame oil to dried meats, preserved fruit and special nutritional foods for winter.

The active participation of the district administration authority has meant that a large number of activities has been possible this year. The New Year's shopping activities will officially open tomorrow with a ceremony at 7:30pm in the plaza in front of the Yungle Market building (永樂市場廣場) -- parades and other activities will begin around 6pm according to organizers at the City God Temple.

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