Fri, Dec 29, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: Hakka Country: Beipu

With its interesting history and great edibles, Beipu is among the top places to learn a bit about Taiwan’s Hakka people

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing Reporter

Walking south along Miaocian Road, the first historic building on the left is the unassuming little Jinguangfu Hall (金廣福公館), built in 1835, the year the town was established. Next to it, set back from the road behind a wall, Tianshuitang (天水堂), built around the same time, is still owned and inhabited by descendants of Chiang.

A couple of doors down is a building from a century later, the Chiang A-hsin Residence (姜阿新宅), built in the 1940s by another member of the Chiang dynasty to receive his foreign business clients. In contrast to the Chinese-style architecture of the other two buildings, this one was heavily influenced by Western designs, as was the custom in Japanese-ruled Taiwan, when Western architecture was considered progressive and modern. It’s currently being restored, and is hidden underneath a mass of scaffolding.

Tzu Tian Temple (慈天宮) at the end of Beipu Street (北埔街) was established in the mid-1800s, and is the town’s main center of worship. The narrow alleyway along the left wall of the temple has the only remaining example of Beipu’s famous “alarm stones,” which were a novel way of telling early inhabitants when strangers were around. It’s paved with large, flat slabs of natural rock, and occasional slabs were laid so that they moved, making a “clunk” sound when trodden on. The locals of course all knew where these stones were, and took care to avoid them

Just behind the old part of town, a low, wooded hill has been turned into Xiuluan Park (秀巒公園, named in honor of the town’s founder), and is an attractive spot for a stroll, with some fine mature woodland. Dotted along the wooded slopes, which are crisscrossed by a network of short trails, are several pavilions, a white statue of Guanyin, and a blue-and-white monument containing a stele commemorating the founding of the town. There’s a great view from the southernmost pavilion on the ridge.

Richard Saunders is a classical pianist and writer who has lived in Taiwan since 1993. He’s the founder of a local hiking group, Taipei Hikers, and is the author of six books about Taiwan, including Taiwan 101 and Taipei Escapes. Visit his Web site at www.taiwanoffthebeatentrack.com.

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