Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Highways and Byways: Jiji: town on the edge of the mountains

Highlights of the area include an earthquake-devastated temple, a 140-year-old classical learning academy and an ecological park

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

From the academy you can enjoy good views of the mountains that surround Jiji, but if you’re hoping to take photos of the central structure, you might be frustrated. At the time of my visit it was shrouded in scaffolding and netting. Two young artisans were retouching paintings around the complex.

Their supervisor told me the renovation was “a small case” (indeed, I couldn’t see anything wrong with the academy apart from faded colors) and suggested I take a look at the cluster of Japanese-era dormitories near the corner of Minsheng Road and Jhongshan Street. There, preservation efforts have just started, and a great deal needs to be done. A worker putting in temporary props to shore up the buildings pointed out that much of the original woodwork has survived well because it’s hinoki (檜木, a type of cypress).

Next door to Mingxin Academy there’s a central government unit that plays a crucial role in understanding and preserving Taiwan’s biodiversity. The Endemic Species Research Institute (特有生物研究保育中心, also aims to educate the public, and the Conservation Education Center (open 9am to 4:30pm, Tuesday to Sunday, admission NT$60) does a fine job of introducing Taiwan’s endemic birds, beetles, butterflies, fish, snails, and plants.

If you have an interest in nature, the adjacent Ecological Education Park (open 8:30am to 4:30 daily; free admission) will enthrall you for an hour or more. During the hot season you can expect to see some gorgeous dragonflies — but make yourself mosquito-proof before entering.

Placing the institute in Jiji makes absolute sense, of course. The town is between the lowlands and the highlands. It’s near waterways and substantial forests, and it can also be a stepping stone to a number of alluring places deep in Taiwan’s interior.

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