Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Highways and Byways: Hunei: A prince’s final resting place

A mausoleum devoted to a Ming Dynasty prince and a quasi-religious institution of some notoriety are a few of the places to visit in Kaohsiung’s Hunei District

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

Longfatang, opened by Buddhist layman Lee Chu-tai, is a quasi-religious institution in Kaohsiung’s Hunei District that gained notoriety for chaining together people who are mentally ill.

Photo: Su Fu-nan, Taipei Times

Americans sometimes talk of “flyover country,” those parts of the US that coastal elites never see at ground level. If Taiwan has equivalent regions — areas seen only through the windows of a high-speed train — surely one is the 35km that separates the southern edge of Tainan City from the northern suburbs of Kaohsiung.

If you head south from the former capital on Taiwan Highway 1, Hunei District (湖內區) is the first part of Kaohsiung City you’ll encounter. During the late Qing and Japanese colonial periods, the area was known as Dahu (大湖, literally “Big Lake”) on account of the ponds and swamps that covered more than a third of the land. Most of these have been drained or filled in, but the toponym lives on in the name of the nearest railway station, Dahu TRA Station (大湖火車站).

Because it’s within commuting distance of central Tainan, the district hasn’t suffered from the kind of population outflow that depresses many parts of the southwest. Since 1991, Hunei’s population has grown about 15 percent to nearly 30,000.

THE PRINCE OF HUNEI

Locals joke that Hunei’s most famous resident doesn’t appear in the household registry because he’s been dead for 335 years. Zhu Shugui (朱術桂, 1617–1683), also known as Prince (or Lord) Ningjing (寧靖王), was the most senior of the Ming Dynasty princes who refused to recognize the succeeding Qing Dynasty.

Zhu arrived in Taiwan in 1664 and never left. When the Ming loyalist enclave in Tainan was defeated by the Qing in 1683, he committed suicide rather than surrender.

During his lifetime, Zhu showed great concern for the welfare of families living in what’s now Hunei and did his best to develop the area. Realizing that the Qing conquerors might mutilate his corpse, some Hunei residents retrieved the prince’s body and organized a proper burial. To protect Zhu’s remains, they disguised his resting place and created around 100 “decoy” tombs.

IF YOU GO

The infrequent Red 71 bus from Gangshan South Metro Station on the Red Line of the Kaohsiung MRT stops very close to both the mausoleum and the ex-cannery.


Sadly for Hunei folks who are proud of their town’s Ming connection, Zhu’s remains aren’t in the Mausoleum of Lord Ningjing (明寧靖王墓). They were scattered or stolen sometime before 1937. When the grave was rediscovered that year, the casket was empty.

Apart from its impressive dimensions, not much distinguishes the tomb from many others in Taiwan. That said, the surroundings are well kept, so it’s popular with cyclists taking a break as they wait for their friends to catch up.

The grave is on the north side of Highway 28, 1.5km west of the intersection between Highway 28, Highway 17, and Highway 17A (17甲). There’s no obvious English sign, nor an official parking lot, but parking a car nearby isn’t difficult.

TOMATO CANNERY RUIN

Around 2km northeast of the mausoleum stands an entirely different attraction. The Tomato Cannery (蕃茄會社) is a ruined factory at 360 Jhongshan Road Section 1, Hunei District. If you’re driving from the north, look for the 348km marker on Highway 1; the ex-cannery is on your left.

For much of the year, hardly anyone visits this place and the grass grows high. But each May and June, the trees here produce such an abundance of red flowers that photographers and Instagrammers flock to the site, trampling much of the foliage flat.

This place has a beguiling appeal in any season. The ways in which banyan roots have climbed and penetrated the walls may remind you of Anping Treehouse (安平樹屋) in Tainan. No one is sure of the ex-cannery’s precise age. It was probably built before 1930. After World War II, pineapples rather than tomatoes were cut up and canned here.

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