Fri, Aug 09, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Highways & Byways: The landmarks of Yuanlin

A police museum, Confucian academy and abandoned granary are among the highlights of a trip to Changhua County’s second most populous city

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

The central part of Singsian Tutorial Academy in Changhua County’s Yuanlin City functions as a shrine.

Photo: Steven Crook

Yuanlin City (員林市), Changhua County’s second-largest settlement, gets few tourists, and there’s no compelling reason to stay overnight.

The sights described here are within walking distance of the railway station; seeing all three takes just a few hours. They’re niche attractions, for sure. But if you’ve a particular interest in the history of policing, the Confucian schools where many boys received their education back when Taiwan was part of the Qing Empire or modern yet abandoned infrastructure, you may find a trip to Yuanlin very worthwhile.

Yuanlin’s current population is just under 125,000, and some local Han families have been living here for close to 300 years. During the period of Japanese rule, the town prospered thanks to sugar and pineapple production. The colonial authorities established local institutions to facilitate control and development, among them schools, an epidemic-prevention office and a police station.

POLICE MUSEUM

What’s now Yuanlin Police Museum (員林警察故事館) used to be official housing for a senior police officer and his family. I haven’t been able to ascertain the year of construction, but it looks like a typical (and obviously renovated) colonial-era bungalow.

Since 2014, it has housed what could be the finest collection of police paraphernalia anywhere in Taiwan. There’s equipment from the latter part of the colonial period, including several swords, and the short lengths of rope with which policemen could restrain those they’d arrested before handcuffs became standard issue.

Items from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) era include batons, handcuffs, holsters and uniforms. There’s a forensic-evidence collection kit with adhesive tape and tweezers. During the Cold War, Taiwan’s police were trained to respond to conventional, chemical or nuclear attack, and the museum displays a hand-cranked air-raid siren, gas masks and Geiger counters.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE

>> Many of the 20-plus express trains that run from Taipei to Yuanlin each day take less than two hours 45 minutes. From Kaohsiung, travel time is about two hours. Changhua County’s YouBike shared-bicycle system has 19 rental points around Yuanlin; for details (in Chinese) go to: wa.chcg.youbike.com.tw.


Other intriguing items include a bulletproof face mask; a beguilingly complicated Chinese-script typewriter; and a fairly recent riot shield which visitors can pick up and pose with. If you’re into cosplaying for photos, there are hats and other accessories. Outside, there’s a BMW motorcycle formerly used by the highway patrol.

The museum is at 14 Sanmin Street (三民街14號), 460m due east of Yuanlin Railway Station (員林車站). It’s open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4:30pm every day except Monday, and almost everything inside is labeled in English and Chinese.

CONFUCIAN EDUCATION

Less than 100m south of the police museum, Singsian Tutorial Academy (興賢書院) stands in the northeastern quarter of Yuanlin Park (員林公園). The academy was founded in 1807, then given its current layout in 1881 after a public appeal for rebuilding funds.

Between these two dates, a Guangdong native called Chiu Hai (邱海) took over the academy and recruited students from the surrounding area. Many of them were preparing for the imperial civil service examinations. Chiu is fondly remembered for his devotion to the school; a memorial tablet in the chamber to the left of the main altar bears his name.

In 1937, teaching at the academy was abruptly halted when the Japanese colonial authorities launched the Kominka Movement (皇民化運動), an official effort to replace Han identity among Taiwanese with Japanese values and loyalty to the emperor in Tokyo.

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