Fri, Dec 06, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Highways and Byways: Come rain or shine

Tainan’s 121-year-old weather observatory and other must-see historical attractions

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

Some of the old seismographs are on display, as is a British-made barometer. There’s also a list of every person who commanded the weather station. Of the 13 Japanese officials who held the post during the colonial period, four did the job for less than a year.

The first non-Japanese chief, Cheng Sung-ling (鄭松齡), was appointed in November 1945. He served until mid-1988, an impressive 43 years. I’ve not been able to discover anything about him. Was he a Taiwanese who’d served alongside Japanese climatologists and experienced rapid promotion when the latter were expelled after World War II? Or a Mainlander brought over by the KMT? How old was he when he first sat behind the chief’s desk?

Two of the trees by the main road are rosy trumpet trees (Tabebuia rosea). They flower in March and April, and their purplish-pinkish blossoms attract a great many photographers.

A stately but badly listing Ficus retusa tree shades the grass to the west of the old weather station. On the other side of a low wall, there’s a Japanese-style garden that forms part of Ying Liaoli (鶯料理).

As the Chinese name implies (liaoli means cuisine), this was once the site of a fine-dining establishment. During the colonial period, the Hukuisu Restaurant was said to offer the best Japanese food in Tainan.

After 1945, it became a dormitory for teachers working at National Tainan First Senior High School (臺南一中). Over the next several decades, it slowly fell into complete dilapidation. What stands here today isn’t so much a restoration as a reconstruction. Inside there are some interesting artifacts, furnishings, and old photos, plus a pretty thorough introduction in Chinese, English and Japanese.

Ying Liaoli is open from 1pm to 9pm between Tuesday and Friday, and from 10am to 9pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. Inside, there’s a cafe which sells hot and cold beverages, craft beers and snacks — but, surprisingly, nothing that’s distinctly Japanese.

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