Sanheyuan refers to a U-shaped house with a courtyard in the middle.
A siheyuan, on the other hand, is a square-shaped house with a courtyard in the middle.
“My ancestors constructed a siheyuan instead of a sanheyuan because a siheyuan resembles the Chinese character hui (回) when seen from above,” he said.
“Hui” is a minority Islamic people living in northwestern China and hence Islam is commonly referred to as huijiao (回教) or “religion of the Hui people.”
If the building style is a secret hint that Ting Chen-hsiang’s ancestors left behind for the Muslim Tings in Lugang, the ancestors of another Muslim family in the town — the Kuos (郭) — left them a more obvious hint.
“It has been passed down by word of mouth and recorded in certain historic documents that there used to be a mosque in the Beitou (北頭) area of Lugang,” said Chen Shih-hsien (陳仕賢), a local Lugang historian. “According to studies, the former site of the Kuo family ancestral temple should’ve been the mosque a few hundred years ago.”
The new Kuo family temple has been turned into a Taoist facility, the Pao’an Temple (保安宮).
The two-story building looks no different from other Taoist temples, with sculptures of deities on the main table.
Although it's been turned into a Taoist temple, the Kuos in Beitou still hold their ancestral worships at the temple, with an interesting twist.
"We do eat pork, but there's a practice that's been passed down through generations that pork cannot be presented as a sacrifice at ancestral worships," local borough chief Kuo Hsien-chin (郭獻欽) said.
Chen said that the Kuos do not eat pork during funerals of family members either.
"It would've been interesting to come to Lugang 300 years ago to see a mosque standing just a few hundred meters away from a temple worshipping [the goddess of the sea] Matsu [媽祖]," Ma said.