In celebration of Heritage Day this month, Greater Tainan is inviting visitors to look into the southern city’s history and culture with a range of free events organized around the theme “Water and Culture.”
In the north, New Taipei City (新北市) has put together a series of walking tours, performances and other activities to explore the diversity of local traditions and culture.
Held annually in September, Heritage Day began in France in 1984 at the initiation of the French ministry of culture.
The cultural event offers free access to monuments, buildings, sites, architectures and other places that are normally closed to the public or charge for admission, with the aim of raising appreciation of cultural diversity, foster care for heritages and bring people together, according to the Council of Europe’s Web site on European Heritage Day.
For the whole month, the Greater Tainan Government has teamed up with Tainan Cultural Property Association and seven community colleges to hold guided tours, exhibitions and lectures designed to reveal and study local communities’ connections with rivers, water wells and the ocean, said Fu Ching-chi (傅清琪), head of the city government’s tangible culture assets department.
“Early civilizations all began on the banks of rivers. As human activities and settlements centered and expanded along the rivers, a tour to the areas will certainly reveal the texture of life both in the past and of present,” he said.
“In the same way, water wells were the center of life in bygone days. By encouraging people to rediscover them, we hope to raise awareness about the need to protect our heritage,” he said.
According to Fu, there are more than a dozen ancient wells designated as cultural heritage in Tainan.
Among the plethora of events, a walking tour along the Yanshuei River (鹽水溪) visits several old settlements such as Dawan (大灣) and Anping (安平).
Another trip takes participants to coastal fishing villages in Sishu (喜樹), Wanli (灣裡) and Kunshen (鯤鯓), where historical architectures and houses have survived the passage of time since the Qing Dynasty.
A tour organized by the Peimen Community College brings visitors interested in the relationship between disease and environment to Jingzaijiao (井仔腳), a placed noted for having the country’s oldest surviving salt fields, and revisits the history of blackfoot disease, a water-related disease resulting in progressive gangrene that plagued the coastal areas in Tainan and Chiayi in the late 1950s.
Meanwhile, a trip to an ancient well located in the Cingshuei (清水) community in Sinhua District (新化) reveals a traditional way of life that dates back to nearly 400 years ago. The well is still used by the Hsu (徐) family who moved to Taiwan from China’s Fujian Province during the Qing Dynasty.
In addition to walking tours, a series of lectures is to be held on topics ranging from archeological sites, natural environment and geography, literary and industrial heritages to folk customs, traditional beliefs and religions.
In northern Taiwan, there are no spaces left for the dozens of guided tours that explore local communities and history in areas including Sindian (新店), Sanchong (三重), Yingge (鶯歌), Pingsi (平溪) and Rueifang (瑞芳).
However, a number of museums and cultural institutes such as Shihsanhang Museum of Archeology, Gold Museum and Lin Family Mansion and Garden have organized separate tours and performances on weekends throughout this month.