February 25, 2011

Lugang (鹿港), the most charming small town

Next to Tainan and Mengjia, Lugang is the second greatest historical town in Taiwan with at least a 350 year history. It is located in Changhua County in central Taiwan. Unlike Tainan’s historical with modern mixes, Lugang has no high-rise buildings. It has only Quan and Zhang regional buildings with Baroque-styled architecture.

The three unique characteristics of Lugang in the past made this small town very famous. They were the “No Sky”, “No Ground” and “No Women” (不見天,不見地,不見女人). The 2 kilometer long Zhongshan Road which is currently the main street in town, used to be the “No Sky” Street filled with rectangular shaped Street House styled architecture. The sky was hardly seen since all the houses were connected. The streets were paved with red bricks that have been well preserved. Because of the red bricks, the ground can’t be seen, and it makes “No Ground”. Women could not be seen outside of their homes due to the conservative culture.

We came to Lugang from Taipei by train and bus, and spent 2 days to explore this small town. Lots of literature and cultural heritage can be found. We grabbed a map and planned our visit by dividing the town into South and North town. We did not cover everything on the map in these 2 days; however, I think we visited most of them in town.

South Town

Nine- Turn Lane (九曲巷)

I think that the most charming scenery in town is the hidden narrow and winding lane. Also known as Jinsheng Lane(金盛巷), the 1-kilometer long Nine- Turn Lane was built with many turns and curves to prevent the entry of bandits and avoid damages from the "September winds. Walking inside the lane, one turn after another, I really felt like walking in a maze with the curve lines. I could not help myself stop shooting photos of the beautiful red brick walls and floors. This unique scene has also attracted lots of films makers. Therefore, the Nine-Turn Lane is also known as the “Movie Lane”.

A hand-pumped well is found in one of the intersections. An elderly lady told us that they are still using this water as their household water source.

Shihyin Hall (十宜樓)

Shihyin Hall is built across from the Jinsheng Lane and was Chen’s mansion. “Shiyi” means ten amusements. This hall used to be the gathering place for poets and calligraphers to paly instruments, chess, drinking, writing and painting.

Wine Bottle Wall(甕牆)

Another unique wall decorations are the giant wine pottery bottles. Inside a small lane from Zhongshan Road, there is a wall covered with at least 120 pottery bottles. This is the largest Wine Bottle Wall in Lugang. We did not make it to there; however, we found this small wall by Lugang Elementary School.

In the early years of Lugang, because of business reasons, ships sailed frequently in between Mainland China and Taiwan. The giant wine bottles were placed inside the ship to stabilize the ship during the rough sailing. Residents used wine bottles to decorate the walls to reflect how wealthy they were. The wine bottle was also preserved when women were pregnant.

Mo-Ru Alley (Breast Touching Alley) (摸乳巷)

When visiting Lugang , the Mo-Ru Alley for sure can’t be missed. This is the most famous and interesting spot in town. With less than 70 cm at the narrowest point, it is the narrowest alley in Taiwan, meaning that it does not allow 2 people walk side by side in the ally. If a man and a woman walk through this ally, the woman’s breast may be touched accidentally. This was how the amusing name came from.

I barely made it through the narrowest place! It is interesting to know that this alley used to be the fire lane in the past.

Longshan Temple(龍山寺)

It’s hard to believe that there are more than 220 temples in this small town. Strolling through the town, I saw temple after temple. We came to Longshan temple for an evening Nanguan Music performance; it was cancelled unfortunately. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a peaceful evening in the temple.

Longshan Temple was established during late Ming Dynasty about 300 years old now. It is dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. It is the National Monument in Taiwan. It does not have brilliant exterior colors as the Longshan Temple in Taipei; however, I prefer the look the way it is in Lugang.

Are they looking for the Nanguan Music performance as well?

The colorful painting and magnificent carvings can bee found on the octagonal ceiling of the opera stage. The octagonal shape of the ceiling calls “Ba Gua” in Chinese, which implies the significance of the peace and wards off evil.

North Town

Ai Gate(隘門)

Near Zhongshan Road, the only remaining gate since Ching Dynasty can be found in a small ally. This gate was built in 1830 to defend against thieves and pirates. Based on history books, there were70 gates in Lugang, however, Ai Gate is the only one remaining now and designed as a county historical site.

Ban Bian Well (Half-Side Well) (半邊井)

Not too far from Ai Gate, the Half-Side Well is located on Yaolin Street. It looks like a half sided well, but it is actually a complete well.

It belonged to the Wang resident. In the past, only the rich family could afford a well. Wang’s family built a well divided by a wall. The outside half is for the public use and inside is for the family. That was a great way to maintain the neighborhood harmony.

Old Market Street (鹿港老街)

On the Putou Street and Yaolin Street, lots of historical houses have been preserved and being used as the stores and shopping area for the visitors. Yi Gu Zhai Tea House is one of the awesome places that we visited for resting and enjoying the local culture.

So many places and heritage culture can be explored in Lugang. We ran out of time during this visit unfortunately. Lugang Folk Arts Museum (民俗文物館) is another unique architecture building that carries lots of stories behind. This museum will be on my priority list for my next visit to Lugang. Read More

11 comments:

Zhu said...

Wow, so many temples? Pretty amazing indeed. I like the contrast between the busy street at night and these narrow alleys.

I would have liked shopping at that market!

San said...

很有特色的地方
充滿了濃濃的鄉村味道~

micki and kristen said...

@Zhu- Lots of shops in Lugang are selling temple related items as well. Visiting the incense making was one of the highlights of the trip too~

@San-鹿港真是個很特別的小鎮!"鹿港小鎮"這首歌就是在描寫這裡喲!

London Caller said...

I love exploring in little towns like this!
There are many lovely towns in England too.
But the atmosphere is somehow quite different...
It's more open here - you can see people's living rooms from the lanes!

micki and kristen said...

@ Londoncaller-Ha! talking about the privacy now! However, indeed that was the old time lifestyle which created lots of social opportunities!

London Caller said...

Ha, that's true!
Not only that, people here don't usually have iron bars in their windows to deter thieves. So you can see what's inside their houses!

micki and kristen said...

@ Londoncaller- Ha, you can see inside of the house through the iron bars too~~ I think for these houses in England, the owners just have to plant some tall trees in front of their houses to create the privacy.. :)

PTI said...

Hello' I was just watching a Japanese station called "NHK" here in the States Phila, Pa" and the TV showed was called "Somewhere st". they were in Lugang, and traveled down the same ally's as your photo's. that is how I came across your web-page...looking for info on Lugang. I have been doing business and living in Shanghai & Beijing on and off since 1994.These cities has so many of the same types of ally's, but' many have been destroyed in the name of progress..how sad is that! I have be planning on a trip to Taiwan, looking to late Sept 2014..it will be my first trip there, and I plan on at least staying one month.
I don't know anyone in Taiwan, and would like to ask your advise on places to go and see. here is my email..ptiasia@gmail.com I,m in Phila pa in the States until this coming Sept, if you have any suggestions' I would certainly appreciate your help. Lugang is on my agenda for sure' Thank You for your wonderful photo's and stories. regards, Robert Krzenski

Anonymous said...

I want to visit Lugang someday. I knew Lugang when I watched NHK, a Japanese TV station. They featured it on "Somewhere Street". I hope it is still the same when I visit there in the future.

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