January 25, 2010

Anping Historic Residence and Sword-Lion

Next to the Anping Fort, a must-visit place you can discover the heritage culture of Taiwan and Tainan is “Anping Old Street” (安平老街). It is also known as “Yanping Old Street” (延平老街) or “Taiwan Street” (台灣第一街). It was the first street built by Dutch in Tainan about 300 years ago. We were here to discover the Sword-Lion (劍獅) and Tainan’s historic residence.

Anping Old Street roads are very narrow and curved. The best way to see this place is by foot, although it is also suggested to go around the entire Anping historical area by biking. We picked up a bicycle route map from the visitor center and started our discovery by foot.

Wei’s Residence in Haitoushe (海頭社魏宅) is located at a street intersection shortly after we entered from An Bei Road. This is the most completely preserved civilian residence in Anping. It was built around 1912 to 1925.

It is very interesting to know the features of this house. The traditional Chinese civilian dwellings are either in a 3-section or 4-section courtyard, having wings on both sides. However, the single corridor dwelling has only one wing which refers to the Wei’s Residence. This one wing courtyard became the typical housing style in Anping. A single corridor dwelling with one wing was built instead of two wings because of the narrow spaces of the streets and lower cost. It still has the 3-section courtyard look.

This house is complete with one living room, one bedroom, one kitchen, and one yard.

It is in the “L” shape. It looks like one arm that reaches out. This feature is also named as “One-Arm House”. (單伸手)

Here is the side door of the house- “Arch Door” (Photo on the left), and the “Screen Wall” outside the front door. (Photo on the right)


Seeking “Sword-Lion” among all these historic residences on Anping Old Street was very interesting. Any residents that live in the Old Street would direct you to different Sword Lions that are hung on its door frame or the walls. In the past, each house would hang a Sword-Lion. It also became the identification of the resident since the address was not available at that time. Currently, there are only 30 to 40 Sword Lions left in Anping.

According to the legend, during the time Zheng Chenggong defended the Dutch in 1661; the soldiers hung their shields on the wall. The shields were carved with lion face. The soldiers hung their swords in the place near lion’s mouth. It appears from distance that the lion was biting a sword. From there, people believed the Sword-Lion could protect them and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits.

All Sword Lions have different facial expressions, none of them are identical. Although some of them have already broken and faded, but most are all well preserved. The Sword-Lion were made by wood, clay, stone, or pottery. The color of the Sword-Lion represents the family status in the community as well.

It is also said that by facing the Sword-Lion, if the sword handle is on the left means "bringing luck" and if the sword handle is on the right means "warding off evil".

If two swords are crossed in the center, it means to "terminate the devil".

The Sword-Lion can be very large, very tiny, visible, or hidden somewhere. We found 7 of them. When one was discovered, it brought us lots of excitement!

We planned to visit “Wang’s Old Time Taste Place” which provides snack and tea in a historic 3-section courtyard; unfortunately, it was closed at that time. However, another small “Sword-Lion” was found inside the courtyard in Wang’s place. It is hung on top of the door frame with the blue background! (the first photo below)

Here is the “Anping Ancient Well” (安平街古井) and it supplied the only fresh water in Anping in the past, an essential source of drinking water. It was built in 1851-1861, during Ching Dynasty.

Strolling through Anping Old Street, a closer view on the heritage living and culture was discovered, and friendly Tainan residents’ characteristics were experienced! Finding all 30-40 Sword Lions in Anping Old Street will be a fun activity to plan!

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Anonymous said...

What a fascinating blog!!!! Love it! Though it made me homesick....

Anonymous said...

I love to see Taiwan through your lense. Everything became more colorful and exciting.....with childlike curiosity. - Bj

micki and kristen said...

Thank you you two for visiting and comments :)

Anonymous said...

Really pretty! I love these old streets, there are a lot in Beijing too.

But my my, this blue door is tiny!

micki and kristen said...

Hi, Zhu, The Beijing HuTon is very interesting too, lots of history and culture!
We were surprised by the size of the blue door too. I guess all the furnitures needed to go through the front door in the past, and the front door is not too big too :)

Anonymous said...

Re: Why is English language so important?

Well, it's true that Mandarin is catching up but I still think that's a huge gap between English & Chinese. The thing is English is more wide spread, whereas Chinese is rather concentrated.

shloke said...

The Sword-Lion emblems are AMAZING! So many sizes, shapes and colors :) A very informative article! You really did a great job explaining the significance of these unique symbols. Well done!


micki and kristen said...

Hi, Mylo- Thanks! So glad you enjoyed the article. I wished we could have found all 30-40 of them. They are so unique and special! :)

Anonymous said...

I loved it.
Lets go somewhere eles now, you pick and of course post.

taunt taunt

micki and kristen said...

Thanks for stopping by~ Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

This is great. I am going to have to visit here someday. Thanks for the amazing post!

micki and kristen said...

Hi, Anonymous, Don't forget to discover the hidden Sword Lions there, and see how many you can find?... :0)
You are very welcome, and am glad you enjoyed this post!

Anonymous said...

Wait so are sword lions only from Taiwan? They are not Chinese in origin?

Anonymous said...

i need more pls

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