Through its 300 years of history, there has never been a city like Anping in Taiwan. With its rich history and culture, experiencing Anping would be like reading through the history books of Taiwan.
In the days of old, the city of Anping was called Tayouan, which is where the word Taiwan comes from. It is the origin of Taiwanese culture and history. Once the most prospering and most internationalised city, Anping has made the city of Tainan, its modern counterpart, the cultural capital of Taiwan. Anping has been through many different stages of Taiwan, from the European occupation to the Japanese invasion during World War II, leaving behind a multitude of cultural heritage such as landmarks and local foods. You must start from Anping if you want to know the history of Taiwan.
In 1624, the Dutch occupation of Taiwan began. With the construction of Fort Zeelandia, Anping was used as a transfer station for trading in the Far East, thus pushing it onto the international stage for the first time. In 1661, Zheng Chenggong landed in Anping and fought the Dutch colonists, which led to the surrender of Fort Zeelandia, turning it into a military base for loyalists who wished to restore the Ming Dynasty. Retaining its status as a trading port, Anping prospered, with foreign merchants and embassies flocking to the city creating the first urban-styled city of Taiwan. The popular Anping old street became the first commercial street to be established in Taiwan as well.
In the early 20th century, the Japanese created the “New Anping canal”, creating limitless opportunities for the city of Anping. However, as the political and commercial centres of Taiwan slowly migrated south, Old Tait & Co Merchant House and Old Julius Mannich Merchant House are the only standing sites of the once famous foreign firms in Anping reminding people of the history they witnessed.
Away from its rich history, Anping also stands out for its folk culture, beautiful beaches and historic gourmet foods, such as Fish Ball Soup, Shrimp Meatballs and Oyster Whine. Anping had once been a peaceful Taiwanese fishing village. Locals often fished for a living. Before leaving on fishing trips, fishermen would enjoy a nice hot bowl of Dim Sum, which developed into snacks that could be found in no place but Anping, creating joy for the taste buds of tourists and residents alike.
Anping … stands out for its folk culture and historic gourmet foods
The layout of Anping’s alleys and streets creates a challenge in navigating through the old city. Its winding paths and similar looking walls would prove a problem for even the most seasoned of explorers. The old moss covered walls, the abandoned wells and the banyan trees where weary travellers rest are all part of a unique experience that roaming the streets of Anping can bring.
Anping Old Fort
The historic Anping fort, or Fort Zeelandia as the Dutch called it, is the oldest fortress in Taiwan. Being the centre of the Dutch colony and homestead for three generations of Zheng Chenggong’s family, Fort Zeelandia is currently listed as a first class relic in Taiwan. The bricks on the walls of Fort Zeelandia consisted of simple ingredients such as sticky rice, brown sugar and water etc. The Fort has lived through 300 years of change and stands as a proud witness of Taiwanese history. It was nominated as the Happiness Century Attraction.
Anping Tree House
One of the Old Tait & Co Merchant House’s abandoned warehouses had banyan trees growing from it, creating the illusion of a wall growing from a tree and bringing an awe inspiring spectacle to tourists.
‘Sword Lion’, Guardian of Anping
With limited building space, the streets and alleys of Anping had to be winding and uneven. This led to many broken Fengshui taboos. Residents put up lions as lucky charms throughout Anping. Engraved on the forehead of each sword lion was the Chinese character for King and they had swords in their mouths.
These sword lions were created using different methods, such as wood carvings and clay sculpting, and each used different colours to represent the status of their makers. No two lions looked alike and in a time when doorplates were uncommon, the sword lions became a symbol of status and a way to differentiate your house from your neighbour’s.
The sculpted sword lions were said to have originated from when Zheng Chenggong led the victory against the Dutch colonists. It was said that when the soldiers finished training each day, they would put a sword between the teeth of a lion-faced shield, creating a fierce looking image that the residents of Anping decided to imitate.
The now-decaying sword lions of Anping create an interesting picture for tourists to view. Finding treasure among the old streets and witnessing the fading glory of the guardian lions proves to be rather popular among the many visitors of Anping.
Today, the sword lion still stands as a monument of Anping’s culture and has initiated a lot of young artists to create and preserve the spirit of the sword lion. Souvenir shops around Anping sell different sword lions for tourists to buy and adore, bringing the lion to the international stage.
In recent years, the Tainan government has invested a large sum of money to restore the historic glory of Anping. Anping has received awards and nominations such as Waterfront Centre—2004 Excellence on the Waterfront, Taiwan’s Top 10 Most Interesting Fishing Ports in 2009, The International Awards for Liveable Communities in 2011 and Taiwan’s Top 10 Small Tourist Towns again in 2012. Anping is definitely a place worth visiting and savouring.
Tainan is recommended as a must-go city in Taiwan in the 2011 Michelin Green Guide. Anping’s many historic buildings tell tales of its long-lost years. With surprises around each corner, roaming Anping for yourself is the best way to experience its culture and heritage.
Tourists can enjoy the evening sun, check out the nightlife of the ancient city, sight-seeing or try delicacies unique to Anping, and see for themselves a unique taste of Taiwanese culture.
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