October 17, 2008

Day trips from Taipei (Part 2) – Jiufen and Jinguashih

The village of Jiufen was once the center of gold mining in Taiwan; its prosperity earned the town names such as "Little Shanghai" and "Little Hong Kong". The gold is now gone, but this quaint old village, built of closely-packed houses clinging to steep mountainsides, continues to offer enchanting scenery and fascinating glimpses into the lifestyles of the past.

It is said that before land routes lead to Jiufen, all goods and materials were transported by sea. Since there were only nine households, all goods and materials were requested "Jiufen" (literally nine shares in Mandarin), and so the town was named. Jiufen Old Street was the setting for the retrospective Chinese movie "City of Sadness". This street with its nolgastic looking buildings is framed by surrounding hills.

Jiufen most popular shopping area and specialty centre is Jishan Street. Because the stores closely adjoin with overlapping canopies and roofs that tend to block the light from reaching the narrow 3.4 metre wide street, Jishan Street is also called "am-ge-ah" (literally dark street in Taiwanese Hokkien). In addition to Jiufen's only traditional market, jewelers, clothing stores, tailors, barber shops and grocery stores, the "Dark Street" also have lots of snack shops and handicraft stores.

Neighbouring Jinguashih earned its name because of its gold mine. Because the tip of the mountain resembles a huge pumpkin, and people call pumpkins "jin-gua" (literally golden gourd in Mandarin), the town is therefore named Jinghuashih (literally golden gourd stone in Mandarin). With its carved mining terrain, mineral deposits, deserted mines, tunnels, building and mountains from the gold rush, Jinghuashih is an epitome of Eastern Asian mineral economy and colonial history.

The main attraction at Jinguashih is the Gold Ecological Park, aimed to preserve Jinguashih precious history by maintaining its mining relics, scenic features and historical memory. It comprises the Museum of Gold, Benshan Fifth Tunnel, Environmental Museum and Crown Prince Chalet. The Museum of Gold mainly exhibits the history of Jinguashih's mining industry and the characteristics and applications of gold while the Environmental Museum has exhibits on the natural ecological environment and the people involved in Jinguashih mining industry. At the Benshan Fifth Tunnel, visitors can explore the mining tunnels to learn first-hand the working conditions of miners in former times including how they extracted gold and transported it out of the tunnel.

You can see in these photos that rain coats and umbrellas feature prominently. That's because there is abundance of rain in this area. It is said that it rains almost 300 days in a year in these charming towns.


Anonymous said...

The photos are so well taken! did you take them yourself?

A Mom's Diary said...

Thanks Libby, yeah, I took them myself, using a compact digital camera.