Jan 3, 2009

Historical downtown of Hsinchuang

工教101 497700425 蔡竺君 Dora

There is a special place inside Taipei county, where a lot of historical sites and customs are conserved, and also kindness from people can be found everywhere. It is so is Hsinchuang, especially in a street that named the historical downtown of Hsinchuang. You can take bus to Hsinchuang stop or take MRT to jiang zi cui station, then transfer to bus 802 and get off at Hsinchuang stop.

The oldest store inside Hsinchuang could date back to the year 1736, when historical downtown of Hsinchuang had been named. Many other stores such as the “you jia” dried bean curd store, “xiang ren he” handmade drum, and “lao shun xiang” cake factory in Hsinchuang now are not only famous just for their history (some of them have even opened since the Tongzhi period of Ching dynast), but also good quality that never changed.

You jia ’s bean curd have been kept the traditional flavor since it opened, and every process have been followed under their traditional rules, especially the way they end it – baking. If you are planning to come to the store, the best time is 7 to 8 p.m.

Others like lao shun xiang’s cake factory, which is not only produces delicious traditional cake, but also stands a very important position. It is because this factory is the only one in Hsinchuang which still provide a special donut - a kind of bread called xian guang bing, which is made for Hsinchuang’s temple fair every May in Chinese calendar. They are for special characters called "Eight general” during this fair, and meant to be hung like necklaces on those “Eight general” so that the viewers by the road can grab it as a meaning of luck. Another reason for its importance is that since xian guang bing is a very traditional food, few young people are willing to learn to make it, cause it become more precious than before.  

Furthermore, Hsinchuang has the most temples gathered in one area, such as ci you temple, di cang an ( da zhong temple ), wu sheng temple, bao yuan palace, guang fu palace ( san shan king’s palace ), wen chang shrine , quan an palace… ect.

Comparing to Western religion, we don’t have only one god but many of them because each one is special. For examples, ci you temple hosts St. Mother of heaven, who takes care of people’s safety and controls the weather. Others like bao yuan palace, guan fu palace, quan an palace are in charged of chores and provide protection for people who live near them.

But the most special temples to me are di cang an and wen chang shrine. Although di cang an has been told to be a yin temple since they hosts some people who died in an electrical fighting in Hsinchuang in the early years. However, the Ksitigarbha and those who died for the fighting inside these temple bless almost everything about losing stuff, bad mood or people’s health, and it works! Therefore it has its own temple fair which is one of the biggest fairs in Taiwan.

Wen chang shrine is in charge of people’s luck for exams. People usually take green onion, celery, Chinese pastry to warship god and then ate them, because the names of the foods sound like smart, diligent, high score in Chinese. Every year around exam season, the whole shrine would be filled with crowds!

The density of temples in this area makes “xiang ren he” handmade drum so necessary here. This store has been holding its good reputation and great quality for over one century. Every part of each drum’s connection is stitched by one master, and then sold to temples in order to provide instruments for temple staff to perform a special show in temple’s fair.

Now let’s talk about Hsinchuang temple’s fair. It is hold in every May first in Chinese calendar to prey for folks’ peaceful life, and this fair has considered as the biggest temple fair in Taiwan; the whole process includes the night visits and daytime patrols.

The night time visit takes place in the afternoon before May first in Chinese calendar, meaning to invite every temple’s host god to look around Hsinchuang, and scare those bad spirits away. And there will also be some traditional show of Taiwanese temples during this night time visit such as Eight General and fireworks.

The daytime patrols is on May first, which is the day when guan jiang shou comes out to stay with Ksitigarbha and every other god that host their temple to patrols Hsinchuang area in order to celebrate Ksitigarbha’s birthday, and also make this area peaceful.

Guan jiang shou is a kind of a ceremony to appreciate god’s efforts, usually composed with 3 to 15 people in odds. Our di cang an in Hsinchuang is the original one, meaning to get bad spirit away and make folks safe. Its colorful decoration and the way they act is the biggest feature.

If you are planning to come here to participate in this fair, remember to bring a large volume memory disk with your camera so that you don’t miss any great pictures, and also a pair of good shoes for you might walk for a long distance.

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