January 12 Tainan, Taiwan

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan. It was first settled by the Dutch, and then, around the nid 17th century, mainland Chinese immigrants like my husband’s family started coming to Taiwan, arriving in the Tainan area. I think that Jeff’s family actually came to Taiwan around the mid 18th century, so they were in a later wave of immigrants.

In 1683, Tainan became the capital of Taiwan. Tainan remained the political, economic and cultural center of Taiwan up to the late 19th century. So Tainan is home to many famous historic sites. Although I had visited Tainan before and saw some of these sites and learned about some of its history, I learned even more this time during our two days there. This was likely because we had a knowledgeable guide, and also because I saw more sites because we spent more time in the area.

Because Tainan was the capital city, it is where the big temple dedicated to Confucius is located. The ceremony honoring Confucius is still held at this temple every year.

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Ann, Harmony, and Jeff in front of the entrance to the Confucius shrine at the temple

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The tablet honoring Confucius inside the shrine

Here is a close up photo of the pieces of paper on the table in front of the shrine. These are the exam registration papers left by people who are hoping to do well on their exams.

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Exam registration papers on the table in front of the Confucius tablet

Passing and doing well on your exam used to guarantee a government position under the old Chinese system set up during Confucius’ time. So studying hard and doing well on the exams guaranteed a job not requiring physical labor, and a good income. So this was something people aspired to achieve. And they came to Tainan to take there final exams because was the capital city. They also sometimes cheated on those exams. These booklets, at the next place we visited Chih Kan Lou (Fort Provintia) contain answers to the questions on the exams. They were written by students in small booklets (easier to conceal) to take into the exam room. Proof that human nature hasn’t changed!

Answer booklets used by students during exams

This is definitely one of the cutest instruments that I have ever seen! It was used in the ceremony honoring Confucius.

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Tiger instrument

  Every time I think I have tried all the unique foods in Taiwan, I discover something new to try. This vendor was selling molasses sugar cakes, made from molasses sugar syrup, baking soda and vinegar. They tasted like a crunchier version of cotton candy!

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Ann holding a molasses sugar cake

Chikanlou(Chihkanlou)was built by the Dutch in 1652, and originally it was called Fort Provintia. It had been an administration center for the Dutch. In 1661, Koxinga regained Taiwan from the Dutch, and Fort Provintia was changed to be the governor’s mansion. Later, Ming style buildings were added to the original Dutch fort location.

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A monument showing the Dutch surrender of Taiwan to Koxinga

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Remnants of the Dutch fort have been excavated in a few spots

One of the most amazing sites in Tainan is the Tree House. This is a former salt warehouse that has been overtaken by banyan trees. It is a fine example of tropical jungle overgrowth in the middle of a city! I always take too many photos when I come here!

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Harmony standing in front of a wall covered in banyan roots at the Tainan tree house

You can see a lot of tour buses when you travel around Asia. Normally, they have names of Chinese phrases on them. Sometimes they have animals. But this bus was different, so I had to take a photo of it! Not only did it say computer bus on the side, sut it has a picture of a laptop computer on the back, and a picture of a tablet computer on the front!

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Computer tour bus

The Tainan area used to be the source of a large salt industry, especially during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. I learned a lot about salt drying at the Taiwan Salt Museum. This industry no longer exists in Taiwan, salt is now imported from Australia, where it is apparently much cheaper to produce.  Inside the museum, there are realistic salt pan dioramas as well as  cultural antiques pertaining to the salt industry in Taiwan. We also got to  try a local specialty “salt popsicles.”  They were very good!

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Diorama of a salt drying field

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Harmony poses as a salt worker!

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Salt drying fields outside of the museum

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Salt sculpture

What happened to al those salt drying fields? They became aquaculture ponds for raising fish. They are also excellent bird habitat, so migratory birds from Russia fly south every year to winter in the Tainan area of Taiwan. We took a bird watching boat, and got to see many of these migratory birds, along with the local resident birds.

Jeff’s photo of a kingfisher

Migratory Egyptian black spoonbills and a local resident greater heron

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