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Sights and Attractions
Exploring the Future with Respect to the Past-This City’s Aspiration
Zheng Cheng-gong
Wuyuan Cultural Center

■ Writer/ Wang Hao-yi

     Yaxuan wrote in his poem “Theater sketch. Light” published in 1955: “The frequency in the morning is the rose petal / evening enjoys a cup of red wine / Describing spring requires some greenness / And dark green in summer, orange in autumn and cold silver in winter ... ” The metaphor is that a successful performance requires not only a good script, director or actors, but a stage which probably matters more.

     There are many century-old stores in Tainan’s old town and they started to use new lighting, and different colors to build their own stages. Anchored by the old and warm feelings, they carried on the unique charm of this city. They still develop with elegance even in this age where everyone pursues efficiency. These are places full of human sentiment and they can continue to live at their own pace. In fact, people like this better.
     Jinquancheng grains store" is located on the National Road, section 2, next to the Ximen roundabout. Most people would fall in love with that tall two-storey brick building right away, and then notice the store was founded in 1908. There are shelves full of goods, old balance, mottled gray walls, hard wooden stairs plus old door signs which show the age of this store. The building was constructed in 1938, the year 13 according to Zhaohe under the Japanese occupation, and we can fi nd the Baroque style parapet, the trendiest style of that time, with delicate lines and elegant shapes.

     When the new construction was completed at that time, the Wang brothers moved their father's store from Xinmei St. to this place. It’s been another 50 years since these five brothers took over from their father. Now, they are getting old, and only two brothers look after this old store. The owner, Mr. Wang are still quick and neat. They sometimes would lean towards the back and shout
at the warehouse guys to move things out. The charm of the old store with the lively rhythm of the storekeeper forms a kind of calm and grand atmosphere belonging only to the old town.

     Lane 181, in the section one of the Minsheng Rd., is a small alley among a number of wedding shops. Less than a two minutes walk, you will be in front of “Yifa tofu factory” full of lights, but covered by smoke and steam. The fragance of soy milk turns the whole alley into a magical world where people are full of energy. The tofu shop was founded in 1942 and stands quietly in an alley among busy streets. Currently, the store is run by second and third generations of owners together. Every night, they boil soybean milk fi rst, and then use the traditional method to pour the milk manually into large molds and let them form into all kinds of tofu. Later on, they put those steaming molds on the shelves and leave them out in the ally right under the moonlight.
We all have eaten tofu. However, when we watch the semi-open facility lit with bright lights in the night and see the whole process of tofu making, we then feel something even more tangible about tofu. The steaming soy milk is poured out, those buckets of soy milk jelly enter into molds to be wrapped under white lint, piled up and squeezed out of unnecessary water, and then sliced into tofu pieces. The whole picture is so rich and interesting, so warm and joyful. Only in these old city alleys we can be surrounded by this familiar and old fragrance.

     Earlier, on the Beimen Road, not far from the East Gate or near university campuses, there are some second hand bookstores. They are always hiding at some distant corner of the city. In the old town of Tainan, you can find some old stores with distinctive features. They stay there silently and gently, like a mistress good at waiting.

     There is a faint smell of old books and the dim light. While we are in it, we occasionally find some authors gradually forgotten by readers, books we’d like to read but missed earlier, or some books that we once had but could not remember when we lost them. One way or the other, we are surprised to see those books and their titles. It’s just like meeting old friends that we haven’t seen for a long time. This seems to remind us of the old days.

     Opposite to the Confucius Temple, on the Nanmen Road, a “Caoji second-hand book store” appeared lately. It has a bright and comfortable appearance, nice and delicate patio with specially treated cement floor, accompanied by exposed steel interwoven with long bamboo ladders elevated in front of those walls full of old books. The doorkeeper’s delicacy really moves people. Next to the hallow fl oor is a trail corridor where many “book blocks” signed by writers are arranged. We say “book blocks”, but they are just some thick pulp bricks made of reprocessed damaged books and having different colors.

     The empty house next door recently became the “fi ction café”. While sitting inside with piles of old magazines and books, tiny pebbles walls with old furniture, visitors lose track of the time. Coffee and books are the charm of the old town, and old houses nearby and the red walls of the Confucius Temple out of the window always make people feel cheerful. There are always people full of passion about life that offer plenty of touching moments to of this old town. They are the bookstore keepers, writers
and countless people who love books.

     There are many old houses in Tainan. Some became coffee shops, and some turned into bars or lounges, some transformed into elegant stores for wedding photos and some are elegant art galleries. Of course, a few converted into a certain B & B deserves praise and appreciation. Old houses have their charm and their breathtaking esthetic. Old buildings are just like books with plenty of stories.

The “JJ-W Hotel (Jia Jia Western Market Cultural Hotel)”is located on the Zhengxing Street and became a hot topic in Tainan’s old town lately. “Jia Jia” was the name of an old hostel, the one before the current owner turned this building all white. “West Market” is a hundred year old historic market building and “cultural hotel”represents a cultural devotion. Around the Qianlong era, Tainan had wonderful two hundred years “Wutiaogangs” and the hotel’s location is a spot in that area.

     The seven-story green building with mixed new and old white elements, along with the old and lush trees nearby shows a vivid picture. At dusk, sun light penetrates the foliage and comes into the staircase through window glass. The shadows of the trees also keep it company. The well-known Tainan architect Liu Guo-chang is one of the creators who enjoy showing this kind of relationship among old buildings, sun light and trees.

     This city does love new things and is also attached to the old ones. This is its aspiration!