Nanzih District's Scenery and Story
Nanzih District's Scenery and Story
◎Written by Sie Hong-wei
◎English translation by Hou Ya-ting
◎Photos by Sie Hong-wei
Nanzih District's old toponym was Nanzihkeng, a name that came about because Phoebe zhennan trees were once common in the area. The earliest record of planting Phoebe zhennan trees here goes back to the late Ming dynasty when immigrants from the Chinese coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong crossed the Taiwan Strait to settle in what's now Nanzih District. During the period of Japanese rule, the colonial authorities established the Nanzihkeng branch city hall. In 1920, Nanzihkeng was renamed Nazihjhuang. Later, the name was changed to Nanzih.
The Burden and Transformation of Heavy Industry
In 1941, the Japanese government established the Imperial Japanese Navy's Sixth Fuel Refinery Zone in Nanzih, to supply the military with petroleum. After World War II, the ROC government took control of the facility. It was designated the Kaohsiung Refinery and assigned to the state-owned enterprise now known as CPC Corporation, Taiwan. The refinery was key to the development of Taiwan's petrochemicals industry, but it produced unbearable amounts of pollution. Those living nearby became more environmentally aware, and in 2015 the government fulfilled its promise to terminate operation of the refinery. Some parts of the old navy facility have been preserved, including the Japanese-style Hongnan and Hongyi staff dormitories. In 2015, both were listed as Culture Landscapes by Kaohsiung City Government. Both are in good condition, and the site exudes an alluringly placid ambience thanks to the old trees and natural diversity. The dormitories have become a true cultural attraction, attracting streams of visitors and even moviemakers.
Houjin Creek flows through five of Kaohsiung's districts (Niaosong, Renwu, Dashe, Ciaotou, and Nanzih). It was once heavily polluted as a result of industrial effluents, compelling local residents to demand it be cleaned up. Following years of work, the rejuvenated Houjin Creek no longer stinks, and a section of it in Nanzih District now has a promenade and a riverside bike path. Another major transformation in this part of the city is Kaohsiung Metropolitan Park, originally a landfill site. The 95-hectare park, the largest metropolitan park in Taiwan, offers a variety of landforms. When the weather is clear, from the highest point in the park visitors can take in Mount Siaogang, Banpingshan Park, and Guanyin Mountain.
Nature lovers enjoy exploring Yuanjhong Wetlands Park, which can be reached via Taiwan Highway 17. The wetland, originally a set of fish farms, is located between Dianbao Stream and Houjin Creek. The intertidal ecosystem here nurtures 10 species of fiddler crab and a large number of mangroves. Compared to the often boisterous Kezailiao Fishing Port not far away, Yuanjhong Wetlands Park receives relatively few visitors, but among them are people drawn by the park's tranquility, as well as individuals eager to appreciate the sight of the sun dipping below the horizon.
Nanzih has several prominent centers of religion, including Nanzih Tianhou Temple, Youchang Marshal Temple, and Tuku Cingfu Taoist Temple. The building styles, craftsmanship, and cultural goods of these temples express the vitality of vernacular culture.
The majestic Nanzih Tianhou Temple, established in 1713, is in a neighborhood densely packed with buildings. Due to the limited space, its layout emulates that of a simple sanheyuan, a traditional three-section residential compound nowadays only seen in rural areas. The temple, designated a municipal-level relic, features a wide range of arts and crafts, among them glass cutting and pasting works, wooden sculptures, and koji pottery. The temple also preserves a Feudal Prince Dengyihou stone monument that was erected in 1879. This monument declares an order from the magistrate that beggars should not intimidate shops or householders into giving them money.
Youchang Marshal Temple was established during the era of Zeng Chenggong (1624-1662), the Ming dynasty loyalist also known as Koxinga. The temple's principle deities are the Seven Marshals. In terms of religious ceremonies, the temple is ahead of time. Since 1929, each spring and autumn the temple holds worship ceremonies featuring flowers, fruit, and vegetarian dishes. In environmental terms, Youchang Marchal Temple is a pioneer, having prohibited the burning of spirit money since 1963. Within the temple, the Feng Shi Li Jin stele (which prohibited beggars from robbing villagers) is preserved.
Tuku Cingfu Taoist Temple's main deitiy is Cingshuei Zushih (the Divine Ancestor), and its most precious icon is the Tuku Thuang Ancestor stone monument.
History buffs may also want to visit Houjin Cultural Hall on Syuejhuan Road. The hall exhibits items which embody local culture, such as props used by Song Jiang Battle Array groups and instruments used to perform the traditional Fujianese-Taiwanese music known as Nanguan.
Youchang residents do much of their shopping at Demin Market, a much loved traditional afternoon market often filled with customers eager to buy humble yet tasty dishes like braised food, dumplings, and steamed spring rolls. Youchang Steam Bun Shop, adjacent to Youchang Market, has been in business for 30 years, and is highly recommended by many locals. Regular customers return again and again for its hearty buns and steamed twisted rolls.
Houjin Night Market is open two evenings a week and offers a wide range of barbecued and roasted meats, sushi, and shawarma. Among those who make a habit of enjoying the night market are blue-collar workers at the nearby Export Processing Zone. Foodies will not want to miss Jinkoufu Xiao Long Bao Shop, which is close to Nanzih Railway Station. Jinkoufu Xiao Long Bao Shop operates between four o'clock in the morning and half past one in the afternoon, allowing early-bird gourmets to enjoy succulent soup-filled dumplings. Regulars say dipping each bao (dumpling) in the shop's special sauce adds a marvelous flavor. While one is in the neighborhood, do not miss the liquor-soaked chicken eatery, which is so humble that it does not even have a sign. This hidden gem is well known in the neighborhood, so ask a local person for directions.