Wanhua 萬華

Chin Shan King Sacrificial Ceremony

Chin Shan King Sacrificial Ceremony (艋舺大拜拜)

One of main festivals held annually in Wanhua is ”艋舺大拜拜”, also known as “青山王祭典”. The festival which occurs on 20th to 22nd of October (Lunar Calendar), is used to celebrate the birth of Chin Shan King (青山王), the main deity figure of the temple. During this period, the temple will invite Longshan Temple’s, Zhu Shi Miao’s (祖師廟), Ximending’s, Mazu Temple’s and other famous temples’ Bodhisattva/ Patriarch to hold a grand celebration within Wanhua. This involves touring Wanhua for the first 2 nights and on the last 2 days, holding a proper birthday celebration for the deity. This deity is widely prayed by the people in Wanhua for about 150 years. This is attributed to the locals’ belief that this deity can bring about peace and development as during the Qing Dynasty, praying this deity has resulted in the eradication of a massive plague in the area.

All Photo Source: http://blog.yam.com/kristen322/article/25749366
The purpose of touring Wamhua for the first 2 nights is assumed to be able to eliminate the evil spirits that brings locals bad luck and sufferings. As the evil spirits are believed to bring harm to the estate, children are prohibited from watching this ritual. Also, in fear that the evil spirits will enter the locals’ household, all windows and doors would have been shut by then.

Presently, there are three different tour routes. The first one commence from Huan He South Road to Zhong Hua Road while the second starts from the southern part of Wanhua Station. The last route begins from the northern portion of Ximending's Ting Han Kou Road. The parade usually last throughout the night and ends at 3-4 a.m. 

During the tour, other rituals such as “八將團” will also be carried out. 

This festival is one of the main traditional culture preserved in Wanhua not just for many years, but also practiced on a massive and impressive scale. To celebrate this event, some locals would even borrow money for a feast. A traditional biscuit known as "Xian Guang Bing"(餡光餅) is often given out to people. This can amount up to 2-3 million pieces each celebration. The Chin Shan King Sacrificial Ceremony is different from other religious practices. Apart from lighting up firecrackers, the hosts of the ceremony, known as "Ru Zhu" will be surrounded by the crowd. To be considered a "Ru Zhu", one will have to donate NTD 2 million and for "Tou Jia", NTD 1 million.

With a variety of traditional rituals, one would definitely find it amazing to witness the entire sacrificial ceremony.

Specific photo source: http://blog.yam.com/kristen322/article/25749366


The Red House

The Red House (西門紅樓)

Location: No. 10 Chengdu Rd, Wanhua District, Taipei City
Hours: 11:00am – 9:30pm, Tuesday to Sunday (closing time extended to 10pm on Friday and Saturday)
Website: www.redhouse.org.tw
The Red House
The Red House, which is located at Chengdu Road, is a western-styled architecture designed by Kondo Juro and built in 1908. It was once Taiwan’s first public market and later became the entertainment center of Wanhua during the Japanese Colonial Rule. Subsequently, after the World War II, the Red House began to enjoy popularity among the westernised moviegoers through the screening of martial arts movies and local costume films, etc. Nevertheless, business declined due to the stronger emphasis on eastward urban developments. Fortunately, in 2007, the Taipei Culture Foundation was commissioned to operate the Red House. Under their operation, this iconic site was transformed into a must-visit landmark. Today, the Red House continues to showcase a plethora of performances varying from Jazz to Taiwanese Opera.

Central display area
Apart from showcasing performances, exhibitions such as Kai-Hsing Hung Solo Exhibition and The Cradle of Cultural Creative Dreamer are also available on a seasonal basis. A small gallery is also set up at the entrance which vividly describes the history of The Red House through the display of some artifacts. 

Exhibit found at central display
Furthermore, interesting designer products can also be found at The Red House’s Creative Boutique. This includes hand-made rings to metal robots keychain. While the products sold may be pricier than other products found along the Ximending Street, the former are much more exquisite. 


Products sold at the Red House's Creative Boutique
Interesting Facts 
The market’s entrance takes the shape of an octagon which Chinese perceive as “Eight Trigrams” (八卦). According to Chinese fengshui, such design is symbolical of protection and luck.

The golden age of performance was from 1945 to 1963. During this period of time, The Red House held a wide variety of performances including Peking Opera, Cantonese Opera, popular music, dance shows, comedy routines and dramas.

The Red House was awarded the 7th Urban Landscape Award in Historical Space Redevelopment Category in 2008.

Throughout 2009, it has hosted over 1,000 arts and literature themed events

Exhibit celebrating the Red House's 104th Birthday
Therefore, with a strong and unique culture and tradition, The Red House is definitely one of the must-go tourist attractions in Taipei. 

MRT: Take to Ximen MRT station and exit at Exit 6. The building is found on the left side of the exit, one pedestrian crossing away.

Bus: Sanchung-bus (Wugu-Taipei, Jhonggang-Beimen, Huilong-Taipei) 3, blue 2, 9, 12, 18, 25, 49, 52, 201, 202, 205, 206, 209, 212, 218, 221, 223, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 253, 257, 513, 624, 621, 640


Wanhua's Night Markets

Wanhua’s Night Markets (Huaxi Night Market 華西街夜市) 

Wanhua is well-known for its night markets. In particular, Hua Xi Night Market, once known as the “Snake Alley” is most popular as it is Taiwan’s first official Night Market catered to tourists. This market is located just around the Longshan Temple and along Hua Xi Street.

Entrance to Huaxi Night Market
The night market is famous for its local delicacies, including pig organ soup, danzi noodles, cuttlefish soup, glass jelly, stinky tofu and desserts such as peanut/ redbean mochi soup. Among the extensive choices of food available, the most famous remains as the Snake and Turtle Soups. 

Stall selling Snake Soup
In fact, their presence explains the market’s initial name, “Snake Alley”. This is because Wanhua was once a red light district, full of brothels. Therefore, many local men patronize these food outlets as the soups are regarded as effective traditional remedies that treat or stimulate male potency. Nevertheless, after former President Chen Shui Bian took over, he made prostitution illegal. Subsequently, this resulted in a sharp decline in not only the number of brothels, but also these food outlets, thereby improving the overall safety and order of the night market. At the same time, other food stalls, such as those stated above, blossomed in order to cater to the tourists’ needs. Some locals also believe that the bustling night markets in this area can be attributed to the regulations that prohibit locals from cooking openly in indoor shopping centers. Hence, these stall owners end up setting up stalls along the streets such as Hua Xi in order to continue their business.

Seafood stall
Pork selling stall including feet, intestines, etc.
Today, Huaxi Night Market is linked to other night markets such as Xichang Street Night Market, Guangzhou Street Night Market and Nanjichang Night Market. The entrance of Huaxi Night Market is represented by traditional Chinese post stands while Chinese laterns are hung across the entire street. A recommended time to visit this night market will be after 6p.m. as that is when crowd starts accumulating.

Map of Wanhua's Night Markets


Jia Na Festival

Jia Na Festival (萬華加蚋文化節)

All Photo Source: http://www.whdo.taipei.gov.tw
Massive beansprout picking event
Jia Na Festival (加蚋文化節)is an annual festival celebrated by many Wanhua locals on March 12 (Lunar Calendar). It is usually commenced outside a temple before activities encompassing themes comprising forklore, sports, education, religion, business and aboriginal arts kick start the week. 


These multi-cultural events often attract large crowds of participants and on-lookers. At the same time, it also reminds participants of the past and traditional cultures which their ancestors once practiced. 

A lively festival cherished by many, a significant activity of this festival involves honoring the deity, 保仪大夫神 through having the temple troupes touring Wanhua’s area. In this past, locals pray to this deity in hope to exterminate pests that are destroying their crops. However, as the country progresses, the number of farmers have declined. Thus, most locals now pray in hope for peace and development. 

Religious rituals performed by temple troupes.
Apart from the religious rituals, different clubs and associations also get a chance to showcase their talents. For instance, performances by locals are varied, ranging from line dancing, modern contemporary dance to having live bands perform. Other community wide activities held include a massive beansprout-picking event. Having celebrated this festival for 13 consecutive years, it is proven that this festival holds a unique place the residents’ hearts.

Exhibitions showcasing hand braided products
Specific photo source: http://www.whdo.taipei.gov.tw/lp.aspctNode=3428&CtUnit=2062&BaseDSD=7&mp=124111


Dali Garment Shopping Area

Mengjia Dali Garmet Shopping Area (艋舺大理服飾商圈) 

Directions: Take the MRT to Longshan Station and leave from Exit 2 to reach the shopping area.

This area is considered to be the pioneer in the garment wholesale market, with at least 40 years of history to date. The area’s popularity rose in the 1950s because of the area’s accessibility by the Wanhua Train Station (萬華車站). Initially it developed because many locals seeked jobs in this area and retail outlets operated along the street or in the markets. 

As a result, many garment processing factories also moved to this area, changing the retailing haven to a famous wholesale market in the 1960s. After 1988, there were over 2,000 companies and their developments expanded to surrounding cities and towns. There were also over 100,000 employees. However after 1990, many of the garment factories decided to move to Mainland China because of the lower cost of production and seemingly lustrous consumer market. Coupled with the introduction of the Municipal Rapid Transit (MRT i.e. 捷運) which had changed the common traffic route practiced by locals, business was badly affected. 

Today, there are only about 500 stores in Mengjia Garment Shopping Area that sells clothes mainly targeting the middle-aged to the old. In addition, the popularity it used to enjoy among the youths has diminished as the younger generation now visit places like Ximending (西門町) or Wufenpu (五分埔) for the latest fashion.

Entrance of the garment area
Photo source: http://travel2tp.pixnet.net/blog/post/32090624-萬華服飾街-大理街


Guiyang Street

Many streets of Wanhua have significant and unique historical origins. For instance, Gui Yang Street (貴陽街) is Taipei’s oldest street and the street that then Monga first prospered. While this street no longer holds the economic significance it once held, it still houses an entire stretch of traditional shop houses which allows one to take a quick glimpse and feel of Wanhua’s current state. During the Japanese Colonial Rule, the street was divided into 2 sections, namely "Wen Wu Ding" and the other comprises places called "Zhu Ding" and "Ru Chuan Ding". Even earlier, Gui Yang Street was shorter as it was divided to about 5 different portions such as Sweet Potato Street (番薯街), each representative of activities carried out in the area. For instance, Sweet Potato Street was named due to massive sweet potato trading in that district. Today, one will be able to find century old outlets selling incense or traditional pastries as well as famous temples Chin Shan Gong (青山宮) and Ching Shui Temple (祖師廟) within its vicinity.

Vendor selling Liang Fen (涼粉)
This is probably the only Liang Fen food stall left in the entire Wanhua. This special snack is cool on the inside and thus extremely enjoyable to savour when the weather is hot.

Liang Fen
Despite the rich historical background of Gui Yang Street, many locals have forgetten it after its decline. This is due to the shift of economic focus from the west to the east of Taipei. Nevertheless, it is heartwarming to know that non-profit organisations in this district remain passionate about promoting the place’s history and culture. This results in events such as free-guided tours around Gui Yang Street for interested parties to gain a deeper understanding of the place.

One of small alleys of Gui Yang Street. In the past, these small alleys hold great significance to the locals’ lives.
A free tour organised by the district’s activists.

Interesting Facts

Fun Fact 1
In the past when Tamsui River was clear, there were a lot of performances such as "Hua Ren" and "Kong Jing". A myriad of fishes and clamps could also be found in the water. However, this water pathway is now almost gone due to massive sand disposition and reduced water flow. Ships can no longer enter the river and this halted the development of Gui Yang Street.

Fun Fact 2 
Traditional performances known as "Ge Zai Xi", or "Nagaxi" were popular during the Japanese Colonial Rule at this old street. In the past, this area happens to be a gathering location for mafia and there would be public fight for new territories. While the situation in this street was dangerous and sketchy, Gui Yang Street today is much quieter and peaceful.


Local Delicacies

Taiho Bakery
Website: www.taiho300.com.tw
Location: No. 300 Kanding Road, Taipei City
Telephone: (02)2306-9629

Taiho Bakery is a short distance walk from the Longshan MRT Station and is a favourite amongst locals. The first Taiho Bakery was established in 1946 and began to integrate different types of products from its original sale of bread.

In 1998, the Taipei government awarded Taiho the status of "Taipei Old Store" signifying the legacy of its brand.

Taiho Bakery
Go up to the counter at Taiho and try some of their samples! The friendly staff will happily explain to you what each thing is even if you've never tasted it before.

Taste testing at Taiho
One of the most famous products at Taiho is their cheesecake. It comes in a box with an aerial map of Wanhua. So if you're a tourist to the area, perhaps go to Taiho for a dessert stop and then use the map to discover more of the area.

Taiho Cheesecake
Chen's Oyster Vermicelli
Location: 166, Section 3, Heping W.Road, Taipei City
Phone: +886 2 2304 1979
Hours: 6:30am to 7:30pm.

Taiwan is known for its oyster delicacies and Oyster Vermicelli is definitely one of them. Chen's is a famous establishment in Wanhua with a never disappearing queue out its store front. They only sell one type of product and still attract customers from near and far.

Chen's from Google Street View
There are only Chinese signs around the store, so it can be slightly overwhelming for tourists but it is easy! Just queue, indicate if you want a big or small bowl and sit down at one of the tables on the street to eat. Alternatively you can take it to go and enjoy at a nearby park to avoid the crowd on the street.

The size of the bowl is the same for both big and small bowls, the difference is the number of oysters and pig intestines inside.
Small bowl: NT50
Big bowl: NT65

Chen's Oyster Vermicelli
Monga's Traditional Rice Tofu (艋舺大早味涼粉)
Location: Along Gui Yang Street (貴陽街)

Pushcart selling Rice Tofu
This is believed to be the only pushcart selling the traditional snack in Wanhua and possibly the entire Taipei! Mouthwatering, soft and cool, this is a perfect snack when touring Wanhua District under the scorching sun. While it is commonly found at the junction, being a pushcart, its location may shift. 

Rice Tofu
Location: 166, Section 3, Heping W.Road, Taipei City
Hours:  7:00 to 21:00
Phone: (02)2306-2385

Shrimp Dumpling Noodles
This stalls sells handmade dumplings at very affordable price. The seating area may be a little squeezy though, nevertheless the dumpling noodles are good and filling. 

Guangzhou Night Market's Ice Jelly Honey Lime 
Location: Guangzhou Night Market (廣州夜市)

Ice Jelly Honey Lime Stall
Near a junction, this is the only drink stall that sells Ice Jelly Honey Lime. This drink is surprising refreshing; a must try in this night market! 

Location: Huaxi Street, No. 3, 5, 7

Shop Front 
Opened in 1965, this dessert stall is one of the oldest in the district and probably the best! It’s found at the corner-end of Huaxi Night Market, near Guiyang Street. It is famous for both its glutinous rice sesame balls and glutinous rice cake porridge.

Desserts available in the stall
Location: Huaxi Street, No. 59

Shop Front
Also at Huaxi Night Market, this is another dessert stall with a long history of 55 years. This stall is most famous for its peanut glutinous rice balls, which are freshly made and soft. Definitely a must-try.

Famous Peanut Glutinous Rice Balls


Lion Dance

Where to see lion dances: Chinese New Year, temple celebrations, store openings, third month of the Lunar calendar

The Lion Dance has slowly modified to become a fun spectacle during Chinese New Years and increasingly less valued as a cultural tradition. One teacher in Wanhua wants to change that thought and works with the local community to educate students young and old about the significance of the Lion Dance.

Teacher Gao (高文亮老師)
Teacher Gao (高文亮老) made clay lion masks for children to paint on while telling them legends about the lion. Slowly he was able to attract the attention of the children’s parents and spread the word to inform the community. He also teaches how to make life sized lion masks at the Wanhua Community College, hoping to pass on the skills he learnt from his master.

There are certain features of lion masks such as the three “mountains”, the mouth and the bagua symbol. The three “mountains” are the three bumps on the lion’s face including the forehead, the nose and the chin. The four corners of the mouth represent the oceans and the bagua symbol is to fight away demons.

Different explanations are told about the origin of the lion but the one he told us was that one evening the empress dreamed of the lion and drew it out. Then she ordered her servants to find the creature and they found the lion in the wild. Lion dance used to be a spectacle enjoyed exclusively in the Chinese emperor’s palace but slowly become a part of the local peoples’ lives.

So next time you see the lion dance, pay more attention and give thanks to those who are carrying on this tradition.