Tainan Park (Zhongshan Park)
Tainan Park (Táinán Gōngyuán 台南公園)
Tainan has many city parks both large and small. One of the oldest and most central parks in the city is Tainan Park. Up until recently it was called Zhongshan Park and many people and publications still refer to it by this name. It may also be translated as Sun Yat-sen Park. Sun Yat-sen was also commonly known as Sun Zhongshan, thus any reference to Zhongshan in Taiwan usually refers to him. Whatever the name, this park is a central part of the city’s leisure culture, a wonderful traditional garden, and a peace of Tainan history.
A visit to this park on any given morning will show you how the older-half lives. Retirees make every square inch of this park seem like one giant social club. You will find large groups of people entwined in dance classes, swatting at badminton birdies, or waving hands like clouds in a tai chi form. The level of fitness activity among the elder generation is enough to make most western twenty-year-olds hang their heads in shame. Anyone not exercising is still out enjoying the park with leisurely walks, social gatherings, games of Xiàngqí, or contemplations involving their fishing lures that are dangling in the pond. Bigger crowds may die out as the heat of the day drags on, but the park generally stays active all day. On weekends, the playgrounds are active with children and families. If you’re looking for something to do with the kids, there are paddle boat rentals available on the big pond.
Even with many people enjoying the park, it is easy to find peace under the trees. Tainan Park is the most like a traditional Chinese park of any in the city. It has several pavilions, arched foot bridges, winding stone pathways, and lily ponds throughout the park. Its key iconic feature is the marble bridge and pavilion that span the large pond in the middle of the park. Much of the man-made construction, however, seems secondary to the lushness of the grounds. Many of the trees here look ancient. The walking paths wind through dense tree-cover, bringing you into a shaded world of tropical flora and letting you get up close and personal with the songs of an infinite array of bird species. Feel like there’s too much concrete in Tainan? Sit on a bench in Tainan Park for a while and you may get big dose of nature.
Tainan Park also contains a historic relic. Along with a handful of other examples like the Pan Gao Stone Archway and the Ms. Xiao Chastity Archway, Tainan Park houses one of the few remaining Qing dynasty stone archways. The Zhongdao Chongwen Archway (Zhòngdào Chóngwén Fáng 重道崇文坊) is a monument to observing the right path and respecting literature. It commemorates the charity of a man named Lin Cao-ying who single-handedly funded the renovation of a temple. Archways like this were ways of honoring people who had great performance in loyalty, filial piety, chastity and righteousness. Built in 1815, this archway was originally located neat the Confucius Temple, but was torn down by the Japanese in order to construct Nanmen Road. Descendants of Lin petitioned to have the arch moved to its current location. Much of what you see today was the result of the 1992 renovation. Only certain parts of the archway are original. The arch is right next to the paddle boat rentals.
Tainan Park is not New York’s Central Park, but it is Tainan’s central park and it is definitely worth a visit. It offers a wonderful look into local culture, fresh plant life, and city history. Mornings and evenings are a great time to visit. It is technically closed at night, but there’s little to keep you from being inside the park at that time. Safety after dark may be a concern. Some may also want to note that after midnight the park becomes a cruising ground for gay men. This ends at dawn when the onslaught of early-rising retirees start waving hands like clouds.
The park takes up a large city block. It is surrounded by Beimen Road, Gongyuan South Road, Gongyuan Road, and Gongyuan North Road.