Chikan Lou (Ft. Provintia)
Chikan Lou (Chìkǎn Lóu 赤崁樓)
Chikan Lou, also known as Chikan Tower or Fort Provintia, is among the most important historic sites in Tainan City as well as all of Taiwan. It is also one of the prettiest. Two ornate stone and wood towers sit amongst the grounds of lovely gardens that include a koi fish pond and several statues. This includes nine stone turtles carrying large steles on their backs. The site is lovely anytime of day, but it is particularly impressive at dusk when the lights of the towers and garden are just coming into effect. On some evenings, small musical concerts grace the front lawn.
The Chinese style towers are built on top of an old Dutch fort called Provintia. You can still see some of the original brick foundations of this fort in certain areas of the site. It would seem hard to believe now, but at the time of the Dutch, Fort Provintia was oceanfront property. The land to the northwest of Chikan Lou has been transformed due to natural silting and man-made landfill. When the hero of Taiwan, Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), landed his army to take Taiwan from the Dutch, he used his ships to cut off the waters between Fort Provintia and Fort Zeelandia in Anping – a thought that seems impossible given the structure of modern Tainan.
In an interesting bit of history, when Zheng Chenggong landed his ships to attack the Dutch, he demanded a full surrender of the two forts. In return, he offered safe passage for the Dutch and all their possessions as they left into exile. While Fort Zeelandia had the will to resist, Fort Provintia was in no shape to withstand an invasion of this magnitude. When the Dutch at Provintia surrendered and those at Zeelandia did not, Zheng went back on his word and decided to execute many of the Dutch men and gave the women to his officers as concubines. This is not something they teach Taiwanese kids at school about their national hero.
After the defeat of the Dutch, Chikan Lou became the governor’s mansion. Under the Japanese, it became an army hospital. After the Japanese period, restorations took place and the original wooden structure was changed to the current form. The front gate went from facing west to facing south. One of the towers is called the Haishen Temple and the other is Wenchang Pavilion. Both towers serve as small museums, and in each you can enter the towers and climb the old, narrow stairs to the second floor. In Haishan Temple, you can find the wishes and thanks of many students who pray for good grades.
One of the most interesting statues in the gardens is just outside of the original entrance of Ft. Provintia. This is a three-legged horse that once guarded the tomb of Zheng Chenggong before his remains were moved to Xiamen (China). According to the story on the plaque, the statue used to transform into a goblin at night and attack villagers. The plaque doesn’t say reportedly, or allegedly, or according to local legend. It simply says that this happened as a matter of history. This could be due to poor translation into English, but as it is, this speaks wonders about the Taiwanese belief in ghosts and spirits.
Chikan Lou is at the center of the Chikan Lou Cultural Zone. Several other important sites including the Grand Matsu Temple and the Official God of War Temple are a stone’s throw away. There are several restaurants and eateries nearby including a popular outdoor sushi restaurant across the street and a great mutton place called Lao Shen.
Location: Section 2, Minzu Rd, West Central District, Tainan City, Taiwan 700