Shennong Street (Beishi St.)
Shennong Street (Shénnóng Jiē 神農街)
Shennong Street is the often considered the best preserved street in Tainan. It is the keystone of the Old Five Channels Cultural Zone and is among one of the must see areas of Tainan in my opinion. The street is named after Shennong, an ancient Chinese ruler who is considered to be the forefather, and deity, of Chinese agriculture.
This street is part of an area that was the busy working class zone during the Qing Dynasty. The canals coming in from the ocean made this a densely populated port area where goods were transferred, stored, sold, etc. This was Tainan’s lifeline to the outside world and roads led directly from here to downtown. The street is also known as Beishi Street, but I haven’t learned why.
In the mid 1990s, a movement started to recognize the significance of this former port area and make it into a cultural zone. Shennong street has gotten most of the attention so far. Between 1999 and 2002, 12 houses on the street had their facades and roofs restored. New stonework was laid along the original path of this street and it the road was decorated with nice light boxes to aluminate it at night. Since then it has become a bit of an ‘art street.’ There are a few galleries on the street and you can occasionally catch the openings on various nights. Additionally, the craft of making parade sedans and other religious works is alive and well on this street. You can peruse the interiors of some of these buildings in a teahouse or one of the other drinking establishments such as Taikoo. All-in-all, this street hasn’t fully reached its commercial potential, but its worth visiting for the facades alone.
The renovated area begins at Haian Road and is marked by a large mural. It extends about two blocks to Yaowang Temple. This temple marks the beginning of the Old Five Channels Cultural Zone walking tour, and many signs and maps are posted around to help you get started.