Xinhua (Sinhua) Old Street
Xinhua Old Street (Xīnhuà Lǎo Jiē 新化老街)
Throughout Tainan City you can find Japanese-era shop houses with Baroque-influenced facades. This was modernity to Japanese architects and the style spread throughout the region. While these buildings are randomly scattered throughout Tainan City, in Xinhua Township there is a two or three block stretch where almost every building follows this style. The facades are in great condition and really showcase the antiquity of Japanese-era modernity.
The township of Xinhua and the surrounding area have a long history. Before the Japanese period, Xinhua was called Tavocan. Tavocan was an area of the Siraya plains aborigines dating back to a time before the Dutch era. During the 1920s, Xinhua blossomed commercially, largely due to wholesale fruit.
The area of Zhongzheng Road known as “Xinhua Old Street” developed during the commercial boom of the 1920s. In 1921, a wealthy man named Lin Maoji began construction on the west side of the street. The Baroque-influenced style was admired throughout Xinhua, and a building surge in this style soon proliferated along the street. At first, building was done only along the west side of the street. The east side of the street followed later, causing locals to really distinguish between the east and west side. The builders and craftsmen hired by Mr. Lin really showed their talent. The buildings have held up nicely over the years, and there’s much to admire about the details.
Today, the street is still active with traditional shops. It is a tourist area, but not much is set up for tourism. The shops still have the same ordinary activity you’d see in any small town in Taiwan. The only difference is the sense of nostalgia people can feel both inside the shops and along the street. For me, the real treat of this area is the signage. Uniform signs are hung above every shop showing off old illustrations that were really meant to guide the illiterate with clear depictions of what was for sale inside (something that would be useful for me in Tainan). Many are beautiful examples of old graphic design work, and some are just downright comical.
In addition to the old architecture, Xinhua Old Street has a small museum, and a fine-dining restaurant that is built inside of an old government building. The museum is free. It doesn’t showcase a lot, but there are some nice old photographs to view. All of the information is in Chinese. The restaurant is really worth checking out both outside and in (the staff will let you have a look around). The interior design is really quite special, and it looks like a very nice place for a romantic meal.
While the old street doesn’t supply hours of interest for most people, it does make a nice stop on your way to the scenic areas just to the east. If you’re heading to the Siraya National Scenic Area or the Hutoupi Reservoir, it’s worth stopping off in town.
Xinhua Old Street is located in Xinhua Township on Zhongzheng Road (中正路) near the intersection of Zhongshan Road. Zhongzheng and Zhongshan Roads are Highway 19 and Highway 20 respectively. To get there from Tainan City, take Beimen Road north to Kaiyuan Road and head east. This is highway 20. Follow it until you reach the town of Xinhua and look for Zhongzheng Road (Highway 19). Highway 20 switches from Zhongshan Road to Zhongxiao Road briefly at this point, but whether you stay on Zongshan or Highway 20 is not important. Either way, turn left when you hit Zhongzheng. It’s about 12kms from Tainan Rail Station and should take about a half hour. It’s quite manageable on a scooter.