Ms. Xiao Chastity Archway
Ms. Xiao Chastity Archway (Xiāo Shì Jié Xiào Fáng 蕭氏節孝坊)
Some people might say that couples just don’t stay faithful like they used to. Certainly, they don’t honor that dedication in the same way. During the Qing Dynasty, women who stayed chaste were honored with stone archways dedicated to their devotion. Many were built around Tainan and throughout Taiwan, but only one chastity archway remains in Tainan City. The Ms. Xiao Chastity Archway in an alley off of Fuqian Road is the last vestige of an old tradition and old thinking in Taiwan’s oldest city.
The tradition of these archways dates back to ancient times when women were honored for killing themselves if their husband had died. These traditions developed over the centuries and it became more customary for women to just stay faithful after a husband’s death. From the Song to the Qing Dynasty, the number of women to receive honor for their chastity grew from a few to tens of thousands. Some people say this was due to the tightening rules of chastity for women, and that these arches are a reminder of women’s forced piety throughout their lives.
According to Qing general codes, wives and concubines who were widowed before the age of 30 were eligible to have an arch built in their honor if they remained unmarried and chaste until the age of 50. Ms. Xiao Liangniang married at the age of 21 and was widowed by 27. Her husband, Shen Yaowen, left her with two children and the responsibility for caring for his parents.
The Qinq court approved her archway in 1797 and it was completed in 1800.
The arch is a slender, double-eave design. The upper eave is small and high, and between the two eaves is a dragon-phoenix design which usually symbolizes marriage or male-female relations. The central horizontal tablet contains the words 節孝 (jié xiào) which mean chastity and filial piety.
The arch can’t be seen from Fuqian Road. Travel into the alleys on the north side of Fuqian between Yongfu and Ximen. Look for a small temple with red columns and doors tucked into a corner. The arch is just north of it.
Location: No.3, Lane 304, Sec. 1, Fuqian Road (Fucian 府前路), Tainan City.