National Cheng Kung University
National Cheng Kung University (Guólì Chénggōng Dàxué 國立成功大學)
Many foreigners arrive in Tainan as either a student, guest lecturer, or visiting faculty at National Cheng Kung University; however, the school also holds interest for those outside of the academic world. Like many universities, the campuses of NCKU are full of culture, history, and nice places to walk and enjoy some leisure time.
NCKU, or Chéng Dà as it is commonly known, is the most prestigious university in Tainan and one of the top three universities in Taiwan. It is named after heroic figure Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), but chénggōng (成功) also means success, so there’s some play with the wording. The school has a high reputation for science, engineering, medicine, management, planning, and design, though many foreigners come for the school’s international MBA program or to study Chinese. There are nine NCKU campuses in Tainan, most of which are located in a cluster just east of the Tainan Railway Station.
The school began in 1931 as a technical high school built by the Japanese. It became a technical college in 1942, and later became a college of engineering. It first became a provincial university in 1956 and was upgraded to a national university in 1971.
NCKU has many historic buildings on its campuses, and not all of them originated as university buildings. Among the historic buildings on the Kuang Fu Campus are Dacheng Hall, Lishien Building, and the History Department. These Romanesque buildings date from around 1910 and were originally built by the Japanese as infantry camps for its southern military. Kuang Fu Campus also contains the remains of the Small East Gate and part of the city wall which were demolished in 1915. There’s not much to see of the Small East Gate, but sitting just a few meters away from where it once stood is the original Small West Gate which was preserved and moved to the university campus in 1970. It originally stood at what is now the intersection of Ximen Road and Fuqian Road. The Li-Hsing Campus to the north of Kuang Fu Campus houses the remains of the Japanese army hospital that served the infantry camp. These brick buildings date from 1917. At the time of this writing, they were undergoing major renovations. The Cheng Kung Campus to the east of Kuang Fu Campus is the university’s original campus and contains most of the historic buildings from the school’s foundation. The oldest of these is the Department of Physics which dates from 1930. The Faculty of Engineering (1932), the Main Museum (1933), and Ger Chih Hall (1934), round out the school’s original buildings. All of these are worth visiting for their architecture and historic vibe. The National Cheng Kung University Museum is worth visiting for its exhibitions.
The campus grounds of the university are very enjoyable for leisure walks and activities. The campus contains a wide variety of flora as well as fields and gardens for recreation and exploration. The Cheng Kung Campus is particularly leafy and well-worth wandering through. The famous Banyan Tree Garden of Kuang Fu Campus is a large field graced with many banyans. Banyans are a major symbol of the university and one of them on campus was planted by the Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito in 1924. Just to the east of that garden is a family park containing Cheng Kung Lake. This small lake contains an island, arched bridge, and surrounding gardens. The Tzu-Chiang Campus to the east of Cheng Kung Campus has fields for football, baseball, basketball, and volleyball. It is a popular place for sporting activities of all kinds.
Among the modern buildings worth mentioning is the brand new Y. S. Sun Green Building Research Center on the Li-Hsing Campus. It is the world’s first green education center, and Taiwan’s first carbon zero building.
The nearby NCKU hospital is probably the best equipped hospital in the city for handling foreigners.
Most of the area just east of the Tainan Railway Station is part of the campus or part of the student culture in Tainan. Many of the surrounding streets are comprised of student housing, coffee shops, and eateries of all kinds. Campus life has a huge presence in this area of the city.