Tainan, Taiwan ... is it a mispelling?
No, it is not. In Taiwan we have the city of Tainan ... and also Taichung, Taitung and, of course, Taipei.
I hope that Mazu e Guan Gong, two of the most important gods among Taiwanese, will forgive me for this silly introduction to the city where they are honoured in so many temples.
The people that can read my mind - my wife just to name one - know very well that I am not a great fan of Taiwanese cities (to say the least). How you can be, unless you too have developed the strong selective blindness to eyesores that seem affect the vast majority of Taiwanese?
I make an exception for Taipei and Tainan, at least for parts of them. I actually like this city in Southern Taiwan. This is why is worth a visit.
It is the most ancient city in Taiwan. The city has been established by the Dutch in the XVII century. Tainan, beside the remains of the Dutch colonization, boasts more than 200 Chinese temples. And, yes, some of the temples had been originally built about 400 years ago, when the city was just founded.
Most temples in China had been destroyed or heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution. The few that survived have been neated and made up. They have been transformed in tourist attractions .. where you have to pay a fee to enter .... and where nobody really go to pray.
So, if you want to visit authentic chinese temples where the local people come, worship, give offerings to the gods, perform rituals, consults fortune tellers, you have to come to Tainan!
Local cuisine offers several dishes, simple yet tasty: here you will find the real Taiwanese food .
Last but not least, Tainan is definitively tidier than many cities in Taiwan (did anybody mention Taichung?)
The city center, where most of the attractions are, is quite pleasant. It is nice to walk around, especially if you are here in a cool and dry winter day.
A small group of buldings of a quiet and serene beauty in the middle of the city.
Adorned by a garden of majestic banyan trees, the Confucius Temple is a perfect example of a "classical" chinese temple.
Not to be missed!
Museum of Taiwanese Literature
The museum is interesting, the japanese colonial building that harbours the museum is even more interesting.
It was built in 1916 in neoclassic style. The palace has been totally renovated and merged in part to a beautiful modern structure. A nice place to cool down when outside is too hot! Yes, there is also a cafeteria.
Located in Tainan city center, the "towers" are actually two elevated pretty pavillions from Ching dinasty time. The pavillions have been built on the ruins of the dutch fortress named Provintia.
In the evening a night market is held on the roads around the site. Here you can sample local dishes.
This temple is dedicated to the Jade Emperor. The local people come here to dispel misfortune and evil eye.
The italians say that "Good fortune is blind, but the bad luck can see very well". Since Tiantan Temple is the most popular in the city ... i guess that saying is also true in Taiwan!
Temple of the God of War
This ancient and beautiful temple is dedicated to Guan Gong - Lord Guan - a general depicted in the classical "Romance of Three Kingdoms".
Guan Gong is the god of loyalty to friends, so he is worshipped by businessmen, cops and .... triad members.
One of the most importants temple of Mazu, the very popular sea goddess.
This was before the mansion of ill-fated Ning Jing, the last Ming emperor.
People come here also to worship Yue Xia Lao Ren, the "old man under the moonlight". Yue Xia Lao Ren bounds with invisible strings the men and the women who are predestined to become husband and wife.
400 years ago Anping was an island, where the Dutch built Fort Zelandia, their first and most important outpost in Taiwan.
The pyramid you can see today is the residence of the Customs Director. It was built by the Japanese on the few remains of the dutch fort.
Around the area you will find a couple of mansions of european traders that has been renovated as coffee shop.
As my taiwanese mother in law said: "Lets follow the lanterns!". If you get lost in an alley and you don't know where you are, just follow them. Sooner or later they will bring you to a temple. Which temple? Who knows .... this city has 750,000 inhabitants and more than 200 temples ...
By the way, "nan" in Chinese Mandarin means "south" so Tainan is the "Tai-city of the South". Instead "Pei" means "North" (Taipei), "Tung" "East" (Taitung), "Chung" "Middle" (Taichung). We do not have Taisi, Tai of the West. Maybe because on the west we have the sea, maybe because "si" - west - also refers to the death and the taiwanese, as all the chinese, are quite superstitious.
View a larger Tainan map.