Ya-ju Chang, MA, Department of Chinese Literature, National Chengchi University
During the nineteenth century Taiwan’s three major urban centers were Anping, Lugang, and Monga, respectively located in what today are Tainan City, Changhua County, and Taipei City. Tainan, in the south, was settled first, then Lugang, in central Taiwan, and finally Monga, in the north. Modern visitors can experience the past by strolling through the old streets and winding lanes that still run through these places today.
Blessed with natural harbors, Anping, Lugang, and Monga grew into prosperous shipping centers. When sailors of the Dutch East India Company first landed in southern Taiwan, they praised the area’s pristine beauty. Later, fishermen and farmers migrating from China’s southeastern coastal regions moved inland from Anping to settle the island’s interior – it was this migration that first drew Koxinga’s attention to the “eastern hinterlands” – Taiwan – that lay beyond China’s borders. The Ming vassal drove out the Dutch and established his own short-lived dynasty with Anping as its capital.
In the 1780s Lugang displaced Anping as Taiwan’s major seaport. Situated at the mouth of the Zhuoshui River in the island’s central region, Lugang became the main shipping link between Taiwan and ports in Fujian on the China mainland. Eventually, however, the harbor silted up and inland railways rendered river transport obsolete, marking Lugang’s decline as a commercial center. During the colonial period the Japanese designated Monga as an official “red-light district,” a move that greatly contributed to the area’s rapid development. Located at the confluence of the Tamsui, Dahan and Xindian rivers, Monga quickly became Taiwan’s major urban center, a business hub by day, a pleasure den by night.
Monga too gradually fell into decay, gaining notoriety as a center of the sex-trade and a haven for criminal gangs who controlled Taipei’s illegal commerce. Huaxi Street, the district’s main thoroughfare, famed for its snake-soup vendors and the brothels that dotted its darkened alleyways, became synonymous with depravity in the minds of many Taiwanese. But urban renewal has extended into Monga, and today the area – known now as Wanhua – is a thriving tourist destination where travelers may visit the historic Long Shan Temple, sample Taiwanese snack foods in the bustling Huaxi night-market, or purchase medicinal herbs in traditional Chinese apothecaries. And though restaurants and karaoke bars have largely replaced the district’s houses of ill repute, adventurous eaters can still partake of reptilian delights in Huaxi Street’s legendary “Snake Alley.”
“Monga – Taipei Then and Now” originally appeared as a special planning report in the February 2010 issue of Sinorama Magazine. Now titled Taiwan Panorama Magazine, the periodical is published by the Executive Yuan. To promote international awareness and understanding of Taiwan, the magazine features parallel texts in English, Japanese and Spanish. A digital version of the magazine, “Taiwan Panorama Chinese-English Knowledge Base,” subscription information, and search functions are available online.
|Related Literary Themes：||Taiwan Literature under Japanese Colonial Rule|