Feast your eyes on indescribable beauty of Taoyuan Daxi’s old district in northern Taiwan

(Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--Daxi District, Taoyuan City is the only town in Taiwan where you can see a grand traditional Chinese courtyard house, an old street lined with houses with magnificent Baroque-style façades, a century-old park, traditional Japanese architecture, and the late President Chiang Kai-shek’s villa all in the old district of the town.

To visit this corner of Daxi is to feast your eyes on indescribable beauty of the architecture that spans more than 150 years.

I came to Daxi on Friday (June 22) by driving southbound on National Highway No. 3, and it took only about 35 minutes to get to Daxi from Taipei.

My first stop at Daxi was the Li Teng-Fang Mansion (李騰芳古宅), which is designated as a national historic monument. The mansion is the house of the Li family, who came to Daxi to farm in the Yuemei (月眉) area during the Qing Dynasty and later prospered in rice trading by taking advantage of river navigation. Now it’s almost unimaginable that during the old time, people transported goods over rivers between Daxi, Taoyuan and Tamsui Port on the north coast.

Li Teng-Fang Mansion

Golden paddy fields outside the Li Teng-Fang Mansion

According to the introduction erected near the gate of the old mansion, the Li family began building their mansion in 1860 and completed it in 1864; in the following year family member Li Teng-fang passed the provincial civil service examination, enabling the family to erect a flagpole in its outer courtyard and hang a congratulatory plaque in its house.

Therefore, the Lee Ting-fang ancient residence possesses the characteristics of both a farmhouse and a governmental official’s residence, which is a rare combination of the layouts of a traditional san-ho-yuan (three-section compound) and a szu-ho-yuan (four-section compound).

The flagpole bases, which feature stone sculpture, are still standing divinely in the courtyard today, but the plaque was said to have been stolen and the current one is a remake.

One of the flagpole bases

Admission to the national monument is free, and the opening hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The mansion is open on national holidays but closed on Mondays.

My second stop was the Heping Old Street (和平老街). Right after I parked my car, I had a big bawl of shaved ice at a nearby ice shop near the decorated archway at the entrance of the Heping Old Street.

Stores along the old street sell local specialties, such as dried or braised bean curd. The old street has witnessed the prosperity river transportation had brought to this town long ago.

An alleyway called Yuemei Passage (月眉通路) located on the left of No. 38 of Heping Street is the starting point of an ancient trail that connects the old street and the Yuemei area. Visitors can take this trail and walk or bike 1.2 kilometers to visit the Li Teng-Fang Mansion.

The Yuemei Passage (月眉通路)

At the end of the old street, I turned left and walked a couple of hundred meters to get to the Daxi Zhongzheng Park, which is located on the terrace of Tahan River. According to the park’s introduction, the park was established in 1912, one year after the Republic of China was created.

The park has tall old trees, many chairs under the trees and pavilions that provide visitors with a peaceful environment to rest in.

Daxi Zhongzheng Park

While strolling around the park, I came across a YouBike station at a street corner across the park, so visitors also have the option of riding a YouBike to visit Daxi’s old district, including the Li Teng-Fang Mansion, which is located in the Tahan river valley on the outskirts of the old district.

At one end of the century-old park, I came across the Daxi Assembly Hall, the construction of which was completed in 1923. The assembly hall was where civilians and government officials in Daxi met and held activities during the Japanese rule.

The Daxi Assembly Hall

In the 1950s, the adjunct bedrooms and kitchen of the assembly hall were converted into the late President Chiang Kai-shek’s villa with a reception room, a restaurant, a kitchen, bedrooms and a study. The villa looks plain on the outside and its gable roofs are covered by Japanese-style black tiles.

Late President Chiang Kai-shek’s Daxi villa

Unfortunately, both the assembly hall and Chiang’s villa were under repair for reopening in the future and would remain closed for a period of time. However, visitors can still take a peek at the outsides of both buildings up close.

Located closely to the assembly hall and Chiang's villa is the Daxi Bushido Hall (武德殿). Built in 1935, the hall has a structural form that originated in the style of a traditional Japanese Shinto shrine. Back in the Japanese occupation period, the hall was where the police practiced judo and kendo, according to the building’s introduction. From 1950 to 1999, it was used by the military police who guarded Chiang’s villa.

The Daxi Bushido Hall

Before calling it a day, I had some braised bean curd at a store near the Daxi Elementary School.