Taichung (pop. 763,000), with its artificially-constructed harbour, is the most importanttown in central Taiwan. Nowthe island’sthird largesttown, it was founded by Chinese settlers from the mainland in 1721 and was initially named Tatun (Great Hill). When the Japanese came to Taiwan in 1895 they renamed it Taichung and made it into one of the island’s major towns. Its status was further enhanced when the sea-port 26km/22 miles further to the west came into operation. A ten-lane motorway links the port with the town itself.
Taichung’s town emblem is the 26-8m/88ft high statue of the Buddha, which is one of the largest of its kind to be found anywhere in Taiwan; it contains a number of rooms, including even a small library.
Places of interest near to Taichung include the Pan Chue Temple, with a bell-tower and a Buddha figure, as well as the Christian University of Tunghai with its many Oriental style buildings and the fine Luce Chapel, designed by the internationally famous architect Ieoh Ming Pei.
In Wufeng, 10km/6 miles south of Taichung, the Hall of the Provincial Collection and, a little way away, a huge statue ofthe Buddha 21-8m/711/2ft tall, are well worth seeing; large stone dragons guard the road to the statue.
The town of Chunghsinghsintsun, 25km/15V2 miles south of Taichung, is the seat of Taiwan’s provincial government (as opposed to the central government).
10km/6 miles further south, near Yuanlin, lies what is probably the largest rose garden on Taiwan.
Chitou Woodland Leisure Park, some 80km/50 miles south of Taichung, extends over 2488ha/6145 acres and is sponsored by the Taiwanese National University. Most ofthe woodland is covered in bamboo, but its pride and joy is a cypress tree, about 2800 years old and 46m/150ft tall, regarded by many of the local people as a holy tree.
Large numbers of pilgrims come to pay homage to a 21 -8m/72ft tall figure of the Buddha seated on his throne, on a mountain peak 19km/12 miles south-west of Taichung. The base of the statue is 4-2m/133/4ft high and covered with lotus blossom.
The well-known Sun Moon Lake (Jihyuetan) lies 70km/43Y2 miles southeast of Taichung in the midst of some charming countryside offering much in the way of holiday and leisure facilities, a native village and a number of temples. Near the south bank of the lake stands Hsuan Chang Temple, the shrine of which contains the remains of the famous monk of that name. Under the Tang dynasty Hsuan Chang brought some Buddhist writings back to China and these enabled him to spread the gospel. A little further south towers the nine-storey T’zu En Pagoda.
A magnificent Butterfly Garden has been laid out close to the nearby town of Puli. The whole garden is covered with a large net so that visitors can observe the insects at close quarters.