Tainan (pop. 660,000), the “City of A Hundred Temples” (at present more Tainan than 200!) is the oldest town in Taiwan. Its history-from 1684 to 1887 it was the island’s capital – is closely linked with the name of Cheng Cheng-kung (Koxinga), the great Chinese hero who expelled the Dutch colonists from the island.
The chief place of interest is the Cheng Cheng-kung (Koxinga) Shrine, a complex of buildings in the Chinese temple style with a statue ofthe hero in the main hall. Nearby is a Folk Art Museum, while to the north stands the oldest Temple of Confucius on Taiwan; it was built by General Chen Yung-hua, a follower of Koxinga, in the 17th c. and carefully restored some time ago.
Chihkan Tower, a little further north, was built in 1875 in place of the Dutch fort known as “Providentia”, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1862. On a rampart opposite the entrance can be seen stone turtles and stelae engraved with Chinese characters and picture-symbols. Originally Fort “Providentia” was connected to Fort “Zeelandia” by an underground
It was in the latter fort, the walls of which were built with Dutch bricks, that Koxinga died in 16(?2.
In Kai Yuan Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist shrines on the island, visitors will be interested in the statue of the thousand-armed Goddess of Mercy and the “Shrine ofthe Five Concubines” (five women who committed suicide in 1683 when the last Ming fortress surrendered to the Qing dynasty).
Situated fairly close to Tainan, the thermal spa town of Kuantzeling, Yi Tsai, a fort built by the French in 1874, and Lu Erh Men (where Koxinga landed in 1661), are all worth a visit.
30km/19 miles north-east of Tainan stretches Coral Lake (Wushantou reservoir), a reservoir bespattered with over 100 islets and cliffs and in rural surroundings. The region around the lake – on which boat trips can be made – is rapidly becoming a holiday area.