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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Trip to Lu-Kang Township

Claire Chao & Jim Wu

Lu-Kang Township is full of Taiwan spirit and culture, so it has become a popular destination for both families and friends. Attracted by its fame, we decided to explore Lu-Kang one sunny weekend. The enthusiasm of the local people and the interesting things along the busy streets left a deep impression. Lu-Kang is truly a historic town with fascinating scenery, unique culture and tasty snacks.

The origin of the name 'Lu-Kang' is interesting. There was an old saying during the Qing Dynasty: "I have heard that Number One is Tainan (palace), Number Two is Lu-Kang (“deer), and Number Three is Man-Ka (“small boat)." During the Qing Dynasty, the town was well-known its many resources such as rice and deer. Therefore, it was called Lu-Kang, which means "deer harbor."  During the Qing Dynasty, the depth of Lu-Kang's harbor and its proximity to Fujian Province on mainland China made Lu-Kang an important trading port. Benefitting from the booming trade, Lu-Kang was one of the most prosperous and most largely populated cities in Taiwan.

There are many historic sites remaining from Qing, such as Lu-Kang Old Street and the Matzu Temple in the town’s center. While visiting these historic relics, we couldn't help but appreciate Lu-Kang’s pristine and intoxicating atmosphere.

Lu-Kang Old Street
We tread in historical footprints along the alleys of Lu-Kang Old Street and felt its traditional culture. The ancient red brick buildings along the street are the symbol of Lu-Kang. This was a residential and commercial area during Qing, but now these houses have become different stores attracting visitors from all over. There are souvenir shops, old teahouses, grocery stores, folk cloth shops and traditional food stalls. The store that impressed me most was a small shop selling traditional Japanese style clogs. In this old shop, there were several pairs of clogs hanging in orderly rows on the wall. Every pair was unique in fabric pattern design, combining modern elements with traditional patterns. What's more, visitors can choose their favorite color and cloth, and the craftsmen will customize a pair of clogs for them while they wait. I picked an embroidered pair. There are many custom shops like this along the street selling traditional goods such as shuttlecocks, traditional fans, and embroidered clothes.

All photos by the authors

Matzu Temple
The most famous temple remaining in Lu-Kang is the Matzu Temple, which is nearly 400 years old. As the temple is an important part of the local people's lives, it is dedicated to a wide variety of folk deities. On the one hand, the temple is a place where both local people and foreigners come to worship Matzu, praying for health, wealth, or marriage. On the other hand, Matzu Temple has become a place where people celebrate traditional festivals. We visited the temple right after the Lantern Festival. There were lots of people participating in the lantern show and other interesting activities like guessing lantern riddles and beating the drum with coins. We also joined the activities and enjoyed ourselves very much.

Local Snacks
Last but not least, Lu-Kang is also famous for its variety of snacks. If you want to explore the delicious snacks in Lu-Kang, you need to follow the alleys. As a dessert addict, my favorite snack was the traditional Chinese pastry filled with pudding. When I took a bite of the pastry, it virtually melted in my mouth, but it did not feeling greasy. This pastry was available in a variety of flavors, including sesame, peanut, taro, red bean, and banana. The other popular snacks are a kind of seasoned millet congee and a local noodle soup, both of which are favorites among the older generation. Fried seafood also sells well in Lu-Kang because it's fresh and cheap. During the day that we spent wandering around Lu-Kang, we found quite a few truly tasty snacks.

Nowadays, Lu-Kang attracts a constant flow of visitors on weekends. Our trip to Lu-Kang left me with wonderful memories. This small town is a lively, relaxing destination for an outing with family or friends. You can spend the entire day wandering around the old street, visiting the traditional temple and enjoying the wonderful food. If you are visiting central Taiwan, Lu Kang is one place you won’t want to miss!

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