Quanji Temple, Jiufen, Taiwan

While visiting the historic gold mining town of Jiufen in Taiwan, the Old Quarters aren’t the only thing worth checking out. Just a short bus ride away is the gold museum which chronicles the town’s rich mining history, and nearby is the Quanji Temple, accessible on foot. Be careful of the local wildlife though:

The 20 minute walk is quite scenic, with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the coastline.

The temple is home to the largest statue of Guan Gong, the Taoist god of War/Justice, which sits atop the building and can be seen from miles away. The copper statue weighs some 25 tonnes!

Typical Chinese temple architecture – arching roofs topped with phoenixes and dragons, cloud motifs, lots of red.

A separate gazebo area.

Stone murals depicting different scenes of Guan Gong / Guan Di (literally ‘Lord Guan’) – as a scholar, as a brave general, etc.

Taoist gods are usually real life figures who have been deified (is that a word?) ie worshipped as deities, the way Saints are in Catholicism. Guan Yu was an actual historical figure, a general in the early Han dynasty who was respected for his loyalty and sense of justice. As with myths and legends, his conquests were fictionalised over time, especially in the Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He is often portrayed with a long beard and a red face, wielding a giant glaive.

Trivia: Chinese businessmen often have a statue of Guan Yu installed on their premises. The policemen in HK also pray to Guan Gong. Know who else prays to him? The triads. Interesting.

Inside the temple is a small open air courtyard with a dragon fountain.

The small shrine inside with Guan Gong’s statue, surrounded by an elaborate gold tapestry and wooden altar. We offered up some joss sticks for prayers.

 

View from the upper floor. Colourful motifs and decor !

While waiting for the bus back we met this sassy little girl and her doggo. I felt like it was a good glimpse into the life of everyday residents here, so I took a shot. 🙂 

Had a great time at Jiufen; I think it’s a highly recommended spot to visit while in Taiwan so remember to put it on your list!

Natural and Historical Treasures @ The Gold Museum, Jiufen, Taiwan

Jiufen, much like Sacramento in California, was a town that benefited from the gold rush. Japanese mining companies flocked to the mountainside in the 19th century, drawn to its riches, and left behind a legacy of history, culture and unique buildings that are now a major tourist attraction in Taiwan.

Leaving behind the scenic Old Quarters, we travel downhill to the Gold Museum, which houses several old buildings and abandoned structures from the mining industry.

Roads on the mountain are quite narrow, so this happened when the bus was going down. Vehicles had to back up to allow it to pass.

 

Opened in 2004, the museum is home to former offices, dorms, plants and facilities of the Taiwan Metal Mining Corp, run primarily by the Japanese during their occupation of the island. As such, much of the buildings and structures here look distinctively Japanese. There are displays of tunnels, mining equipment, transport systems, and art galleries.

The wooden police station. Looks like something out of an old movie set!

Resident kitty.

Another wooden building converted into a cafe. They sell ‘miners’ lunch boxes, complete with a wrapped cloth.

Not far from the main area is the Crown Prince Chalet, a residence built in 1922 for Crown Prince Hirohito who was scheduled to visit, but never did. The beautiful wooden building has typical Japanese architecture – slightly elevated rooms with sliding doors that open to a Zen-esque front garden, Visitors are not allowed into the chalet itself, but you can explore the small garden, which really makes one feel like they are somewhere in Japan!

Steps leading up to the machinery/transport system area, overhung with large trees covered in ivy. Very picturesque and different from the lush, tropical jungles back in Malaysia.


Arriving at the top, an open space with a wooden platform, surrounded by mountains on all sides. There was a track running through which was used to transport gold from the mines.

Bronze statues of miners carrying a fallen comrade – possibly a tribute to the 1,000 POWs who were forced to mine here during the Japanese occupation; mostly British soldiers captured from Singapore.

If you’re on a day trip to Jiufen, the Gold Museum offers many interesting insights into the history and development of the area. It also has great scenery. A 15-20 minute walk away is a temple, which I’ll write about in the next post. Til then! 🙂 

GOLD MUSEUM 

224, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Ruifang District, 金瓜石金光路8號
Opening hours: 930AM – 6PM

Jiufen, Taiwan – The Town that Inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away

Another day in Taipei, Taiwan! We allocated a whole day to spend at Jiufen, a decommissioned gold mining mountain town originally built by the Japanese, popular for its historical alleyways and Japanese-influenced architecture. I was especially excited to explore the place after finding out that it was the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away anime, which I loved watching as a child.

To get there, we had to take a shuttle bus from Ximen, which leaves in the morning and returns in the evening. The ride takes approximately 1 hour. We got lost looking for the bus stop, but managed to catch it in time.

There’s usually a long line.

Jiufen sits on the mountainside looking out to the coast, so we got scenic views while we were going up its narrow, winding roads.

The bus stops right at the entrance to Jiufen’s ‘Old Streets’, a narrow maze of claustrophobic alleyways lined with shops. The uneven cobbled paths branch out in various directions, often with stairs leading down or up unexpectedly, some even passing through stores and archways. This haphazard quality gives it a quaint charm, although the paths can get a little confusing.

Food is prominently displayed at store fronts while cooks prepare them fresh for customers, smells wafting into the cold winter air. Colourful lanterns and awnings create a canopy, allowing sunshine to filter down. There are teahouses and boutique hotels, shops selling souvenirs, Chinese herbs, snacks and all sorts of paraphernalia.

Resto staff preparing a batch of fishballs and tofu stuffed with fish paste.

Mini opera dolls depicting figures from popular plays, such as the monk Xuanzang and his disciples from Journey to the West, Hell Gods and more.

Giant vats bubbling with fishballs, meatballs, squid balls, etc.

Dozens of tea eggs stewing in a cauldron.

Malt candy in various flavours.

Dogs at store fronts are a thing here. Ups the cute factor.

A museum of scary masks.

still from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. See the resemblance?

One of the prettiest structures here is the Grand Teahouse, which looks like the setting for an olden day film. There are red lanterns hanging at intervals, green terraces overhanging with plants, and bright yellow windows framing a wooden structure. The view is said to be especially beautiful at night (unfortunately, couldn’t stay that long :/)

View from a terrace into the valley below and the sea beyond.

Small temple built into the mountain side.

Hungry from all that exploring, we popped into a random restaurant for lunch, enticed by the glossy yellow chickens hanging on the racks.

And a huge wok filled with young bamboo shoots and fatty pork, swimming in a light orange broth.

Also steamed Shanghai-nese soup dumplings. 

Being a tourist place, food prices can be steep. I opted for a minced pork rice.

And pork balls. 

We spent a few more hours taking in the sights, before hopping back on to the bus downhill for our next stop: the gold museum.

A helpful guide on getting to Jiufen from Taipei City here