In the past, Xinhua was called Tavocan, where the indigenous Siraya tribes (one of the Taiwanese Plains Aborigines) used to live. Tavocan means “land of hill and forest” in the Siraya language. According to recorded history, the Siraya people are the earliest settlers in Tainan. The name Siraya can be found in literature written as early as during the Dutch colonial rule (1624-1662). Thus, it is clear that the Siraya people have been living in Tainan since centuries ago, and that they have a close relationship with the development of Tainan’s history and culture.
Tavocan has always been a culturally significant place from the start of history. It boasts a lot of historic sites, including Xinhua Old Street, the old Xinhua Town Office, Tainan Bú-tik Palace (Xinhua Butokuden), Xinhua Public Hall, Fong’an Hall, the Su and Jhong Old Houses, the Japanese-styled dormitories on Heping Street, among other diverse buildings with stories and styles. At the same time, visitors can also enjoy facilities such as Xinhua Performance Hall, the Museum of Yang Kui Literature, Ou Wei Memorial Museum (Ou Wei, a famous actor and director from Tainan), etc. With such cultural assets and amenities, as well as artistic groups and community development committees striving to make Xinhua a more culturally-immersed district, events like cultural and historical tours and creative product markets are held on a regular basis. The active participation of local cultural groups has indeed become the most important pillar that supports the growth of the Tavocan Cultural Park.
Local Traditional Festival: Tavocan 18 “Rao”
The terrain of Xinhua is what ancient Chinese geomancers would call “the Bagua spider nest.” The center of the nest is at the intersection of Jhongshan Road and Jhongjhen Road (called Sann-kak-íng in the past, literally meaning “the triangle with flows,” i.e. “the busiest district”). A system of eight roads radiates from the center of the nest, introducing four major arteries to Yujing, Yongkang, Guanmiao, and Sinshih and four minor paths to Jiaokeng, Dawan, Fongkou, and Dakeng.
According to a legend, “the Bagua spider nest” nurtures locals and cultivates a lot of talented people, but a spider fairy from the nest might appear and bring chaos, especially around the time of the Lantern Festival. Therefore, after asking several local deities for help, the residents started the tradition of having an evening pilgrimage with the deity statues on the 18th of the first month on the lunar calendar. The event is thus called “18 Rao” (the character “嬈 (rao)” means pilgrimage).
Tavocan 18 Rao is listed as a traditional folk activity by the Tainan City Government, with the Chaotian Temple at Xinhua as the cultural heritage preservation group.
Xinhua’s Mascot: Crickets
Cricket fighting is a traditional activity in local Xinhua. This activity is most popular and well-known in the local Fong Rong community (豐榮社區). In order to promote this tradition, Xinhua District Office endeavors to make Xinhua “the home of crickets” by voting them as the mascot of Xinhua and by installing cricket decorations on the streets. Walking on the streets of Xinhua, you can see these little guys on the flower pots, store banners, and even the street lamps.
A Tour of Important Religious Sites: Seven Stars Falling to the Earth
Long ago, Xinhua was divided into eight villages. The major temples (the religious center) in the eight villages include Hu’an Temple, Shangdi Temple (also known as Beiji Hall), Taizih Temple, Guanyin Temple, Cingshuei Temple, Wu’an Temple, and Chaotian Temple. These seven temples are also considered to be seven stars by the local people. Hence, locals also refer to these temples as the “Seven Stars Falling to the Earth.”
Hu’an Temple Shangdi Temple Taizih Temple
Guanyin Temple Cingshuei Temple Wu’an Temple