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Travel Guide > Asia > Taiwan > Sights & Attractions

Bopiliao

  
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Between the early 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, Manka (艋舺, sometimes spelled Monga, Bangka or Mengjia), was north Taiwan's most important commercial center, and Bopiliao (剝皮寮) was one of its busiest neighborhoods. It's often said Bopiliao (the characters mean "hut where skin/bark is peeled off") got its name because this is where tree trunks imported from the Chinese mainland were stripped of their bark. However, there are at least three other theories as to why the neighborhood place got this toponym.

What is now Kangding Road's Lane 173 went into decline after the colonial authorities widened other roads in the neighborhood. By the 1980s the buildings were in very poor condition and most of the traditional businesses – which included tea vendors, a bath house and a hotel – were long closed. The city government stepped in and launched a revival effort.  

Lane 173 hasn't been not so much restored as recreated and reimagined. Stains and mildew patches have been scrubbed away. Steel girders buttress sagging walls. Some roofs have been replaced with perspex to let in natural light, while stairways have been widened to improve access. If you're a photographer, you'll adore this place. No. 39, which used to house a bookbinding business, has been furnished to resemble one of the sets of the 2010 smash hit movie Monga, which tells the story of teenage gangsters in this part of the city. If you've seen it, the interior – plus the 1980s clothes worn by the actors, and the weapons they used in fight scenes – will trigger memories of the movies.

On the corner of Guangzhou Street and Kunming Street stands the former home of a Manka-born doctor. Thoroughly renovated, it now houses the Heritage and Culture Education Center of Taipei (臺北市鄉土教育中心, open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm). Not all of the displays inside are bilingual, yet there's enough here to keep you and any children accompanying you interested for an hour. Much of the center tells the Story of Bopiliao, but the other two sections also deserve careful viewing.

The Medical Development in Taiwan section focuses on the contributions made by three Protestant missionaries – Scotsmen James L. Maxwell (1836-1921) and David Landsborough III (1870-1957), and George L. Mackay. Mackay (1844-1901), a Canadian of Scottish descent. In the final quarter of the 19th century, these three introduced modern medical techniques to Taiwan, winning themselves and their churches great respect in the process.

In addition to displays of medical equipments, there's an audio-visual presentation in which cartoon versions of Maxwell, Mackay and Landsborough discuss Taiwan's medical history in Mandarin - a language none of them spoke (all three were fluent in Taiwanese Hokkien).

The Traditional and Modern Education section includes some interesting facts, such as a chart showing Taiwanese successes in China's imperial civil-service examinations. Between 1823 and 1894, 29 Taiwanese passed the highest-level exams to become jinshi. During Qing rule, 251 attained juren, the second-highest status. The first of the former was Zheng Yong-xi, builder of Hsinchu's Jinshi Mansion.

Directions

From Taipei Main Station, take the MRT Blue Line westward to Longshan Temple Station. Leave by Exit 3 and walk northward along Kangding Road to Guangzhou Street, where you'll see Bopiliao's renovated two-story buildings.

Type: Street
Costs: free
Location: Taiwan
Street address: Lane 173, Kangding Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City
Nearest public transport: Longshan Temple MRT Station
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9am-9pm
Telephone: +886223361704







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