Yingge & Sanxia

A Day Spent Exploring Two Interesting Districts in New Taipei City

• Text: Eric Bratt
• Photos: Maggie Song

If you are interested in ceramics, dyeing, and history, a day-trip to Yingge and Sanxia is perfect for you. These two former towns, now formally “districts” within what is called New Taipei City, offer wonderful insight into the island’s history and traditional crafts. And as is the case with many trips in Taiwan, there is delicious food and plenty of history and culture to enjoy.

This day-trip to the southwestern portion of New Taipei City is great for individuals, couples, or entire families. Despite the fact that I am not artistically inclined, on my first trip to the area, taken recently, I was happy to find that I could visit a ceramics museum and try my hand at dyeing clothes. What made things all the better is Yingge’s and Sanxia’s close proximity to Taipei City. The short commute from the metropolis makes for a very relaxing and enjoyable outing.

I began the day by taking a train from Taipei to Yingge. From the station I walked to the Yingge Ceramics Museum, the bright sunshine and gusty breezes making for a beautiful late-autumn day. I arrived at the museum at 10 a.m., and had an hour to check out the grounds before joining a guided tour. What initially impressed me most was the open-air style of the museum – the grounds and lobby areas seemingly fused into one through the liberal use of glass, giving the facility a grandiose quality. However, I noticed the groups of schoolchildren walking around seemed far more enthralled by the sculptures decorating the atrium. There is a great deal of green space surrounding the museum, which I found to be particularly pleasant on such a gorgeous day.

The grounds and lobby areas of the museum are seemingly fused into one through the liberal use of glass, giving the facility a grandiose quality

During the tour I learned that the bright and beautiful museum was opened 13 years ago with a mission to educate the Taiwan public about Yingge’s unique role in the history of Taiwan ceramics. The first floor provides an introduction to traditional ceramic-production methods in Yingge and Taiwan. The explanations are clear, and I learned how masters in ceramics are able to produce pieces of unique colors, molds, and designs. The second floor is dedicated to history, and consists of four exhibition halls introducing the history of ceramics in Taiwan and exploring the relationship between ceramics, religion, and architecture. A seemingly countless number of ceramic works provides a window into the past. Ranging from the mundane – rice bowls and teapots – to the sacred – Daoist statues and Buddhist icons – these pieces well express the artistic genius of the craftsmen. Note: The gift shop is also well stocked with locally produced handicrafts.

After my pleasant morning at the museum, I moved on to the next stop on my itinerary: Sanxia Old Street. Upon disembarking after a 15-minute bus ride, I both heard and felt a rumbling in my stomach, and launched a search for my lunch. I found the Zhenxing Noodle Shop, which had been recommended, and ordered a bowl of oil noodles with a side order of pickled cucumber, washing it down with delicious black tea. The owner of the shop told me that black tea, like wine, ages well over time, and that his tea is aged for more than a year.

As it was almost 2 p.m., I hurriedly finished my food and moved on. Unfortunately, I only had one stomach to fill, and wasn’t able to stop at every food stand that looked appealing. However, I did sample some of the excellent fare at the very affordable Dong Dao Diner Pavilion. This restaurant specializes in traditional local Taiwanese specialties, offering a multitude of dishes that run from NT$$40 to NT$200.

Now with a full stomach, I headed off to try my hand at dyeing clothes. The Indigo Dyeing Workshop specializes in indigo dyeing, and lets visitors choose their own fabric and design. I selected a white piece of fabric 1.5 meters long, chose a design, hoped that my scarf would turn out well, and began in earnest. The process took about 45 minutes. After sectioning off the fabric and pinching it between two narrow wooden beams, I proceeded to dye it four times, three minutes each time. After each soaking I removed the scarf from the dye, wrung it out, and separated the sections that had stuck together so that all parts could dry. After the fourth round I removed the wooden beams and unraveled my creation. Thanks to the much-needed assistance of my instructor, I had actually created something that was (somewhat) aesthetically pleasing!

For my final stop of the day I opted to visit Sanxia’s famous Qingshui Zushi Temple. I entered the temple to the sounds of Daoist chanting, and circumambulated the perimeter corridors. The temple brims with intricate wooden carvings, beautiful cochin ceramics (also often called koji ceramics), and awe-inspiring stone-relief sculptures. The beauty and ornateness of the temple is a testament to the fact that cultural preservationists have been systematically restoring it over the past few decades. Qingshui Zushi Temple is not just a historic building, however – it is a thriving religious site supported by a vibrant community of believers. Indeed, the continuous chanting of Daoist priests and the impressive number of locals praying made it very clear that the temple’s religious community is alive and thriving.

Having already taken in so much, I was not surprised to see that it was already 5 p.m. Before hopping on a bus to head back home I popped in at Sanxia’s Culture Art and Nature (CAN), which has an open-air space, café, environmental advocacy group facilities, and publishing house all wrapped into one. The artistic community for which this is home allows residents and travelers to explore art, serves fresh drinks and fusion dishes, and publishes a periodical in which writers explore themes related to art, music, health, and happiness.

My day in Yingge and Sanxia drawing to a close, I left for Taipei satisfied in knowing that I had been able to spend precious added-value time exploring and learning about ceramics and also challenging my inner artist.

Getting There
From Taipei Railway Station you can take a direct local train to Yingge. A 5-minute bus ride or a 15-minute walk will get you from Yingge Railway Station to the ceramics museum. From there you can take a bus to Sanxia Old Street.

From Sanxia, you can easily make your way back to Taipei via public transportation. A number of buses run from Sanxia to MRT Yongning Station; from there you can take an MRT train to Taipei Main Station. Alternatively, take the bus back to Yingge Railway Station and take the train to Taipei from there.


 

Yingge Ceramics Museum (鶯歌陶瓷博物館)

Add:200, Wenhua Rd., Yingge District, New Taipei City (新北市鶯歌區文化路200號)

Tel: (02) 8677-2727

Website: www.ceramics.ntpc.gov.tw

Zhenxing Noodle Shop (珍興麵店)

Add:39, Minquan St., Sanxia District, New Taipei City (新北市三峽區民權街39號)

Dong Dao Diner Pavilion (東道飲食亭)

Add: 7, Ren’ai Rd., Sanxia District, New Taipei City (新北市三峽區仁愛路7號)

Indigo Dyeing Workshop (染工坊)

Add: 2, Lane 84, Minquan St., Sanxia District, New Taipei City (新北市三峽區民權街84巷2號)

Tel: (02) 8671-3108

Culture Art and Nature (甘樂文創)

Add: 371, Qingshui St., Sanxia District, New Taipei City (新北市三峽區清水街317號)

Tel: (02) 2671-7090

Website: www.thecam.com.tw (Chinese)

 

 

English and Chinese

Chen Kun陳昆
cochin ceramics交趾陶
Dahan River大漢溪
Heng Stream橫溪
oil noodles油麵
Qingshui Zushi Temple清水祖師廟
Sanxia (Old Street)三峽 (老街)
Sanxia River三峽河
Wu An吳鞍
Yingge 鶯歌