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The Interesting Cultural Tour Begins to Explore Folk Legends

The Interesting Cultural Tour Begins to Explore Folk Legends
Nov. 15, 2016
By Wong Weizhi, reported from Jincheng

Inside the old Kinmen Town, there are 13 attractions from the ruins of Xiangdai Temple to the stone monument with the inscription of Han Ying Yun Gen. The test run of the Interesting Cultural Tour around Town specifically designed by the county government will be launched today. With the special features included in the itinerary and well trained docents to explain the every monument, the county government, besides expecting no off seasons for this guided tour around the old Kinmen Town, hopes that the rich contents can attract visitors to explore the memorable stories behind the “Kinmen Town” that was built in Ming Dynasty and is still partially standing today.

To enhance the attraction of this tour, the Tourism Department made a special arrangement yesterday for local media and hotel and private guesthouse operators to try the tour. Guided by senior docent Zhuang Meirong, when the close to 20 “tourists” walked in the old “Kinmen Town,” they entered the stories behind it and experienced its days of glory.

As indicated in the itinerary brochure, “The Kinmen Castle was built in the 20th Year of the Hongwu Reign in Ming Dysnaty (1387AD). It was given the name Kinmen (Metal Gate in Chinese) because the castle was “solid as metal and guarding the sea gate.” Historic records show that the circumference of the castle was 6,300 feet and the walls were ten feet in thickness and 25 feet in height. It was located on a plateau in the southwest of Kinmen Island, easy to defend and difficult to attack. Additional semicircular walls were constructed outside the North, South, East and West Gates; they were called yue cheng (Moon Castles) or wong cheng (Urn Castles). There was also a moat outside the East Gate. As Kinmen was situated right at the converging point of the winter and summer monsoon zones off the southeastern coast of China, it was a an important strategic location to push back Japanese pirates coming down with the northern monsoon wind and Southeast Asian pirates moving up with the southern monsoon wind. For this reason, Kinmen Castle was constructed during the Hongwu Reign in Ming Dynasty. Five patrol and inspection outposts, water gates and beacon towers were also set up to form a tight defense network and make Kinmen Castle an impregnable fortress. Around the end of Ming Dynasty and the beginning of Qing Dynasty, Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) occupied Kinmen and Xiamen as the base for his endeavor to overturn Qing and restore Ming. In the end, Zheng Chenggong left Kinmen. When Qing troops arrived, they destroyed the castle walls and almost all the buildings inside.

During the Nationalist-Communist War period, the Nationalist soldiers took stones from the castle walls to fortify their defense. The old castle walls today are nowhere near their original appearance, but there are still traces suggesting what the castle once looked like. For this reason, the Tourism Department designed the Interesting Cultural Tour around Town to invite visitors to have a history journey in Kinmen to have a feel of what the Kinmen Town once was like. According to the Tourism Department, the 13 attractions to be covered by the tour include the Ruins of Xiangdai Temple, the old Chenghuang Temple, the West Gate Wong Cheng, Sui Yang Zhuo Jie (Liwang Temple), Old KKL Distillery, Ye Huacheng Residence, Wentai Pagoda, Xu Jiang Xiao Wo Stone Monuments, reconstructed old castle walls, Frog Rock, Old Street outside the North Gate (dated back to the Ming-Qing period), Suspected Tomb of Prince Lu, and Han Ying Yun Gen Stone Monument.

According to older people in the area, there used to be a two-story building to the left of the Ruins of Xiangdai Temple. It straddled over the main street connecting the North and South Gates. Horse wagons could pass under the building and on the second level were two back-to-back temples. The one facing north was dedicated to Xuan Tian Shang Di and the one facing south was dedicated to Guan Gong. Legend has it that the geomancy of Kinmen would produce two emperors. To sabotage the prediction, Zhou Dexing had Xiangdai Temple built as a symbol that two emperors had appeared and the prediction had come true.

Sui Yang Zhuo Jie is an elegant name for a temple. It comes from the story of Zhang Xun and Xu Yuan dying defending Sui Yang Castle during the An-Shi Sedition in Tang Dynasty. Referred to as Liwang Temple by local residents, it is dedicated to the martyrs who died defending Sui Yang. There are other unusual things about the temple that people talked about, including the seven golden marks on the face of the statue of General Lei Wanchun who sacrificed his life defending Sui Yang, the clay statue of Zhang Xun which has never been moved for 625 years since the temple was built, the Flagpole Stone for tying kites, the Wrapped Package Rock in front of the temple, and the origin of the Hai Wong Shan (band of sea sand) that once could be seen in the Kinmen Town harbor. These are all fascinating legends.

The old KKL Distillery is a gold egg layer for Kinmen. It not only brings in over NT10 billion each year but also provides the locals with job opportunities. It all began when Mr. Ye Huacheng started to make kaoliang (sorghum) liquor. Later, the military command founded “Jiu Long Jiang Distillery” and appointed Mr. Ye to head the technical section. During his service, he taught people how to make the liquor and set up assembly lines which laid the foundation of KKL today. In 1956, the distillery was renamed “Kinmen Distillery”. The pure and tasty water from the Old Bao Yue Spring” outside the South Gate of the old Kinmen Castle was used to produce the liquor and, therefore, the distillery was built nearby. Ever since, the South Gate has become the gate of the distillery. The Ye Huacheng Residence is worth mentioning. Born in Indonesia, the founder of Kinmen Kaoliang once traveled around Southeast Asia, Shanghai and Hong Kong doing business. When he returned for his father’s funeral, the Nationalist troops happened to retreat to Kinmen and he was unable to leave. After seeing private liquor makers using sweet potatoes make alcohol, he decided to try different ingredients to produce liquor to make a living. Eventually, he succeeded and came up with kaoliang liquor that had a unique flavor. It was in this house that he made the liquor. KKL restored the house in Nov. 2009. Since then, it has been used as a museum to show the history of kaoliang liquor and the different steps in the production process, including fermentation, steaming, yeast addition, bottling, etc. Inside the museum, one can smell the unique aroma of sorghum lees and taste flavorful kaoliang-fermented eggs that continue to tickle your taste buds even after they go down the throat smoothly.

Accordingly, Wentai Pagoda was built by the Marquis of Jiangxia Zhou Dexing. Once serving as an important landmark for ships coming in and out of the Kinmen Harbor, it was built with stacked-up granite stones. The five-story-high hexagonal structure stands on the top of the Nanpan Mountain. Kui Xing Song Zhao and Kui Xing Ti Dou charts (Chinese astronomical diagrams) are engraved on the surface to symbolize prosperity. It stands tall and overlooks the ocean. Intellectuals and soldiers who passed by often wrote something on it, such as the “Hu Hai Qing Ping (peaceful waters)” from Commander Chen Hui in Ming Dynasty and “Guo Zhi Jin Tang (a stronghold guarding the country)” from Chinese calligraphy master Zhang Daqian, etc. There is also the legend of the location being a geomantic site of “Wu Ma Tuo Che (five horses pulling a wagon) which was interpreted in the past as Kinmen would produce two emperors.

The Kinmen Castle measures 6,300 feet (2.016 meters) in circumference. The walls are 10 feet (3.2 meters) in thickness and about 8 meters high, including the battlements, after a number of height increases. The outside is local granite and the inside is rammed earth. In 1949, when battles began between the two sides of the straight, the stones were taken by soldiers to fortify defense. As a result, only rammed earth and some stone bases are left today. The section of wall in front of Bao Yue Temple was reconstructed in 2007 by copying the original architecture of the Kinmen Castle.

The Ming-Qing Old Street outside the North Gate gradually became a shopping street when people started to set up businesses to sell different products to the troops training outside the castle. After the Kinmen Division Commander Office was relocated to Houpu sometime during the Kangxi Reign in Qing Dynasty, business on the old street started to decline. Today, the flagstones used to pave the street that is just over a hundred meters in length are still there. The buildings on both sides still retain the characteristics of Min Dynasty civilian homes. At the end of the street, there is the only Western-style building in Kinmen once used as a clinic.

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  • Date:2016-12-08