Boasting the best-preserved Baroque architecture high street in Taoyuan, one can feel the sophistication and distinct elegance of this place in one glance. Centered on Heping Street, the popular Daxi Old Street consists of ancient Baroque-styled buildings, the Wude Temple, the ancient residence of Li Tengfang and garden-themed cafes. The wide stretch of this street emanates a unique blend of traditional Fukien architecture and Baroque style, making it one of the most intriguing places in Taiwan.
Situated on the Dahan River, the area of Daxi was formerly named Takoham, which means ‘big water’ in Atayal due to its topography. However, early Chinese settlers named the area ‘Daguxian’. During Emperor Muzong’s reign in 1861 to 1874, its name was changed again to Dakekan as a tribute to Li Tengfang, a holder of imperial degree and Li Jinxing, an official. During those times, Dakekan was the most important inland port in Taiwan, experiencing a so-called golden age. The town was home to hundreds of merchants, Chinese and foreign, small and large-scale, and each one of them prospering.
However, during the Japanese occupation, the name Dakekan was changed again to Daxi, a name that was preserved even after the 1945 Retrocession when the town was assigned to Hsinchu County’s territory. At the same time, Dakekan River was renamed Dahan River. The ‘Daxi Baroque’ started in 1911 when the Japanese government implemented a Meiji Restoration rule in Taiwan. New plans for urban reconstruction and development not only focused on widening and straightening of streets but also obliged businesses to adorn their sidewalk-facing store walls with a Western-style façade.
During those times, Daxi businessmen were booming and were glad to flaunt their wealth. With their desire to beat others in ostentation, they brought artisans and artists who integrated lucky symbols from Chinese traditions into each building, aiming for that ‘Western façade’. In this process, the once quaint looking street transformed into an extravagant area of various architectural styles, with well blended elements from European, Chinese and Japanese traditions and made what have turned out as monuments to Daxi village’s early prosperity,
In addition, during Japan’s Taisho era, Baroque architectural style was extremely popular with patterns including Roman columns, Greek mountains, Chinese style fish and bats. Many stores on Zhongshan and Daxi Old Street are a combination of baroque, Greek, Roman and Chinese styles. The entire stretch gets crowded by the huge influx of local and foreign tourists everyday who want to see the rich cultural and unique architectural styles of each store. Looking carefully, you will notice that each store has unique designs on it. It is because architects in the past would hide and cover their crafts before completion, as they were afraid that their original works would be copied by others.
Several local food delicacies and specialties can also be sampled in Daxi Old Street such as the traditional tofu pudding, firm tofu with varied flavors and handmade peanut caramel candy. Many stores seem to sell various traditional folklore products such as toys and goods. Close to Da River (Daxi) Old Street is the stunning Baroque-styled Daxi Bridge, which is an ideal place to witness the sunset along with the bright streetlights in the evening, making this bridge a popular spot for tourists of all ages.