Reintroducing an Old Culture

Taiwans location at the edge of the Pacific Ocean puts a slap on the face to the ring of fire (encircles the Pacific Rim), and follows the border of a series of tectonic plates.  It is this geological location we are greateful for the beaty of hot springs in the island.  Thanks to two million years before, the Philippine Oceanic Plate having pushed under the Eurasian Continental Plate into a depth of a hundred kilometers, at which the rock melts into an enormous reservoir of magma.
Taiwan’s location at the edge of the Pacific Ocean puts a ‘slap on the face’ to the “ring of fire” (encircles the Pacific Rim), and follows the border of a series of tectonic plates. It is this geological location we are greateful for the beaty of hot springs in the island. Thanks to two million years before, the Philippine Oceanic Plate having pushed under the Eurasian Continental Plate into a depth of a hundred kilometers, at which the rock melts into an enormous reservoir of magma.

Beitou, located in Northern Taiwan, is known as the most historically evocative hot spring spa destination.  The name, “Beitou,” originally derived from a plains Aboriginal word meaning “shamaness.”  The word, shamaness comes from shama, which is a saxicoline-singing bird (Kittacincla macroura), or magpie robin of India, noted for the sweetness and power of its song.  In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan and discovered the hot springs for themselves.  The first Japanese governor of Taiwan (May 10, 1895), Admiral Kabayama Sukenori, led the construction of the Garrison Hospital of Beitou Branch, originally for army use when their soldiers were injured from war to recuperate within the nature’s pleasant surroundings.  The hospital was later renamed as Taiwan’s Beitou Armed Forces Hospital

 

Taiwan’s first hot spring hotel along with the opening of the Ten-gu-an was by a Japanese merchant, Gengo Hirata in 1896, marking the start of the island’s hot spring industry.  Before the introduction of a hot spring hotel, Beitou was once a frontier region between Ketagalan aboriginal and Han Chinese communities.  The Ketagalan called this place ‘Patauw,’ meaning ‘witch’ in the language of their tribe, recorded as the earliest inhabitants.  The name is a reference to the wisps of steam and sulfurous fumes that rose from the bubbling hot springs, giving the valley the look of a witches’ cauldron.  One of the earliest recorded documents of Taiwan

Hirata captured the spirit of the times in what he wrote on experience in the hot springs of Beitou: “Sometimes I ask myself whether (building a hot springs hotel) was a good idea.  But I really don’t mind whether I’m the richest man in the world or the owner of a small hot spring hotel.  Leading a peaceful life is what counts.  People should do their best to accomplish what they can, and I feel happy about what I have now.”

Yu Yonghe came to Taiwan to explore sulfur and found all the stones in the river covered with sulfur in the section from Fucheng—the present Tainan City and former capital of Taiwan , Jhousuei River to Dadu River.

Yu Yonghe came to Taiwan to explore sulfur and found all the stones in the river covered with sulfur in the section from Fucheng—the present Tainan City and former capital of Taiwan , Jhousuei River to Dadu River."

 is in “Small Sea Travel Records” (裨海紀遊), by Yu Yong-he (陏永河), documents the course of his 10-month journey, a diary of all that he experienced.  Yu had some knowledge of foreigners, however was less than interested in foreign lands; his featured writings on the Zheng family (偽鄭逸事), the Aborigines (番境補遺), and China’s southeastern seas (海上紀略; 宇內形勢), echoes as evidence in lack of Western interests.

 

 

Since the discovery, the Japanese fell enamoured with the hot springs and have established numerous public bathing pools; their legacy can still be seen today within still intact, beautiful Japanese-architecture buildings.

Near the hot springs, there is a must-visit Kuan-Du Temple, one of the oldest temples in northern Taiwan.  Even further down, is the infamous National Palace Museum, hosting the most recognized and prized Chinese artifacts dating back hundreds and even thousands of years.  The number of its collections is the highest in the world.

Benefits of Enjoying Hot Springs Spa:

There are a variety of hot spring selections to suits one’s personal interests: there are white sulfur, green sulfur and iron sulfur springs.  The temperatures vary in the range of 55 to 58 Celsius and are all primarily effective in healing dermatosis, arthritis, and even known to boost metabolism. 

 

This prized fashion of luxury and relaxation is called “Onsen,” a term for hot springs in the Japanese language.  Quoting from wikipedia.org:

Onsen come in many types and shapes, including outdoor (露天風呂 or 野天風呂 rotenburo or notenburo) and indoor baths. Baths may be either public run by a municipality or private (内湯 uchiyu) often run as part of a hotel, ryokan or Bed and Breakfast (民宿 minshuku).”

Beitou Thermal Valley Green Sulfur Spring

Beitou Thermal Valley Green Sulfur Spring

Post WW II, the Beitou Public Baths were renamed Sun Yat-sen Hall and placed under different management, serving for community events and banquets, however eventually lacked proper maintenance, corrosion caused by the hot springs led to an immediate shut-down.  The location was remarked under low priority, it was considered an option as a landing site for the Beitou-Yangmingshan Cable Car project as a possiblity to revive the area’s economy.  The cable car plan caved under, and the area was left further unnoticed until the Ministry of the Interior declared the baths a class three historical site on February 20, 1995.  An extensive makeover was initiated by March 1, 1998, and completed with the official opening and renaming, the Beitou Hot Springs Museum in late October. 

 

TODAY: 

Year-end “wei ya” parties, fine dining, karaoke singing and hot spring spa are the hilights to be enjoyed at the Spa Spring Resort in Beitou.  A warning must be placed among hot spring spa lovers: only long existing hotels are known to have water pipe systems connected directly to the hot springs of Beitou. Newer hotels of the area, however, do not share like access.  The spa consists of water 70 to 80 centimeters deep with view of sun set or the open-view sky for serenity and relaxation.  Though ettiquite of spas consists of enjoying the experience in the nude (areas separated according to gender), however wearing of bathing suits and trunks is required in the Resort. 

Such soaking preference of loving couples and romantic twosomes is now confined to the private rooms upon request and provides a special milk lotion to enjoy a milk bath before relaxing in a hot spring session.

The Wei Ya banquet where employees all gather and indulge in the entertainment and food.

The "Wei Ya" banquet where employees (and/or with their families) all gather and indulge in the entertainment and food.

Quoting from etaiwannews.com on the event:

Two hours of bathing in a private room at the Spa Spring Resort cost NT$1,380 on weekdays. The price applies even on weekends but guests get to use the private facilities for only an hour and a half. The room rates for those who wish to stay and not just have a splash vary from NT$3,380 to NT$4,980 to NT$6,980 per weekday. The weekend prices require an additional NT$1,000. The use of the public pools costs NT$360 on weekdays and NT$460 on weekends.

An appetizing six-course menu, possibly including lobster and fish, can make the mouth water. A table for 10 starts at NT$8,000. Individual set menu costs NT$899 or NT$1,288.

The Spa Spring Resort is located at 283 Guangming Road in Beitou. There is a shuttle bus service from the New Beitou MRT Station every hour. For reservations, call tel. (02)2897-9060.

The Burgary Hotel (tel. 02-2382-1314) under the same management is located at 168 Zhonghua Road, Sec. 1, near the Ximen MRT Station in downtown Taipei. The hotel with beautiful rooms is also offering a special “wei ya” package.

Vegetarian dish, decorated as goldfish along the perimeters, the centre of the dish consists of cabbage, mushrooms and other gelatinous.

Vegetarian dish: decorated as "goldfish" along the perimeters, the centre of the dish consists of cabbage, mushrooms and other gelatinous.

Winter Solstice

There is a saying, “The winter solstice is as important as the new year,” which points out that the traditional winter solstice holiday is just as important as the Spring Festival.  In the past, on this day, besides performing the ritual for commemorating one’s ancestors and eating sweet dumplings servedin soup, the winter solstice is also a time for “patching up the body” by eating appropriate foods to strengthen one’s health during the winter season.  Eating sweet dumplings is symbolic of ending the present year, and growing a year older, and welcoming the new year.  Another saying echoes in Taiwanese culture: “After eating wei-ya (the end of year meal), be prepared to celebrate the New Year.” 

Leaves wrapping savory pork ribs inside (steamed).

Non-Vegetarian dish: Leaves wrapping savory pork ribs inside (steamed).

Even in such events, there are rules

1.  The tables are always round and the tablecloths always pink 

2. There are many courses to the meal (my personal experience has been 20)

3. Tables are divided by diets:  regular and vegetarian (or vegan).

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~ by Lan on 2008 ThuUTC2009-01-15T07:44:12+00:00. 15.

One Response to “Reintroducing an Old Culture”

  1. […] local source of spring water, which is plenty in Taiwan (please refer to past post, “Reintroducing An Old Culture“).  Hard water should be avoided at all cost, even once after it has been […]

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