Shaufung, Hualien (4) Leisurely stroll around Shaufung, Hualien/Written and photographed/Hsieh Chung Li

Fontian Village surprisingly does not appear in administration zoning. The name “Three Fontian Villages”, inherited from the times of Japanese occupation, is now called separately Fonshan, Fonli, and Fonping. It was the first government-run immigrant village located at the northern tip of the eastern vertical valley. A new spur of the self-styled growth however has given this village a unique charm.

  Since 1909, in the Japanese occupation, the government has been actively promoting immigration to Hualien. The government set up Jiye Village (Jian today), Fontian, and Lintian (Funglin-Daron, and Peilin today). Today, only Fontian still retains traces of those yesteryears. For instance, the administration center of Fonli community leaves clues of several waves of Hakka, Fukienese, Amai aborigines, and mainlander immigrations. Chung Shan Road is the main thoroughfare of Fonli. As one head east, the town gets more deserted. The roads remained unaltered. Houses, of 441 pings each, with residential garden and shrine can be found on both sides of the road.

  The most prominent historical assets of the “Three Fontian Villages” are of its shrine and temple, which is known as “Bi Lan Temple” today. The shrine, which used to be the major religious center of the “Three Fontian Villages”, has been converted to a temple. Several stone lantern, stone dog, and Earthly God used to be found in shrine are now well kept in the Bi Lan Temple and are considered important cultural relics. The Earth God is like our deity of the soil in Taiwan which protects the households of the immigrants. There used to be a large stone engraved with the words “Earth God” in the podium. After Taiwanese restoration, Han people have turned to worship Fu De Deity, and have built up brick walls to form a temple. Unfortunately, all the shrine temples and Japanese style wooden houses were demolished for the broadening of Fonping Road.

  In addition, a dilapidated police station of Japanese origin was re-modeled in January 2001 to become the “Fontian Culture and History Museum.” This landmark is a historical heritage showpiece of Fontian. The sponsors behind it are Chiu Kuen Cheng, and Chiu Mei Hwa. Both are of Hakka descent which explains their humility despite their pride to see the fruition of their work. The main structure and interior spaces of this elegant Japanese building are retained. A corridor is added at the side to make the building more user-friendly. A tiny garden was added in the backyard to create more public space. The museum has a collection of hand-knitted patchwork and pictures of Fontian through the years.

  As for the Fonli Elementary School right opposite the Cultural and Historical Museum, it was set up in 2nd year of Taisho. In the same year, the thick old eggplant tree, banyan fig, and olive tree were planted. These plants are relics from the Japanese “Fontian Association”.

  The “Doctor’s home” situated right outside the school is well-preserved with its old tiles and roof claddings. There are also regular civilian houses made of hay cottage, displaying two distinct styles of architecture, testimonies of long forsaken industry of sugar cane. There are also tobacco towers of Osaka and Hiroshima style- remains of the once prosperous tobacco industry.

  One can purchase an inexpensive guide from the Cultural and Historical Museum to begin a tour of the “Three Fontian Villages”. Just go down south from Hualien city, take No. 9 provincial highway, to come to Fontian station. One can also take No. 11 (A) provincial highway and head south to arrive at the front gate of Tung Hwa University. The village is just a stone’s throw from the university.