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The Old Fongshan City in Zuoying

  • Publish Date:2022-08-08
The Old Fongshan City in Zuoying

Chinese Name: 高雄左營舊城
Year of Construction: 1826
Location: Zuoying, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Did You Know?
The Old Fongshan City is located in what is now Kaohsiung City's Zuoying District. Of the relatively completely preserved Qing-dynasty old cities of Taiwan, Zuoying is the oldest and largest in area. The site is stacked with traces of Taiwanese prehistory and history, including the Qing era, Japanese rule, the postwar period, and more.

The Old Fongshan City, founded in the Kangxi era of the Qing Dynasty, is located in what is now Kaohsiung City’s Zuoying District. It was the first seat of government for Fengshan County after the Qing government began taking control over the island, as well as being home to the first earthen city wall in Taiwan. The old city fell to the Lin Shuang-wen (林爽文) rebellion, leading to the political and economic forces moving to Xiapitou Street (now Fengshan District) and creating Fengshan New City. However, frequent thefts and general chaos meant the new city was a challenge to defend. In 1862, officials and civilians gathered together to rebuild the old city’s original site, which is now the Old Fongshan City in Zuoying.

The old city’s coral-stone inner and outer walls are built with stacked stones, with the bigger stones at the bottom and the smaller ones on the top. The gaps between the stones were then filled with small stones and coral stone mortar and painted over. The walkway was paved with larger, smoother coral stone and then painted with a coral stone mortar. A road was located between the inner and outer walls, serving as the top of the city wall. It was mainly made of square bricks directly paved on the mortar layer, with the brick joints smoothed with white lime mortar. The roads all have drainage sloping from the outside to the inside, so the old city walls tend to be higher on the outside and lower on the inside. The walls are slightly trapezoidal, inclined toward the road.

Due to the impact of events and changing times, the walls of the Old Fongshan City in Zuoying sport different appearances. Today the ruins mainly include the North, South, East, and West Gates. The North Gate, also known as Gongchen Gate, is still in good structural condition, with more than 100 meters of the wall still extending out from either side with their hexagonal masonry still on show. On either side of the gate stand painted statues of the door gods Shen Tu and Yu Lei, distinctive for their exquisite sculpting. The West Gate is also known as Dianhai Gate for its location facing the ocean. Today, only a section of the city wall remains, about 100 meters, and the West Gate is now displayed in British Consulate at Takow building. The South Gate also known as Qiwen Gate, means "launching a scholarly career," as traditionally south has been an auspicious direction. Finally, the East Gate is also Fengyi Gate, which means "an auspicious phoenix arrives," for the appearance of the Fengshan hills in the east is like that of a phoenix in flight. The gate is still intact, characterized by its sizeable inner door and small outer door, a setup designed to prevent bandits from entering. There are nine battlements above the gate, used as cover for the defenders of the wall to counterattack against anyone who might try attacking the city. The city wall extends for more than 500 meters, with drainage facilities underneath separated by three granite strips to prevent the enemy from using them as an alternative means of breaking into the city.

In 1985, the Executive Yuan’s Council for Cultural Affairs (now the Ministry of Culture) and the Ministry of the Interior announced that the Old Fongshan City in Zuoying, including the East Gate, South Gate, North Gate, and city wall, moat, Gongchen Well, and Zhenfu Community (Earth God Temple), would become a first-class historic site in the Taiwan and Fujian region, as well as a Kaohsiung City historic site. However, the West Gate was not included in the plans. The restoration of Old Fongshan City started in 1989 and was completed in 1991. It was the first large-scale restoration of an old city in modern times, spanning the entire old city’s scope, with the traces of the restoration process still visible today in the differences in the colors and materials of the city walls. In 2006, in response to an amendment to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act, the Old Fongshan City was named a national historic site. In 2011, the Council for Council for Cultural Affairs designated the remnants of the city wall in the West Gate section, in the former West Zizhu New Village, to be included in the scope of the national historic site, thus ensuring the full, complete Old Fongshan City in Zuoying would be preserved with its associated structures (the moat, Zhenfu Community, Gongchen Well, and door god sculptures), all recognized as important cultural assets.

Since its establishment, Old Fongshan City has gone through waves of political, social, and economic development from the Qing era, through the Japanese occupation, to the age of the Republic of China. Over the years, it has become a national treasure, a witness to the modern history of Kaohsiung’s Zuoying area, and a rare cultural asset of its type in Taiwan.

(Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Kaohsiung City Government)