Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Qing loyalists in Hsinchu?

In Hsinchu the other day, I popped into a traditional bakery across the road from the Du Chenghuang Temple. I'd visited this part of the city four or five times before, but never before had I noticed that the tall building that houses the bakery (and a cinema, incidentally) bears Chinese characters which mean 'hundred-year-old shop.'

Intrigued, I went inside. It's the flagship store of Hsin Fu Jean (新復珍, 6 Beimen Street; open: 08.00-22.30 daily), a maker of sweet and savoury delicacies that's been in business since 1898. The staff are friendly, and generous with free samples. Their signature product is a flaky pastry called Chu-chan Cake (竹塹餅), which happens to be the old name of Hsinchu. (Zhuqian would be a more standard spelling than Chu-Chan; back then, most people spoke Holo, and would have pronounced it Tek-kham.) The filling is mostly ground pork, but it's the zesty green onions that make this baked delight especially memorable. The company also sells walnut cake, mochi, and rice puffs.

When I got home and looked more carefully at the leaflets the staff had given me, I noticed something odd. The business was described as having been founded in 1898, the 24th year of the Emperor Guangxu (光緒) of the Qing Dynasty. Yet at that time Taiwan was part of the Japanese Empire; it was the 31st year of the reign of Emperor Meiji (明治天皇). Perhaps the family which founded the bakery was especially loyal to the Qing, or had reasons to despise the Japanese...

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