Taoyuan Tableland and Ponds

Chinese name: 桃園臺地埤塘
Located at: Taoyuan County (Northern Taiwan)

Taoyuan has a reputation of being the hometown of a thousand ponds. The late Taiwanese director Chi Po-lin overlooked the city from a high altitude during his lifetime of doing aerial filming and described the ponds as "crystals that are scattered everywhere, sparkling." According to ancient  literature, during the Qianlong period (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty, it was difficult for streams on the Taoyuan terrace to irrigate the farmland due to the phenomenon of river capture, a situation that deprived the area of a stable water source, so people at that time dug ponds to store water and diverted the water to grow the crops that fed local families and communities.

Taoyuan Tableland and Ponds

In 1911, the most serious drought in 50 years hit the Taoyuan plateau. The Japanese colonial government at the time decided to build the Taoyuan Canal there. The canal was designed by Japanese engineer Yoichi Hatta. It was the beginning of the development of the current plateau water canal system. Construction of the Taoyuan Canal began in 1916 and was not completed until 1928. The Taoyuan Canal stored water from the Dakekan Xi (now known as the Dahan River) as well as natural rainwater. Before the completion of Shimen Reservoir, it was the earliest large-scale water conservancy project in Taiwan. As a result of the construction of the canal, rice production in Taoyuan City greatly increased and at one point the area even enjoyed a reputation of being the grain barn of northern Taiwan.

However, with the gradual decline of agricultural activities and the expansion of urbanization, the ponds gradually disappeared. Over many years, due to the construction of public buildings such as schools, parks, and public institutions, some of the ponds have been filled. For instance, the Taoyuan City Government office, Taoyuan Prison, Judicial Park, Taoyuan Supervision Station, and Chien-Kuo Junior High School all sit on land that used to be ponds. In order to ensure the sustainable development of the water resources in Pitang Canal, the Taoyuan Municipal Government initiated legislation in 2005 in a hope to effectively protect the Taoyuan canal wetland.

The ponds not only work as part of the irrigation system; they also serve as a system of production, living and ecology. For example, the famous Fan Jiang Old Mansion in Taoyuan’s Xinwu Township and the nearby Xinwupi have many ponds for exploring the development history of Hakka villages. Taiwan's ancestors crossed the Black Ditch (Taiwan Straits), and in order to survive in a poor, windy, and water-scarce foreign land, they often mobilized families or communities to work together to build ponds. After the construction of water conservation systems, dry land became good farmland, enabling people to gradually enjoy an affluent life. Then ancestral worshipping halls and temples were built. Therefore, from the ponds, we can also see the rise and fall of local families, ethnic culture, historical meanings and other diverse aspects of the area.

Pond No. 2-6 in Taoyuan District was abandoned in the early years because people would dump garbage into it. After more than 10 years of clean-up and the construction of the Lake Trail, it has now become a reservoir with irrigation, flood control and rest and recreation functions, and it has a new name, "YaLe" Ecological Pond. Its transformation is an indication of the cohesiveness of the neighboring residents. In addition, the Bade Pond Ecological Park, located beside Xingfeng Road in Bade District, Taoyuan City, covers an area of about 5 hectares. In the park, there are trails, pavilions and hydrophilic spaces as well as cafes, which have become popular attractions.

Facilities for leisure activities

The ponds are an important urban landscape in Taoyuan City. They are closely related to the city's environmental function and the life of its citizens. Therefore, the city government has listed the “Taoyuan City Pitang Revitalization and Rebirth Program” as an important policy in recent years. In addition to re-engineering many ponds in Taoyuan City, they will be turned into facilities for leisure activities. The city government will also entrust ecological protection groups to help rehabilitate indigenous  fish that once lived in the ponds, and provide environmental education guides for groups of visitors in the future so that people can take a walk around the ponds, enjoy the pleasant scenery and gain a deeper understanding of the ecological environment around them.