Fanjiang Old Residence

Fanjiang Old Residence in Taoyuan
(Photo credit: Taoyuan City Government)

Chinese name

Located at: Xinwu District, Taoyuan City

Situated in Taoyuan’s Xinwu District, Fanjiang Old Residence, which was built with bricks of ancient tradition and culture, is a rare exemplar in the coastal Hakka settlement and an epitome of Taiwanese Hakka immigrants’ history. In middle period of Qing Dynasty, Fanjiang family immigrated to Taiwan and settled down in Xinwu. After years of efforts, Fanjiang family has become the gentry of local area, and they hold a position of influence throughout the Hakka history in this region.

Fanjiang Old Residence

In 1758, five Hakka Fanjiang brothers and their family members from China’s Guangdong all came to Taiwan’s Xinwu to start a new life. Since then, Fanjiang, the compound last name given by the father of the five brothers, exclusively exists in the island.

The hard work of the family brought them good fortunes, and they were transformed into the influential gentry. As the family became prosperous, five brothers began to build their own houses, which are full of Hakka features.

From architectural perspective, Fanjiang Old Residence is a classical siheyuan (四合院), which is a type of house in traditional Chinese style. It took great pains to obtain access to the building materials. For instance, the bricks were from China. During construction, neighbors were curious to see and talk about the “xinwu,” which literally means new houses in Hakka and later became the name of the region.

The Fanjiangs built five houses now known as Fanjiang Old Residence. Each has its distinctive characters due to its construction in different times. The first house had been dilapidated for a long time, so the members of family decided to tear it down and rebuild it as the Guanyin Temple in 2006. The second one has the Hakka exterior — with plaster walls and cobblestone foundations, but washed pebbles of the courtyard walls suggest that it might have been built during the era of Japanese occupation.

Among the five houses, the third one is the most well-maintained and splendid building. The whole house is constructed with dark red Minnan bricks, and a plaque hanging above the doorway is made of yellow Jiaozhi ware, which is a kind of Chinese pottery. The eaves of the roof are decorated with exquisitely crafted ornaments that only appeared on the roofs of temples in the past. The fact of the adornment on the roof of a private dwelling explains how rich the family was at that time.

Different from the previous lavishness, the fourth house is much more modest. Few decorations can be found except the pattern of a scroll above windows. The fifth house with the swallow-tailed roof is called Fanjiang Ancestral Hall, and it is the biggest of all and well preserved. Brought by the family 200 years ago, precious ancient relics, such as incense burners and ceramic cylinders, still exist in this centuries-old building.

The ancestral hall performs the function of worshipping their ancestors, and it also serves as a meeting venue for the clan. The family persists in upholding the Hakka worship ritual. Every spring and autumn, all Fanjiang descendants return to the old house to hold a solemn ceremony in commemoration of their ancestors, who endured hardship and overcame difficulties as immigrants in Taiwan. The ceremony unifies the whole family, and the spirit of passing down the tradition is also a part of Taiwanese Hakka heritage.

Since 2016, some parts of the old residence have served as a learning center for senior citizens. Various classes, including calligraphy, Hakka bayin music, and singing, are provided. Members of the family hope that this place that can be the center of local culture and communities will exert the positive influence on society. Moreover, they aim to draw many young people to get more familiar with traditional culture by combining creative industries with the history of Fanjiang Old Residence. The stories of Xinwu will continue to be told by the Fanjiang family and their old houses.