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New Lin’an Bridge & Jinhua Bridge

Despite its modest size (6 square kilometers, the smallest in the 37-district Tainan City), West Central District was the location of Taiwan’s first Han Chinese settlement, and has played a quintessential role in the island’s political regimes for 200 years. It’s always a great idea to take a casual stroll through West Central District, the oldest Taiwanese metropolis, and get inspired by the charming old, palatial structures of Confucius Temple, Chihkan Tower, Koxinga Shrine and various other historic sites.

The long history of West Central District dates back to the mid-17th century, when it served as the Tainan headquarters of the Han Chinese authority. That explains why most of the Qing-dynasty relics of Tainan Prefecture are located in West Central District, and also why the term fucheng (prefecture) now refers to this specific administrative district and its neighboring areas, including Minquan Road, which historians believe was reputed to be “Taiwan’s first road” back in the Dutch colonial days. The Japanese colonists then based the Tainan rezoning plan on West Central District’s existing network of passageways, a majority of which were already established in the Qing dynasty and, therefore, relatively cramped. In a recent effort to generate extra value for its cultural assets, Tainan City Government has been actively seeking developmental directions to preserve and inject new life into historic sites across West Central District, an iconic representation of the City’s legacies.

West Central District accounts for 10, or more than half, of the City’s national historic sites, which are mostly Fujian-style structures erected between the Koxinga and Qing periods. In every corner or alley, there are traces of history etched in weather-beaten city walls, upturned eaves or bucket arches set against the sunny sky Tainan is so famous for. These relics celebrate West Central District’s signature cultural landscape in the form of not-to-be-missed attractions, reminding you to live in the present, as they take you down a long corridor of time.

With its street plan already laid out in the Qing dynasty, West Central District has a blurred distinction between residential and commercial areas. Among the prominent shopping streets in the District’s history are Zhongzheng Road and Minzu Road, the former being a Japanese colonial establishment that declined due to a traffic control plan implemented during the construction of Haian Road Underground Mall. The City Government has recently harnessed both human and non-human resources to restore glory to West Central District, its oldest political and economic hub, where Dingmei is emerging as a popular residential neighborhood, with retailers moving toward TRA Tainan Station. A prime example is the “Diamond of Tainan” urban regeneration project that involves a now-defunct shipyard, and the relocation of Jincheng Junior High School and Sin-Nan Elementary School to the 5th Redevelopment Zone, making way for an international conference center and malls. Also, the Tainan Canal-spanning New Lin’an Bridge and Jinhua Bridge were built in West Central District to enhance outbound traffic links, which are essential to the “Diamond of Tainan” project.

The “Diamond of Tainan” project, centered in West Central District for its pivotal role in Taiwanese history, was not only declared by former mayor Hsu Tain-Tsair as Tainan City’s “flagship plan”, but also appears among the incumbent mayor Lai Ching-Te’s priority list. The project features canal-spanning bridges and other prerequisites for a prosperous “Diamond of Tainan” zone, notably accessible transportation and public amenities. The City Government partnered with architectural design firm CECI Engineering Consultants and contractor Jinn Shin Construction to complete the NT$290 million “Diamond of Tainan” bridges by July 2012.

Adding a modern touch to an old city, the two new bridges are aesthetically inspired by arches and sails, respectively, to suggest how Tainan provided crucial land and water access to Taiwan Island centuries ago. Connecting the end of Lin’an Road and Jincheng Junior High School, the north-south, canal-spanning New Lin’an Bridge is a sail-shaped single tower cable-stayed structure that measures 80 meters in length and 20 to 25 meters in width. Also spanning Tainan Canal, the east-west Jinhua Bridge links the end of Lane 171, Section 3, Jinhua Road and Sin-Nan Elementary School. Supported by interlaced steel cables, it is 95 meters in length and 20 to 25 meters in width. Ever since their inauguration, the bridges have ensured an improved, “banded” urban traffic link between the Chinatown and Zhongzheng Shopping Districts, which in turn have bolstered tourism and created jobs.

Straddling an ancient waterway with cable-stayed or steel beam structures, these state-of-the-art bridges combine visual impact and functionality into West Central District’s latest, East-meets-West landmarks. They gives a huge boost to the “Diamond of Tainan” urban renewal effort prioritized by two mayors, while simultaneously breathing fresh air into an old city, with the frontier spirit inherited from our ancestors. In the near future, West Central District will blossom into Taiwan’s core city with insurmountable old-world charm, creativity and ambition.