Chikan Tower (aka the former Fort Provintia 普羅民遮城) is one of the most fascinating historical buildings in all of Taiwan. Originally built as a fort by the Dutch in the 1653, it was later made into two Chinese temples. Now it is a popular place for students to pray for good grades.
Fort Provintia was built by the Dutch who controlled Taiwan at the time to fortify the western part of Tayuan, just two kilometres away from Fort Zeelandia; construction planning started in 1624 and it was completed in 1653. At the time the fort pointed canons at the Taijiang River. A Road was built from the Fort Provintia to Fort Zeelandia (Minquan Road today).
It was known by the local people as Red Hair Tower (紅毛樓 Hóng máo lóu) or Chikan Tower (赤崁樓 chì kàn lóu) which came from the plains aboriginal name Sakam, which was the settlement near the tower home to over5000 aboriginal villagers.
In 1652 the Guo Huaiyi Rebellion ( 郭懷一事件 guōhuáiyī shìjiàn) took place, in which Chinese settlers rose up against the Dutch due to heavy taxation. With the help of the aborigines, the Chinese were defeated and over 4000 Chinese were killed.
As a result of the rebellion, the Dutch replaces bamboo walls around the fort with brick walls.
In 1661, Fort Provintia was the first place that Koxinga attacked in his conquest of Taiwan. In the following months he conquered the Dutch and created the Kingdom of Donming in Taiwan. The fort was used as storage for gunpowder at the time.
After the Qing Dynasty took Taiwan, an uprising by 17 year old Zhu Yigui was successful in exiling the provincial government out of Taiwan after heavy taxation and a bad earthquake had left the people destitute. As part of the rebellion, the iron gates of Chikan Tower were destroyed. The Qing took back Tainan about a month later and Zhu Yigui was executed.
Later, typhoons and a large earthquake in 1862 left the tower in ruins.
In the 1800s, five temples were built on the ruins of Fort Provintia: Daishi Temple, Ocean God Temple, Fenghu Library, Wenchang Temple, and Wuzi Temple.
During the Japanese Era, the temples were converted into student dormitories and an army hospital. During demolition of the Dashi Temple, they discovered the remnants of the Dutch Fort Provintia underneath. They then converted the tower into a museum which is basically in the same form today.
After WWII, the building was protected as a national historical monument and was made into a tourist attraction. Apparently there are also plans to improve the Dutch history of the site in the future.
8:30 AM to 9:30 PM (open late so you can see it with lights)
50 NT per person.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: From Tainan Train Station, dive east on provincial highway 20, then turn left on Minzu 2nd Road. The Chikan Tower will be on your right.
By Bus: From Tainan Train Station, take bus 3 or five west about 8 minutes to Fort Provintia Station.
Please see below:
I have been to the Chikan Tower about three times. It is one of the most interesting historical buildings in Taiwan in my opinion. It's hard to find a building with so many layers of important history as this one.
Map of the Chikan Tower. The two main buildings are the Haishen (Ocean God) Temple on the right and the Wenchang Temple on the left.
Thorough explanation of the area in English.
Explanation of the history of the tower (pretty much the same as I explained in the background above).
Above is a view of the Wenchang Temple. Just below it is the entrance to the old Fort Provintia. There are also many scholarly stales around the area.
"The original entrance to Fort Provintia"
"When the Dutch built this fort, the main entrance was facing the west to observe the Taijian Inner Sea.
The relic was discovered in 1944 when Chihkan Tower was rebuilt. However for safety reasons it has not been excavated thoroughly, and trace of the stairs inside the building still indistinctly visible."
You can also feed Coy fish nearby.
View from the top of the Haishen Temple looking at the square in front of the tower. In the background is a statue of the Dutch discussing terms of surrender with Koxinga.
God of literature inside the Wenchang Temple. This is a popular place for students to come and pray for good grades on their tests.
"Figure of the God of Literature"
"Derived from the image-shape character Kuí (魁), the figure holds a writing brush in the right hand, an ink cup in the left, one foot on the head of a hugelegendary sea-tortoise, the other kicking stars. It symbolizes the attainment of the top position in examinations: hence it is worshiped unceasingly by students from far and wide."
Dated scholarly texts.
"Dutch Well Relic"
"The well, between the Sea God Temple and Wunchang Pavilion, is rumored that there is a tunnel under it connecting Chikan Tower and Anping Fort (Old Fort Zeelandia). Several years ago, it had been excavated and been evidenced that it was just a well which provided the daily water for the people who lived inside the fort."
View from Wenchang Pavilion looking at Haishen Temple.
Artifacts from the original temples.
The best view of the ruins of Fort Provintia is from Wenchang Temple here.
"Remains of the Bastion of Fort Provintia"
"When the Dutch established Fort Provintia for military purposes, they let a protruding bastion with watchtowers on the southwest and northeast corner. When the Dutch construction was demolished, the watchtower also disappeared; later on, a southern Chinese style building was erected to worship the five famous scholars of Traditional China. During Japanese governance period, the Five Scholars Shrine collapsed in a typhoon disaster, and the relic of the Dutch construction was rediscovered. Now it is the most significant remains of the site."
If you plan a trip to Tainan, I would recommend visiting the Chikan Tower at night.
All the other historical sites close at about 5:30, so after you have seen those you should come here and enjoy the colorful light show that they have on the scholarly stales.
Another view of the turtle stales, also known as Bì xì (贔屭). These were part of traditional decorations, and recorded important events, names of donors, or names of scholars that attained a certain level.
Legend states that the Bixi statues originate from Yu the Great, king of the Xia Dynasty in China in about 2100 BC. He was known for his great flood control techniques, and it is said he utilized tortoises to dig ditches and dams to control flood waters. After the tortoises work was done, he placed a stone tablet on their backs so they could not move and wreck the ditches and dams that they had made.
View of one of the tortoise stales. It's hard to make out any text from this angle.
Arched gate to the temples.
Chikan Tower at night.
More stales at the bottom of the tower.
View of the square at night.
View from the Haishen Temple at night.
Another view from the top of the Chikan Tower at night.
Another view of the tower at night.
View of the Wenchang Pavilion.
View of the original Fort Provintia.
Transformation of Fort Provintia over time.
Painting of Koxinga.
Model of era boats inside the Haishen Temple.
View of the second story from Haishen Temple.
View of the roof of Haishen Temple at night.
View from the second story of Haishen Temple.
Another view of the Haishen Temple ceiling woodwork.
Stairs up to Haishen Temple. The second story can only hold a certain number of people.
The old Dutch Well, which is not a secret tunnel to Anping Fort.
Entrance to Wenchang Pavilion.
Woodwork on the Wenchang Pavilion.
An exhibit of the old library in Chikan Tower.
Another view of the God of Literature.
View from Wenchang Pavilion looking at Haishen Temple.
Roof of Wenchang Pavilion.
Limit of only 40 people can go to the second story at a time.
Scholarly texts on display.
Broken stales outside.
View of the entrance to Fort Provintia at night.
Closer view of the ruins of Fort Provintia at night.
"Double sided stele contributed"
"In 1893, the Qing commisioned scholars, including Shi Shi-ji (ranked Jinshi title in the state exam) to engrave on a stele the names of donors who helped with the renovation projects and the performing of Taoist ritual called “Jianjiao" for the Hall of Lort Dashi. In 1944, the Tainan City Office demolished the unsightly Hall of Lord Dashi when restoring the Haishen Temple and Wenchang Pavilion as part of the Chikan Tower renovation. The then Tainan City Mayor, Hattori Matao, composed an article entitled "The Restoration of Chihkan Tower" and had it inscribed by Yamanaka Sho, library director of Taiwan Governer-General Office, on the reverse side of the stele bearing "Donors for Renovation and Jain-jiao Projects." The stele was then embedded in the north wall of Wenchang Pavilion with the list of donors.
Another view looking from the botton of Wenchang Pavillion.
View of one of the stone steles.
Coy at night.
Another view of the fish pond at night.
If you have time, you can also stop by the Chin Mei Theater which is one of the last theaters in Taiwan that still uses hand painted posters.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more of our blogs in Tainan to come!
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.