In this new newsletter feature, “Taiwan Spotlight” we’ll be sharing some of Taiwan’s hidden treasures – sights to see, food to eat, clubs to visit, you name it.

This month, we’re bringing you a spotlight on one of Taiwan’s most famous hamlets- Jiufen. This spotlight is authored by members of our cultural committee – email if you’re interested in getting involved!

Taiwan Spotlight: Jiufen/Jinguashi (九份/金瓜石)
By Ben Yen and Eric Lin

Tucked away from the flashing lights of the main city lie Jiufen (九份) and neighboring Jinguashi (金瓜石), two small towns located in New Taipei City. Renowned tourist attractions, historical landmarks, and national treasures, both Jiufen and Jinguashi are well worth a visit for any traveler to Taiwan.

Built during Taiwan’s gold rush in the late 19th century, Jiufen and Jiaguashi enjoyed prosperity under Japanese rule, but fell into decline in the aftermath of World War II. The turnaround came in 1989, when “A City of Sadness,” a Taiwanese film set in Jiufen focusing on a family struggle during the 228 incident, became a box office hit. When Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki modeled scenes in the world renowned movie Spirited Away after downtown Jiufen, the village came further under the limelight. Since then, the town has become a celebrated a tourist attraction that attracted over one million visitors in 2013.

The streets of Jiufen (often called “old streets” or 九份老街) are home to many different shops that hawk famous Taiwanese small-bites including taro balls and savory mochi, handicraft stores, and world-class tea shops. The streets also give way to an observation deck offering a great view of Taiwan’s beautiful north shore, as well Sheng-Ping Theater, the first-ever theater in Taiwan. In Jinguanshi, one can find an old gold refinery, which was reopened in 2004 as a gold museum. The most famous item on display in the gold museum is a 484-pound gold brick!