New life for Taichung's old Chienkuo Market
Words and photos by Rachel Chang
Translated by Anna Yang
Taichung's famed Chienkuo Market officially reopened on Sept. 20, 2016 at a brand-new location at the crossroads of JianCheng, JinDe and ZhongXiao roads. Known as the largest traditional public market in Taiwan, its new premises covers a total of 2.23 hectares and work to move everything over from the original ChienKuo Road location took three years. The new site stands apart from other traditional markets with an overall building design that--in a nod to the market's history and Japanese colonial era--is inspired by the Baroque and Renaissance architecture popular in that period, including nostalgic-looking red-brick walls.
History of Chienkuo Market
The historic Chienkuo Market, in its convenient location near Taichung Railway Station, has been a part of Taichung residents' lives for four decades. The original old four-story building was home to 700 vendor stalls, 20 shops and a 4,628-square-meter basement parking lot. Vendor stalls were on the first and second floors with 90 residential apartments on the third and fourth levels. A total of over 2,000 vendors doing business in and around this building made it Taiwan largest and Taichung's most iconic traditional market.
Closing the old premises
After three years of construction, the original market building opened in 1972, becoming home to several sizable restaurants and local eateries and a favorite shopping spot for housewives. The myriad items sold here included fresh vegetables, meat, seafood, herbs and reasonably-priced grocery items. This lively setting was significantly disrupted by 1999's 921 Earthquake, which damaged the old building and made it a danger zone. With numerous vendors and tenants unwilling to move out due to certain contract issues, the city government decided to repair the building and relocated second-floor vendors to a temporary site in the Gancheng public zone to allow them to continue their business.
Market vendors were forced to move yet again due to elevated-railway, new railway station and urban renewal projects. After a number of meetings to discuss relocating Chienkuo Market, the city government finally decided to move it to to Taiwan Sugar Corporation land. This decision was a sad one for many loyal customers and occupants, including a fourth-floor resident who said goodbye to Chienkuo Market in a special way. Regarded as a "daughter of Chienkuo Market", Chan Sho-chu gathered stories about the market and filmed the whole relocation process to create a documentary film, "The One Who Wakes Up the Sun" (叫太陽起床的人), which won the 2016 Director's Award for documentary films from the Information Bureau of Taichung City.
After the market opened at its new location, the old building was torn down and is now a temporary parking lot. The Water Resources Bureau will also take over the old temporary market site used after the 921 Earthquake and turn it into a water treatment plant for Luchuan River and Taichung Park.
The new-look Chienkuo Market
Construction of the new market building began in February, 2013 and was completed in September, 2016. The four-floor JianCheng Road site bears some resemblance to the old one, although the first floor has a higher ceiling for better ventilation and air quality. In order to prevent an imbalance in business between the first and second floors, as was the case before, the new market has all vendors on the first floor and houses the market electricity and machinery room, management office, market council office, and an exhibition hallway on the second floor while the third and floor floors are used as parking lots.
The new Chienkuo Market is well-illuminated and has better air flow. The first floor is separated into five zones (A to E) for seafood, meat, vegetables, cooked foods and groceries. There are 509 vendors and 202 shops, including 701 retailers from the old market. The remaining vendors are aboriginal-products businesses in Zone B. There are a total of 812 car parking spaces and 1018 motorcycle spaces, with the parking lot entrance on JinDe Road and its exit is on LeYe 2nd Road. There is also street parking along JianCheng and JinDe roads, ensuring that customers don't have to worry about parking while shopping here. Furthermore, new bus stops are conveniently located around the new market.
Market visitors can take bus route no. 18 and get off at New Chienkuo Market Gate 1, bus route no. 20 and get off at Tah Tong Textile bus stop on JianCheng Road, bus routes no. 51, 89, 280, 286, 288 or 289 and get off at New Chienkuo Market, and bus routes no. 32, 61 or 75 and get off at the intersection of LeYe and JianCheng roads.
Due to the large market site, eight numbered entrances have been created and visitors can easily find their way around inside, thanks to directory maps at each entrance. Every vendor and shop is numbered and can be located via Taichung City Government's official website for a more efficient shopping trip.
Future of the new market
Since new Chienkuo Market's September opening, the city government has promoted it in several ways, helping to attract both old and new customers. The new site allows the market to retain its traditional feel and function while offering a brighter and cleaner environment to visitors. In the hopes of making this an international market attraction like ones in other countries, the city government is also promoting local products, tourism, leisure and culture at this reincarnated old market.
New Chienkuo Market
500, JianCheng Rd, East Dist
Hours: 5 am-12 pm (closed Mon)