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Illuminating a rich history

Words by Hanxiu Lu Translated by Anna Yang
Photos provided by Cultural Affairs Bureau, Taichung City Government

"See you!" "Farewell!" "Safe journey!" "Goodbye!" "Take care!"

Humans are social beings and even a brief parting can still mean the world to us. Taiwan's centuries of history are certainly filled with sentimental attachments, with a variety of farewells representing the characteristics of specific eras.

Saying goodbye, from harbors and rail stations to airports
The continuing modernization of public transportation has also changed the places where people bid farewell to each other.

As lyrics from "Du-Tai-Bei-Ge", an old melancholy song about coming to Taiwan, note, "Moving to Taiwan isn't advised, as the land is like the gate of hell", echoing the thoughts of old ancestors.

Illuminating a rich history
This year's light show, projected onto the old railway station's platform, drew the attention of many visitors.

After the aborigines, Han Chinese immigrants risked their lives to sail across the broad strait from the mainland to Taiwan, with arrivals moving from the southern to northern, and western to eastern, parts of the island, and from harbors to the plains. During the Japanese colonial period, ports included Anping, Qijing, Donggang, Budai, Lugang, Dadaocheng, Bangka and Huwei and became common sites for farewells between Taiwanese relatives and friends. The ocean breezes, seagulls, ships' whistles and waving hands became inspirations for the melody "Gangbienxibie" (Farewell at the Harbor) for local residents.

The image of farewells at the harbor eventually dissipated after 1908 as the inland, mountain railway lines were connected. This meant that the setting for local farewells moved from harbor to rail stations as trains became a much more reliable form of transportation and clutching "ruthless train ticket" (an old saying) during goodbyes became another classic sight. In modern-day Taiwan, where booking air tickets to fly overseas is just a mouse click away, saying goodbye at the airport and waving at departing planes has also become a common farewell scenario.

A century of the 'ruthless train ticket'
"You have reached Taichung Station! Do you need to buy a bento box, sushi, or sun cakes?" For decades in Taiwan, railway stations have been the main spots for transportation and farewells. As one of the main stops and commercial hubs along the mountain line, Taichung Railway Station has offered countless tourist and business visitors everything from delicious sun cakes to the attractive setting of its vintage building.

This rail station originally started in 1905 as a wooden structure that was part of the Taichung Parking Lot. In March, 1917, the lot was replaced by a Renaissance-style building created by an architect, Tastsuno Kingo with red-and-white tiles. Today, while it has given way to Taichung's attractive new elevated railway station, the old station remains preserved underneath as a national landmark.

The relentless station platform and a compassionate city
A city that's flourished with buildings and is rich with culture offers remarkable landmarks that help give it worth. Such landmarks stand as witnesses to the city's history and generations of its residents. Although the old platform at Taichung Railway Station has been retired, its value as a cultural icon remains.

In order to celebrate the retirement of Taichung's old railway station, Taichung City Government and Taiwan Railways Administration held a 3D light show and a series of Taichung Light Festival events on May 27 and 28. The light show portrayed images of trains between 1905 and 1917 with accompanying train-whistle sounds, while other projected images included Taichung's green belt (Calligraphy Greenway) and bamboo-themed poems written by Lin Tze-shang and Lin Shang-tang. In addition, the city government provided a series of fantastic stage shows, riddle contests and mobile light shows to celebrate Taichung's old and new aspects with residents and tourists.

Filled with dramatic scenes, the old platform served as a public stage for thousands of residents and was also the setting for the city government's "Light Show Drama", with dancers, light and music infusing the setting with nostalgic memories of the station and creating a romantic, sentimental ambiance that was enjoyed by visitors.

The City of Lights touches hearts
Since its creation in 2013, the Taichung Light Festival has attracted large numbers of visitors every year. Past years have seen light shows projected onto Taichung City Hall, Six Arts Cultural Center, National Taichung Theater, Taichung Park Pavilion, and Taichung Literacy Hall, bringing new illumination to the city.

Illuminating a rich history
Participants enjoyed the nostalgic atmosphere created by the light show at the old station.

While this annual festival only takes place for a short time, it continues to remind residents and visitors to cherish Taichung's landmarks and special culture.

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