At first sight Hengyang Road (衡陽路) doesn’t seem to be a particularly interesting street. You are indeed unlikely to even notice it, immersed as it is in the jungle of buildings and roads in Taipei Main Station area. However, the appearance is deceptive. In fact, Hengyang Road is a fascinating example of all the changes and upheavals Taipei has gone through over the last two hundred years.
In the late Qing era, Hengyang Road was known as “Stone Memorial Archway Street” (石坊街) because of the memorial arch that stood there. In the picture below, you can see the arch, whose name was Commonweal Memorial Arch (急公好義坊). At the end of the road, you can still see the West Gate (Ximen), which was demolished by the Japanese in 1905. The picture also shows the structure of typical Qing Dynasty streets of Taipei, with the simple two-storey buildings and the tile roofs.
The Commonweal Memorial Arch was built on the 13th year of the reign of the Guangxu Emperor (1887) to commemorate Hong Tengyun (洪騰雲). Hong was an immigrant from Quanzhou Prefecture in Fujian Province. He came to Taiwan as a 13-year-old boy in 1824, following his father, a merchant who settled down in Bangka (or Mengjia, 艋舺) and became wealthy thanks to his thriving business with Quanzhou and Xiamen.
He and his son were known for their social engagement. In 1880 Hong Tengyun donated a sum of money to Taipei so as to build an examination hall (考棚) in the northeastern part of Taipei Walled City (close to present-day Taipei Main Station). In 1887, the Governor of Taiwan Liu Mingchuan petitioned the Guangxu Emperor to allow him to build a Memorial Arch in honour of Hong Tengyun.
The Commonweal Memorial Arch still exists, but it is now in a different place. When the Japanese built the Taipei Park (now 228 Peace Park) in 1908, they moved the memorial arch next to one of the park’s entrances.
In the Japanese era, the street was called “Sakaimachi Street”.
|Hengyang Road in the Japanese era, as viewed from one of Taipei Park’s exits|
|The same location today|