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An awe-inspiring visit to Taiwan¡¦s national monument in Houtong-- Jinzibei 2018-04-02
I¡¦ve visited Jinzibei Historical Trail in Rueifang Township, New Taipei City a couple of times in the past. My most recent visit took place in November last year. The reason why I like to visit this trail is because of the national monument Jinzibei (Jinzi Stele,ª÷¦r¸O), which is actually an inscription on the face of a big trailside rock. What is inscribed is a poem written in 1867 by Qing Dynasty general Liu Ming-deng, who was in charge of Taiwan¡¦s military in that era.

I¡¦ll never forget the emotion from shock to awe and joy I experienced when I first saw the ancient rock inscription many years ago. The mossy monument has been magnificently and quietly standing there in its original natural environment for 150 years.

I parked my car right beside the entrance of the trail located near the Houtong Ecological Education Park, which is the campus of the deserted Houtong Elementary School. The school was deserted because the campus suffered serious damage from a typhoon in 2000.

The trailhead can also be accessed by walking from TRA Houtong Station. After visitors get off the train, they are strongly recommended to take a tour of the mining heritage near the train station left behind from the mining town¡¦s golden era decades ago. Today most of the ruins of Hou-Tong¡¦s Ruisan Coal Mine, the biggest coal mine from 1940¡¦s to 1960¡¦s in Taiwan, were preserved, including the plants, machinery and dormitory buildings, making the area the most well preserved coalmine park in Taiwan. After crossing the bridge spanning the Keelung River from the deserted plant, visitors will be able to see the entrance of Houtong Mine on Houtong Road.

After visiting the mine entrance, just walk along Houtong Road towards the village, where most people in Hongtong live, in the direction of Rueifang. After walking about one kilometer along Houtong Road and then Jiuqiongqiao Road, you will come across the intersection with a sign pointing to the entrance to the Jinzibei Historical Trail. Turn right and continue walking a few hundred meters up the asphalt road along a creek on the right to reach the trailhead, where there is a short bridge as well as signs and maps about the trail.

Most of the trail to Jinzibei is stone paved and shaded by tall trees. The distance from the trailhead to the rock inscription is about 1.5 kilometers.

The trail is part of an ancient route connecting Yilan County and Taipei. During my last trip, the sight of the rock inscription still touched me deeply. As a plus of taking the hiking trip, I touched the precious historic relic with my hands for quite a while as it is not separated from the path by any protective railing.

The poem was inscribed on the rock face in Seal Script of Chinese calligraphy. The rock inscription is 143 cm wide and 240 cm tall, with lotus-themed stone sculpture on both edges of the inscription and dragon sculpture on the top. The inscribed poem is about what the Qing Dynasty commander saw and how he felt when he reached this point during his visit more than 150 years ago.

About walking up 400 meters from Jinzibei, visitors will reach Tanyou Pavilion, in front of which is another Qing Dynasty stone tablet, which reportedly carries the inscription banning felling trees along the trail, evidences that the sense of environment protection had existed in the Qing Dynasty.

After taking a rest at the pavilion, I took the same route to go back to my car. It took me about three hours to complete the hike, including taking a lot of photos, especially at the national monument.

By George Liao,Taiwan News, Staff Writer
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