Before the completion of the North-South Railway in 1909, Dasi was the connective trade point between Taipei and the south. It was made so by a combination of two major factors: it was located on a river used to transport goods north-south (the Dahan river, also known as the Takoham river in the native aboriginal language) and loads of investment capital. A civil war between Hakka (early Han Chinese immigrant) clans forced refugees from the wealthiest of the clans, the Lin clan, into the Takoham river region. Realizing the importance of the location, the Lin clan invested heavily in it’s development and it was soon filled with traders and merchants. I’ll make this analogy: the Takoham river was the silk road of Taiwan, Taipei was Europe, southern Taiwan was Asia. Dasi was Persia.
Even after the North-South Railway made Dasi’s status as a trade hub obsolete it remained a fairly wealthy place, reinventing themselves as center for wooden furniture manufacturing. In modern times it has become a historical place replete with reminders of times past mixed intermingled with modern Taiwanese town life.
Interestingly, one can follow the general changes Taiwan has gone through culturally and politically via the names that Dasi has carried over the centuries. As mentioned previously, the local aboriginal people originally called it Takoham after the river on which it is situated. The earliest Chinese immigrants called it Dahan after their name for the same river. When Japan annexed Taiwan as a territory they renamed the area Dakei (which means “big creek”). After WWII when the island was returned to the R.O.C. the government promoted the Wade-Guiles romanization of the name the Japanese had given it, “Ta-shi”. Recently it has adopted the Tongyong romanization of “Dasi”.
One thing I love about the Dasi Old Street Market is that it still actively serves the local community. Even though it’s on the local tourist trail it doesn’t have any of the tourist trappings. It’s filled with vendors selling what everyday people need everyday. Like a butchery, for example.
Or someone selling fresh fish.
Like most old streets in Taiwan things can get pretty narrow and crowded, especially on mornings, weekends, and the lunch hour on weekdays. It makes for an exciting and charged atmosphere.
And just try dealing with a trash truck passing by.
If you are in Taipei for more then a few days I highly recommend making the trip. Busses leave daily from the Taipei Main Bus Station.
A few more photos.
Let Google guide you.
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