24 Solar Term Art Trail
24 Solar Term Art Trail
The 24 Solar Term Art Trail was created as a celebration of Taiwan’s rural roots. The art installations along this 850-meter walking/biking route are based on the 24 Solar Terms, a sort of informal planting calendar traditionally used in Chinese agricultural communities. The calendar is broken up into 24 two-week long segments whose names reflect changes in temperature and precipitation (“heat begins”, “wheat rain”, “cold dews”), to help farmers determine when to plant and harvest their crops.
Each of the 24 art installations on the 24 Solar Term Art Trail represents one segment of the calendar. As you enter the lane, you will be greeted by a rather charmingly painted long low wall that lists the 24 terms and correlates them with the area’s two annual rice harvests. This is all in Chinese, of course, so if you can’t read the language, you’ll have to do some guessing to figure it out.
The lane itself runs between a tiny farming community of old courtyard houses on one side and endless ranks of rice paddies stretching out on the other. Take your time going through it; for such an unassuming little road, there’s actually quite a lot to see. You can of course view and enjoy all of the art installations set along the lane, from the large concrete sprouting seed that represents the spring equinox to the lively and colorful figures of kids swimming in summer, farmers harvesting autumn sugarcane, and moms preparing traditional Tangyuan at the winter solstice.
But there’s more on offer here than the art, and all of it is directly related to Taiwan’s agricultural traditions. Right at the beginning of the lane, if you look carefully, you will see a plain, unadorned standing stone, or stele, in a small copse of trees on the right. This very ordinary-looking stone is considered by many to be a powerful talisman that keeps the waters of the nearby Bazhang River at bay. It was placed there in 1901 after a major typhoon coincided with a high tide, causing the river to overflow its banks and inundate the area for miles around in brackish water. Apparently, the stone is doing its job; since that time, the river has never flooded beyond it.
About halfway down the lane on your left you’ll find Happy Garden, a delightful little park that is home to a massive old stone sugarcane press. The press actually works, and visitors are welcome to try it out—but be warned that if you come on a weekday you will need to make an appointment or find someone to unlock it for you. The garden is also graced with a large sculpted and mosaicked ox pulling a traditional flat sugarcane cart, an old water pump, picnic tables, and a covered picnic area where you can chill out in the shade and enjoy your lunch. If you stroll around the nearby lanes, you will come across some beautifully preserved brick courtyard houses. There are a couple of funky little windmills, a large irrigation gate for flooding the rice paddies, four tiny temple guardhouses that surround the community to protect the local temple, and more.
Bring plenty of sunscreen, food and drink, and be sure to bring your camera. The 24 Solar Term Art Trail is a great place to spend an hour or two exploring rural Taiwan.
No. 257, Yaodiankou, Houbi Dist., Tainan City