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Students discover the history of Hamasen – a historic quarter right next to NSYSU campus

The campus of National Sun Yat-sen University is located in the proximity of Hamasen, a historic quarter of Kaohsiung, built by the Japanese on reclaimed land at the beginning of the 20th century. The back streets of the quarter still preserve the atmosphere of old times, with many buildings left unchanged dating back to the Japanese colonial era (1985-1945). To let the Taiwanese and international students discover the hidden charm of Hamasen, while practicing English and making new friends, the College of Engineering and the Department of Electrical Engineering organized a guided tour in cooperation with professional tour guides of Like It Formosa – Storyteller of Taiwan – Kimi, Tina, and Bryant, as part of the English Corner Project: Learning Together With International Partners.

The name of the quarter has a special meaning: 'hama' means ‘bay’, and 'sen' - ’railway’. Hamasen was established around the Takao Port, which was built in 1904 and connected with the railway station to export sugar to Japan and transport goods to the inside of the country. The port grew to be one of the most important ports in the world, even after the dissolution of the Empire of Japan; Kaohsiung was world’s 3rd biggest port in 1968 and thus was called the ‘Port City of Taiwan’. The port surroundings soon became crowded and to this day reflect the culture and daily life of sailors and fishermen. The people of the sea would gather in Gushan Daitian Temple, built in 1951 by immigrants from Tainan, to pray for fruitful catch and good waters to Matsu – the goddess of the sea, and would socialize by the food stands surrounding the temple; one of the stands, selling fish balls, has been serving food for 70 years already. During the visit, the students learned about religious customs in Taiwan: burning paper money and incense sticks to direct one’s wishes to gods, and casting moon blocks.

Before going out to the sea, sailors would get prophylactic surgical removal of the appendix to avoid the potential risk of appendicitis during the mission. A physician in Hamasen – Doctor Ke was famous for his efficiency: with both of his hands, he could perform an impressive number of 58 appendectomies a day, a miracle to modern medicine. Doctor Ke’s Clinic stands to this day by Linhai 2nd Road.

Within the eyeshot from the Clinic is an inconspicuous park, commemorating the already nonexistent Hotel All in One, where sailors would stay before getting on their ships. Erected in the 1940s, the Hotel was built of hinoki wood and incorporated Chinese and Japanese architectural styles. It was torn down overnight without prior notice in 2005 and only its gate remained, with a commemorative mosaic and a circle window featuring the character ‘福’ – ‘fortune’, meant to bring good luck to those who leave the hotel to get on the ship.

The Port of Kaohsiung remains one of the world’s most important ports to this day. The city’s resources became the starting point for the development of new industries; ships sunk during WWII were the source of material for the growth of the metal recycling industry, which made other industries sprout and thrive to this day: ship breaking, building, and repairing. The warehouses for sugar storage by the port have been renovated and turned into shopping and leisure centers about a decade ago. Also, from the well-preserved Residence of Hsu Family, located on Binhai 1st Road, the students could see new architectural elements, such as balconies and verandas, and new materials, introduced by Japanese architects that in later decades became very popular in Taiwan.

The students were enthusiastic to learn about the history of places they pass by every day and surprised to know that Hamasen was built on reclaimed land. James from Kenya, studying at the Chinese Language Center, was fascinated by the close connection between the sea and the people of Kaohsiung, and the Japanese influence on the architecture of the city. Katie, an IMEPE student from Papua New Guinea said, that she would definitely show her family and friends around Hamasen, now that she knows the history of this place.

The tour was the third event organized as part of the College of Engineering’s English Corner Project: Learning Together With International Partners, many of whom are students from International Master’s Program in Electric Power Engineering (IMEPE) and Telecommunication Engineering (IMPTE). The previous two events included tours to the British Consulate at Takow and to the Southern Taiwan Science Park. The Project organizers welcome Taiwanese and international students to learn and practice English with their peers.
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