Date: November 1, 2019
By: Crystal Shi
But on a recent visit, I joined crowds of tourists in search of other riches: stunning ocean vistas, legendary local eats, and a sort of nostalgic charm that permeates every narrow, lantern-lit cobblestone street. The days of gold mining have long gone, but the former mining town has since struck a new kind of gold: tourism.
The story begins in the early 1890s, when a group of railroad construction workers, in the midst of washing their rice bowls, found specks of the precious mineral in the Keelung River. The unexpected discovery triggered a gold rush, and crowds of hopeful prospectors descended upon the riverbanks to try their luck.
In 1894, the source of that gold was traced to a huge deposit in the mountains around Jiufen. The region’s gold mining era soon took off in earnest—spearheaded by the Japanese, who colonized the island the following year—and as the industry boomed, the mountain towns at its center swelled with miners and newfound riches. By the 1930s, Jiufen had gone from an isolated farming village to a mining hub so prosperous it earned the nickname “Little Shanghai.” [FULL STORY]