Drive: Central Taipei to Sanxia District
The ride from central Taipei to Sanxia district will take around 40 minutes.
Next Stop: Sanxia District
The journey southwest out of central Taipei gives a vision of the city morphing, from sky-high modern skyscrapers into tightly knit, functionally-focused rural neighborhoods. On the southern tip of this section of suburban Taipei sits Sanxia district – bordering the city to the north and mountainous jungle to the south. Apart from Sanxia’s central old street, a stretch of historic brick architecture from the ROC’s early days in Taiwan, which draws in small groups of curious travelers, the suburb is largely quiet, providing a haven for those city-weary souls, looking for an oasis in which to relocate to pursue a life of quietude amidst nature.
Natural Tea Farmer A Jie
Meet A Jie, a third-generation tea farmer pursing natural tea farming. Natural farming is also known as “The Fukuoka Method”, named after its founder, Masanobu Fukuoka, who was a Japanese farmer and philosopher. Established in Japan by Fukuoka in 1975, natural farming is exactly as it sounds – allowing nature take its course in full with almost no impact or mitigation from the farmer. It’s organic farming but one giant step further.
As one might imagine, natural farming is incredibly unpredictable, especially in a place like Taiwan, where the jungle claims just about everything it can get its vines on. A Jie struggled initially with the natural farming conviction, but as a short walk through his off-the-beaten-path tea plantation will show, he’s now found his way. The key to his strength is a friendship with his neighbor, a Taoist hermit named Hsiao.
Taoist Hermit Hsiao
Wend up into the secluded mountains of Sanxia where a modest one-room hut sits nestled in the towering palms of the Taiwanese jungle. Welcome to the home of Hsiao Shengquan, a former big-city architect who found that retirement in the city after a decades of financial success was not what his soul was seeking after all. Instead Hsiao decide to go full circle and return to his family’s land in the mountains, where his father was a farmer a generation ago. Hsiao traded in his glitzy Taipei apartment for a hut in the jungle, seeking a closer connection with nature and spirituality. That was ten years ago, and today Hsiao is still here, living out his dream as a Taoist hermit amidst the solitude of his tea plantation.
Tea Plantation, Tasting and Ceremony
Hsiao’s tea plantation is very modest in size, but the true gem here, is the quality of the tea which he attributes to his deep connection with the land. Only by attaining inner peace and finding a balance with nature can one grow truly quality tea. A sense of calm seems to radiate from Hsiao and blanket the land around, giving a peaceful quietude to the entire experience. After viewing the tea trees outside, head inside Hsiao’s home where the steady cadence of Buddhist chants fill the background with an ambient serenity. Next, sit down for a cup of Hsiao’s locally grown and harvested tea preluded by a special tea ceremony, rooted in spirituality, and of course, the land.
Taoist + Tibetan Buddhist Meditation
Senses piqued and bellies warm from tea, head back outside for a meditation session. Hsiao’s beliefs are a blend of Tibetan Buddhism, echoed by the fluttering prayer flags flaking his home, and Taoism. As both faiths are not limited to monotheism, they can, and are, practiced in parallel. Learn about the practices of each and dip a toe in to the mindset Hsiao has created here with a meditation session in the yard.
CAN Foundation NGO
Exit the jungle and head to the heart of Sanxia’s “downtown” where two young entrepreneurs are working to promote urban-rural development. Their NGO, CAN Foundation, is housed in a stunningly renovated 100-year-old hospital building. The space is a medley of art and culture, aiming to connect local craftmasters, travelers and community members. After learning about the space and mission of CAN Foundation, sit down with one of the resident craft masters, “Shokunins”, for a hands-on experience in the activity of the day (indigo dyeing, woodcarving, stamp engraving, or tofu making).
Sanxia Old Street
Sanxia Old Street is an homage to an earlier time. Here baroque-style buildings line a main thoroughfare, a relic of Japanese rule in this area. The end of the road is marked by Zushi Temple which has been under renovation for more than half a century and features intricate wood carvings and other artistic details that offer a glimpse into the region’s cultural and artistic heritage. Enjoy a leisurely amble, snap some photos and stop in for a snack along this picturesque street.
Drive: Sanxia District to Taipei
The ride from Sanxia district back to Taipei will take around 40 minutes.