A city-renewal revolution hidden in Dong-Men market, HsinChu
Translated by 半月
PanX has released many articles on “Action 368 round-island lectures on entrepreneurship”, trying to connect central, local government and entrepreneurs. This June, we participated the fourth lecture of “City-renewal Project” at Hsinchu. It was the first time we did a report in the traditional market.
Back to 1977, Dong-Men Market was the most “modernized” market in Taiwan. It was the first traditional market situated in an RC building and it had the first escalator in Hsinchu. Besides vegetables, chicken and ducks, they were hot-pot restaurants, art workshops and antique stores. Some people even taught music or dancing there.
KhuiMng Studio: reopening the closed doors in Dong-Men Market
The lecture was held by KhuiMng Studio, founded in 2015. Students from universities in HsinChu worked together in the space on the third floor of the market, trying to make the old market market alive again.
“This is our laboratory, our salon.” said Chen Hung-Wei, member of KhuiMng Studio. “People from all walks of life are welcome here to do whatever they want. We named ourselves KhuiMng because we saw doors in Dong-Men Market are closed! Our goal is to re-connect people around here again and reopen the door here, a place with memory since the 20th century.”
One cannot dance alone.
“Hsinchu has been trying to ‘produce’ its culture from its history and technological advances happening in the city. However, we would really like to create a physical space for things to work out and connect people from private sector and the government.”
KhuiMng Studio is trying to connect 3 groups of people: young entrepreneurs, senior entrepreneurs and social innovation in local settings. “Many students have ideas. But they don’t dare to do what they want because of the lack of money or technology. Meanwhile, we see engineers, managers willing to invest and build networks for young entrepreneurs. In addition, many ‘social innovation oriented’ groups appeared around old town Hsinchu recently who need money, connection and people. We would like to serve as the ‘bridges’ between these people.”
Removing rusts from the old Dong-Men market
“We’ve been trying to bring different elements into the market. For example, we have held an event called ‘Let’s go play hopscotch in the market’ and invited educators, parents and students from NCTU for a forum. We discussed about what role can a traditional market when trying to imagine kids as ‘future parents and teachers’.”
By bringing different source of energy into the market, they make their effort to revive this place once full of energy. “We want to find the energy back!”
Big Hill North Moon: reviving local tourist industry
“We consider ourselves curators for Provincial Highway 3 in Taiwan.” Said the second lecturer, Peter Chuang, the founder of Big Hill North Moon. This highway connects 5 towns including Heng-Shan township, where Big Hill North Moon situated. “Our goal is to bring in good ingredients, activities performances from these towns and try to stimulate local consumption.”
Deep in the mountain is an abandoned school called Feng Xiang Elementary School. Peter and his partner first worked to combine Big Hill North Moon’s menu and local specialties, while exhibiting local artists’ and students’ work in the restaurant. The abandoned school was thus made alive again.
“Reviving local economy, toward a virtuous cycle” is the goal of Big Mountain North Moon. However, new business model inevitably makes local people afraid. According to Peter, when they try to do local explorer trips here, the farmers were afraid and reluctant.
“Therefore, we decided to solve their problem first. Many local farmers had a hard time selling their crops. So we bought the crops and sell those products in our park. The next step was helping them process their product, like Ku-Gua (bitter goard) soup. We tried to help them with packaging and design, making products more easily sold.”
“We started to discuss with local farmers about the benefits of local explorer trips only after building some trust with them. We designed the process with them, trying to communicate with them that tourists can help local economy. It’s not just a burden.”
When asked about how to get funded, Peter, starting this business since college, explained. “We don’t consider funding a big issue. When you have a good idea, the whole world comes for help. It was because we had nothing that we had innovation.”
“Back then, we borrowed 300 thousand NT dollars from a teacher. I put in 200 thousand. That was it. We made a blackboard ourselves with lumber and paint, also, we asked for abandoned chairs and desks from neighbor schools. That’s how we made it.”
“Money is really not a problem. When you have nothing, you can still figure things out.”
中文版連結Cover photo from Big Hill North Moon