Huangxi Academy is dedicated to Wenchang, the God of Culture and Literature. In the past, the academy was the center of culture and scholarship in Taichung’s Dadu area, and has had a profound influence on intellectual developments in Taichung City and Changhua County over the past century. The academy’s architecture is exceptional. Its layout is a cross between that of traditional courtyard homes and Confucius temples. Every detail of the temple—from the intricate ornamentation of its Sanchuan Hall to the exquisitely designed roof of the Worship Hall—is beautifully composed. Its design is unique in the history of Taiwanese architecture. Even the structure of the academy’s front façade is unusual for Minnan style architecture. With its meticulous ornamentation and beautiful brickwork, it is well worth exploring.
Huangxi Academy is commonly known as Wenchang Temple. Originally the Xiyong Club and Wenchang Association, it functioned in its early years as a gathering place for scholars and the literati. Established in 1799, the Xiyong Club was built by Yang Zhan-ao (1794 – 1843) a scholar from Wuri District, along with other members of the local gentry, who raised funds for the academy. The club members later went on a second fund-raising drive to build Wenchang Temple (literally “Temple of Studies and Education”) to promote the local cultural and intellectual activities. In 1887, Wenchang Temple was expanded to include Huangxi Academy, thus taking on its present-day form. In the late-nineteenth century, the academy was nearly lost. In addition to being prohibited from operating during the Japanese colonial period, Huangxi Academy was severely damaged both by natural disasters and human activity after the Second World War. It was not until 1984 when Taiwan’s famous architectural scholar, Professor Han Pao-teh (1934 – 2014), began his research that the government finally launched restoration work. In addition to functioning as a place of worship, the academy currently serves as an activity center for local study clubs, offers calligraphy lessons, and is a venue for community events. It has been recognized as a municipal historical site by Taichung City.
1Architecture in the Form of a Traditional Chinese Courtyard House (sìhéyuàn)
Huangxi Academy is designed as a traditional Chinese courtyard house (sìhéyuàn) of seven kaijian and two jin (ancient Chinese architectural units denoting width and depth in architecture), with wings lining either side and an open worship pavilion in the center. The layout of the academy combines those of traditional residential homes and Confucius temples. The main gate faces northward, with the worship pavilion and the main hall behind. Two wings run along the sides of the temple grounds from front to back, creating a central courtyard. One of the more unusual features of the academy is the two side doors in the main hall, leading to the wings on each side. This design is rare for the otherwise typical Minnan-style structure.
2The Sanchuan (Front) Hall
The main gate of Huangxi Academy leads into the Sanchuan (Front) Hall. The gate is three kaijian-wide (three openings divided by pillars). The floor is raised about fifty centimeters above ground and the foundation wall is inlaid with green glazed tiles. The swallowtail roof rises in graceful layers above the front hall. There are five roof sections. The central three are not attached to the other roof sections, resulting in sixswallowtail points in the central sections. The seven kaijian across the front façade are equally spaced, with the two roof sections on the right- and left-most sides built in the traditional Chinese hip-and-gable style. The majestic, lavishly designed roof is the only one of its type found in Taiwanese architecture. The ornamental raised ridge of the central roof extends far above the roofline and is covered with its own small tiled roof with openwork slots to let the wind through. Such extreme exaggeration in roof design is rarely found elsewhere in Taiwan. The oblique gables on the sides angle outward making the façade appear even larger. The central entryway is guarded by a pair of delicately carved bluestone lions, which appear vivid and lifelike.
3The Worship Pavilion
The Worship Pavilion in front of the main hall is an open-air pavilion with eight pillars and an Asian-style hip-and-gable roof. With its floor raised sixty centimeters above ground level, the terrace closely resembles the one in front of a typical Confucius temple’s Dacheng Hall. The four outer pillars are made of granite, whereas the four inner pillars are made of wood in order to tie in with the wooden framework. The pavilion is surrounded by railings. One of the finest elements of the worship hall is its exquisite roof ridge decoration and vivid cut-and-paste porcelain work. The courtyard in front of the worship hall is paved with intricate brickwork. The boundary of the courtyard is lined with square tiles, and a rectangular prayer bench is positioned at its center. This design is fairly unusual among traditional Taiwanese architecture, and is regarded by many experts and scholars as the finest example of Qing dynasty architecture in Taiwan.
The most exquisite brick carving work can be found on the wings on either side of Huangxi Academy’s main hall, which also form the outer walls of the courtyard. There are brick relief work illustrations on the molding at the base of the walls, decorative friezes, and even decorative patterns at the joins between bricks. The wall friezes, door and window frames, window sills, curved wall bases, and vase-shaped corridor doors are all ornamented with complex tracery. The brick relief work and engraving were crafted by two different artisans during a major craftmaster competition (duìchǎngzuò). The work of different craftsmen can be clearly discerned, with each exhibiting its own unique stylistic elements.
5Chinese Crabapple Door
At the end of a wooden colonnade near the Sanchuan Hall are two moon gates (circular gateways) in the shape of Chinese crabapple flowers. The bricks were carefully overlaid into arcs to create the shape of the flowers. This design is extremely delicate and highly unusual.
The academy is open from 08:00 to 17:00. Every April, Huangxi Academy hosts events for students from Wuri, Dadu, and Longjing, who visit to pray for blessings. During these events, students pray to the Lord Wenchang for good luck and high scores on their upcoming examinations.