What is the character of Ximending? Perhaps young people are not aware of Ximending’s history and tradition, but Ximending is an ageless place. From the past to the present, even into the future, the area always has a youthful, progressive vibe. An area where young people love to frequent, “Ximending” refers to the area enclosed by “Zhonghua Road”, “Kangding Road”, “Chengdu Road”, and “Hankou Street”. It grew from an entertainment area with a chessboard street pattern planned by colonists in the days of Japanese occupation. The word “Ding” refers to a business district. Since then, the interaction between historical significance and modern values has formed a cultural tapestry blended with youth culture and history. Despite the evolution, the beauty and despair in the history of Ximending has not been diminished – instead, more and more robust economic activities have been added.
After MRT Banquiao-Nankang line became operational in 1991, all storefronts and street-side benches were renovated in 1998 under the master plans of Taipei City Government. The government also invited artistic and cultural groups to perform in this area. Moreover, after nighttime roadside illumination has been improved, Ximending became the new Champs-Elysees in Taipei. A visitor has many important missions to accomplish in Ximending, such as dining, getting a haircut, getting make-up, and buying clothes. One of the most important missions is watching movies.
Ximending is full of unique movie theaters, such as Wonderful Theatre known for art house movies, and the major cinemas on Hanzhong Street, Xining South Road, and Wuchang Street. Aside from these establishments, old timers such as movie subtitle companies, preview rooms, movie promotion and projection equipment companies have not fallen out of fashion from the change of time. Instead, they have become part of Ximending’s movie culture. Movie theaters have to be accompanied by great food. A movie-watching tour package is not complete without the accompaniment of great food, don’t you think so? Places that offer great food, such as Lao Tien Lu of Shanghai and Mei Guan Yuan, are constantly on people’s minds while watching movies, shopping for gifts, and being hungry. If you are a connoisseur of coffee, NanMei and FongDa coffee shops are two decent choices. These shops hire teenage staff with dyed hair as well as staff members who are older than your mother. The harmonious blend of the old and the new can only take place in the miraculous Ximending. Let’s set aside the blend of old and new culture. The most unique feature of Ximending is the “Youth Culture.” Every weekend, you can see signing events of pop culture stars, as well as fans and groupies of these stars running all over Ximending to support their idols. Comic and manga books, products, and Cosplay activities are also phenomenal in Ximending. Such activities include buying wigs on Kunming Street and having one’s clothes tailor-made at Shi Zi Lin. As long as you dare to show off, you can find your stage in Ximending. The coolest trends always manifest themselves on the streets in the forms of graffiti, tattoo, skateboards, and street dance.
If we say that graffiti is spray-painting your liberated mind on the wall, then tattooing is a passionate expression that engraves your will onto your own skin. The only tattoo street in Taiwan is in Ximending. Aside from the cluster of tattoo parlors, after closing time, the continuous graffiti on the rolling shutters correspond to the cultural scenes of this street. Besides, this area is full of skateboard retailers that see customers line up around the block to purchase limited edition products or trendy stores. The back streets of Ximending pioneer the trends in Taiwan in more ways than the ones we just mentioned.
The international-level graffiti work that you can see everywhere are absolutely the rare artistic sights in this metropolitan area, attesting to the freedom that everyone can express his or her attitude and opinion toward life. Bold and audacious attitudes are clearly demonstrated in the exhibition we call Ximending. Today’s Ximending is not only a testament to history but also a bellwether of pop culture of a new generation. Many nostalgic middle-aged and senior citizens gather here to reminisce about the past, while young people in fashionable attire show off their ingenuity. Two completely different lifestyles interact in this area. We can infer that groups of people with different needs leave Ximending with their needs fulfilled. Now, let’s see which blocks in Ximending are recommended for tourists!
●Little Hong Kong. (Pian Tsang Tung) Real young people who are “in the know” must know Little Hong Kong. Lane 27 Chengdu Road is a winding alley that dates back to Qing Dynasty. Narrow and winding as it may be, it is fully functional, complete with hotels, restaurants, snack vendors, and clothing stores.
●Tattoo Street It is a narrow alley between Hanzhong Street and Xining South Road. Is it hard to find? Of course not. The only place in Ximending with canopy over the pavement is the Tattoo Street. Aside from using skin as canvas, the tattoo parlors have also developed artistic tattoos for motorcycles and helmets, commemorating beloved objects with cool and fancy graphics.
●Movie Street The “Movie Street” in Ximending actually refers to Section 2 of Wuchang Street in Taipei City. In the 1960s, the completion of Chunghua Shopping Area links Ximending and Chengzhong area. The economy was red-hot in those days. New movie theaters such as Le Sheng, Hao Hua, Ri Xin, Shih Tzu Lin, Guo Wang, and Huang Hou were built in those days. As a result, Ximending became the center of commercial entertainment in the nation due to the cluster of movie theaters, and Wuchang Street became the most genuine Movie Street for the six or seven movie theaters located there.
●Sichuan Cuisine Street Lane 25 Kangding Road in Ximending is the so-called Sichuan Cuisine Street. It is full of Sichuan food restaurants, the best known of which would be “Qian Yuan.” It is said that if you like spicy food, you will love the dishes they sell!
●Sporting Goods Near Exit 6 of MRT Ximen Station and around Emei Street and Zhonghua Road, sporting goods stores exist in great abundance. Whether you want Nike or New Balance or Adidas, whether you want sporting goods brands that are well known or not, as long as you cruise around Ximending, you are guaranteed to be able to bring back the merchandise you like! Among the various stores, Momentum is the one recommended by most young people.
●Exotic Food If you are looking for gastronomical adventure, you will leave satisfied after a trip down Wuchang and Hankou Streets. Exotic food is concentrated in the alleys at the front end of Emei Street. Japanese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, and French cuisine with creative input will treat you to a trip to foreign land.
●American Street Lane 96 of Kunming Street is the American Street to the young people. It is also called “Used Clothing Street.” The stores here mostly sell American-style accessories and clothing, but it is also where you find a cluster of brands from Taiwan. It is a place full of creative mixture and liveliness.
●Ming Tai Zi Street Ming Tai Zi Street is the so-called Back Street Plaza. Residents of these blocks brought in the idea of a youth culture incubation center and cooperated with Taipei Youth Art Center, offering workshops on graffiti, skateboarding, and street dance to teenagers. This place should qualify as a source of youth street culture. Culture, Creativity, and Design Ximending is the business area in Taipei City most capable of representing youth fashion. Aside from the Movie Street and all types of trendy stores, the area is also full of little stores of culture and creativity imbued with classy design and aesthetics. For example, the “16 Work House” in the Red House is an ideal place to shop for creative design. “Somebody café” is a cultural space that combines creative merchandise and a coffee shop that allows visitors relax and enjoy an easy-going afternoon in this refreshing corner of the city.