Tour to the Gold Rush Mining Town Jiufen, Taiwan

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Jiufen (also known as Jioufen, Chiufen or 九份), once a prosperous gold rush mining town during the Japanese colonial period, is located in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City near Keelung. It is a small town with both ancient culture and modern charm. The famous animated film Spirited Away, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, was inspired by Jiufen. If you are traveling in Taiwan, Jiufen is the perfect one-day tour destination.

Jiufen, literally means “nine portions” in Chinese. The small town came to be known by this name because 9 families used to live on the mountain, and dates back to the Qing Dynasty. Every time someone went down the mountain to purchase supplies, all the purchases would be split into nine portions, one for each of the families.

 

Jiufen Old Street

Upon arrival, the most memorable scene is the long and narrow street market, which snakes through the entire town. Along these narrow streets there are countless shops offering food, tea, handicrafts, clothing, souvenirs and accommodations. Be sure to sample some popular tasty local delights, such as sweet taro balls, fish ball soup and grilled squid.

grandmalaitaroballs
the most famous taro ball stall – Grandma Lai’s taro balls
this interesting lady welcomes customers to take pictures of her clothing and food
this interesting lady welcomes customers to take pictures of her clothing and food

This lovely and dynamic town has inspired its share of artists, writers and movie directors, with the animated masterpiece Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki) and the Taiwanese historical drama A City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-Hsien) being the most famous.

spirited-away

scenic street views of Jiufen Old Street
scenic street views of Jiufen Old Street

 

Jiufen Jinguashi

Jinguashi (also known as Chinkuashih or 金瓜石) is famous for its history as a gold mine, and later a POW camp for captured Allied soldiers and sailors during World War II. Only a 10-minute bus ride from Jiufen Old Street, Jinguashi is not much of a shopping trip, but rather a cultural tour.

 

Benshan Fifth Tunnel (gold mine)

This attraction offers a taste of what life was like for the hard working miners. When you walk into the tunnel, you will see wax figures shoveling, drilling, setting dynamite or just simply enjoying their rice lunchboxes. While a little contrived, you will have a good concept about how metals were processed and miners’ live during that era.

glimpse at the miners' lives through these wax models
glimpse at the miners’ lives through these wax models
inside the tunnel
inside the tunnel

 

The Gold Museum

In this museum, you can learn the history of gold in Taiwan, and around the world! At the end of the tour, it offers you a chance to touch the world’s largest gold bar, weighing in at 220kg! It’s rumored that if you can lift this solid gold block up with one hand, then it’s yours.

the world’s largest gold ingot
the world’s largest gold ingot

At the same site, you can also take a tour to some of the former Japanese residences, including a chalet purposely built for the expected visit of the Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito. It offers you an idea of a typical royal-palace layout. If you take a short walk up to the mountain, you will have a good views of the whole area and the surrounding bay.

crown prince chalet
crown prince chalet

 

Useful Information

Opening hours:

  • The park itself is free and always open.
  • The Gold Museum and the Benshan Fifth Mine Tunnel, are open
    Weekdays: 9:30 – 17:00
    Weekends and Holidays: 9:30 – 18:00 (closed on the first Monday of every month)

Cost:

Everything is free except the Benshan Fifth Mine Tunnel (entrance NT$50). 

Directions:

  • Bus from Jiufen: Take a bus from the bus stop outside Jiufen Old Street, heading towards “Jinguashi (金瓜石). Bus fare is around NT$22.
  • Bus from Taipei: Go to bus stop at Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT station, exit 1. Look out for 1062 bus from Keelung Bus Company heading towards “Jinguashi (金瓜石)”. Bus fare is about NT$100.

 

17 COMMENTS

  1. So cool. Spirited Away is one of my favourite films and I wasn’t aware it’s based on a town. Lovely post and photos.

  2. Never heard much of Taiwan before. The mine is great with real-looking wax sculptures. For gold bar,I wonder if anyone in the world would grab it

  3. Great article! I never thought of Taiwan as a gold rush area! Panning for gold has always been on my husband’s wish list 🙂 It looks very interesting, and love that you have combined it with other things to do in the area as well.

  4. I have not been to Taiwan before. Being banana, I have shied away from Chinese-speaking countries. But your article has made this part of Taiwan so interesting!! Argh!!

    • Hahaha totally understand. You should give Chinese-speaking countries/places a shot though, otherwise you probably will miss a lot of fun!

  5. [email protected]

    This looks like a place I would enjoy visiting and I love that lady with her wig and funny glasses!

    • It’ll be worth it! The taro balls are made by mixing mashed taro with water and sweet potato flour or potato flour. It’s one of their popular food. I tried and I liked them very much 😀

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