Tokyo has cherry blossoms and Amsterdam has tulips.
Taipei, this city where we live, possesses beautiful azaleas, which are Taipei City’s flower.
Imagine the blessed season of springtime warmth and the exuberant blossoming of flowers.
In this city, we can all breathe in this atmosphere of love.
Azalea season begins in the southern part of Taipei City.
How fortunate we are to have this resplendent flower season.
Blooming azaleas are accompanied by the music we grew up with and a novel cultural landscape of stores and shops.
All are welcome. Let’s embrace the happiness of spring and embrace love.
Taipei’s appearance has been especially pretty lately, with red, pink and white azalea blossoms announcing the arrival of spring everywhere. Mention azaleas to many people and they will immediately think of the NTU Azalea Festival (台大杜鵑花節). This year happens to be its 20th anniversary, so the Taipei City Government has been working with National Taiwan University to design an exclusive celebration of Taipei’s official flower: the azalea. The result is the 2017 Taipei City Azalea Festival (2017台北杜鵑花季)!
NTU’s Festival Transformed Into a Party for Everyone
In anticipation of the annual azalea explosion each March, the Parks and Street Lights Office, Public Works Department, Taipei City Government ( 公園路燈工程管理處 ) has planted 60,000 more of them along Roosevelt Road (羅斯福路), Shinsheng South Road (新生南路) and Ren’ai Road (仁愛路), which will create a sea of flowers in the city. The government has also been working with commercial, historical and school groups, as well as with individuals from the NTU neighborhood, to create all kinds of fun activities, ensuring a flower festival that is sure to have beauty, knowledge and depth.
The NTU Azalea Festival’s 20th anniversary is special for both teachers and students of NTU. The variety of azaleas on campus can be credited to the late Horticulture and Landscape Architecture professor, Du Gengshen (杜賡甡). In 1948, Du found wild R. simsii in the mountains of Liuzhangli (六張犁), Taipei, and replanted some on campus, which started NTU’s azalea population growing. After that, NTU collected over 250 azalea seedlings from Liuzhangli farmers and got a lot from the Yangmingshan (陽明山) Shanzaihou Workstation of Shilin Garden Research Institute, resulting in a very floral campus today. The lovely azalea has become the spiritual symbol of NTU, symbolizing openness, freedom, dedication and tolerance.
In the spring of 1997, NTU held its first Azalea Festival accompanied by a recruitment fair for school departments and clubs. Over the years, it has gradually become an adjunct activity alongside departmental exhibits, art performances and ecological experiences, attracting citizen participation. The Azalea Festival is now something all Taipei citizens look forward to.
The Fun Simply Radiates From the College Vibe
A festival visitor shouldn’t miss wandering NTU’s campus taking in the azaleas. According to Chang Yusen (張育森), Chair of NTU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Hirado, Kyushu, Japan was an open port during the Tang Dynasty, and the azaleas subsequently planted in China, Ryukyu and Kyushu were all germinated there. “That type of azalea has relatively larger leaves and bigger blossoms, and better adapts to the soil and climate here,” he says. Azaleas are not fragile plants, but NTU still puts a lot of effort into taking care of them, helping them grow prettier and more abundantly. Chang adds, “Through soil enrichment, using fertilizers and nutrition supplements, by taking good care of leaves during spring and summer, and utilizing natural solutions to disease and pests, the quality of germination and flowering will get better and better.”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Azalea Festival, NTU is also holding a series of fun activities to introduce visitors to the cultural and ecological aspects of the top academic palace of Taiwan! High school students can register to take a group tour, and the general public can join guided tours at set hours. Guests can also ride a YouBike to the various museums hidden in different corners of the campus, and participate in a treasure hunt and collect stamps at different stations and buildings around NTU. The NTU Agricultural Product Exhibition Center (農產品展示中心) will be awarding free lollipops to those taking part!
Also, along the way, there will be speeches about art exhibit, “spring plowing and rice seedling transplantation by “little city farmers,” and some activities requiring a small fee, such as Yogurt DIY and potted succulent plant design. It is guaranteed that all participants will enjoy themselves on such a rewarding journey!
Commercial Districts Go Into Action – Shows Performed in Front of Grace Baptist Church
Besides the NTU campus, pink and purple Hirado azaleas appear along Shinsheng South Road outside the university. From Heping East Road (和平東路) to Sinhai Road (辛亥路), and from Roosevelt Road to Sinhai Road, there is an unbroken blaze of azaleas, vividly proclaiming spring in the air! There are also stunning displays of potted azaleas in front of NTU’s gate and Sports Center.
In addition to NTU, the Wen-Ro-Ting commercial district (溫羅汀商圈), which comprises Wenzhou Street (溫州街), Roosevelt Road and Tingzhou Road (汀洲路), will go into action promoting the festival. Also, Da Xui Borough (大學里) will hold the “Aroma of Coffee and Books Amid Azaleas” event in the afternoon of March 25th. A performance stage will be set up in front of Grace Baptist Church (懷恩堂), and Chinese and symphony orchestras formed by Da Xui Borough locals will play the sweet sounds of spring. Bands from Long An Elementary (龍安國小) and Gu Ting Elementary (古亭國小) are going to perform there, too; and the passionate flamenco is certain to “bring the heat!”
Thanks to its proximity to NTU, Da Xui Borough has become quite the academic community. With many independent book sellers joining in, and cafes everywhere, borough head, Wu Peixuan (吳沛璇) welcomes everyone to come and have coffee, check out bookstores, behold the pretty azaleas, and spend a relaxing and rewarding March afternoon.
A Spring Party at Taipei Water Park
Located across from NTU, the 18-hectare Taipei Water Park (台北自來水園區) is part of this festival as well. On March 4th, a fashion show and concert will be held, featuring Golden Melody Awards’ Best Instrumental Album winner: Timeless Fusion Party (無限融合樂團) will perform tunes in their free and untrammeled style, and with a fashion show of vintage wedding gowns on the same day, it’s sure to be a spring party! The water park along with Zhongzheng District Office (中正區公所) will arrange guided tours on March 11th and 18th, and everyone is welcome to visit the park with free admission.
Taipei Water Department (台北自來水事業處) Sub-section Chief, Chang Shyuhchou (張序周), points out that there’s an existing 100-meter path between Gongguan Purification Plant (公館淨水廠) and the Museum of Drinking Water (自來水博物館) where pink and purplish red azaleas bloom lushly every springtime. This year, an additional 2,000 Hirado azaleas and Rhododendron noriakianum will be planted for the Festival. All of this floral magnificence, plus different colored grass flowers and even the gigantic water pipes, usually buried underground, will form the horticultural landscape of the square in front of the water park. For visitors, it will truly be a sight to behold!
Picnic Concert in Daan Park – Come Get High!
Daan Park (大安森林公園), “the lungs of Taipei,” hasn’t been forgotten in festival planning. the Parks and Street Lights Office has arranged a special feast of azaleas outside Exit 1 of MRT Daan Park Station (捷運大安森林公園站). There will also be potted azaleas and grass-flower arrangements at 11 different gateways to the park. There will be colorful flower balls hanging along the main paths, leading visitors to the display area. You will see up to 50 types of azaleas here – a rare experience indeed!
On March 18th, the City is going to stage a “Daan Park Picnic Concert” (大安森林公園野餐音樂會)in the park. There will be some amazing performances by independent bands and singers; and for children, there will be balloon art and clown street dancing. Chubby food vans will serve snacks and body artists will paint lovely toxin-free designs on your arms. With all this, plus old-time amusements like glass bottle fishing and the marble machine, adults and kids alike are guaranteed a fun-filled day!
Feel ready for some gorgeous azaleas and a relaxing and refreshing springtime experience? Make a date with your family and friends, take an amazing micro-trip and get lost in a wonder world of flowers, bookstores, coffee, and great performances. Don’t tarry! Let’s go!
Aroma of Coffee and Books Amid Azaleas
Grace Baptist Church Square; 90, Sec.2, Shinsheng South Road (懷恩堂前廣場; 新生南路3段90號)