Sunday, December 23, 2007

Adventures in the Borderlands

A new eye on the things around our house....

My friend Drew took me around a vast swing through northern Taichung and up to Fengyuan, and then around to Shihgang today for a look at some of the relics of bygone eras that lie around our area, largely unknown to foreigners.




Our first stop of the day was the friendly Early Bird breakfast place, on Chungming Rd just south of Gongyi Rd.


Menus of the Early Bird. The popular breakfast stop is run by the extremely funny Will and his hardworking wife. The food is simple, high quality American breakfast fare, at prices even a totally broke English teacher can afford.

As Marx once observed: I love exercise. I could watch it all day long.....

Our first stop was the Lin family house just north of Toujia Rd. in northern Taichung. This house is an outpost of the extensive and powerful Lin clan which controlled much of the land in the border regions around north and east Taichung, and played an important role in central Taiwan history. UPDATE: Drew told me there is no verifiable connection to the Wufeng Lins. So I deleted the info.

The current house, one of many connected to this prolific family, sits next to a large stretch of agricultural land in a relatively urbanized area, and many markers of its age remain.

The gate.

First view.

The Japanese era house.

Once moats for defense, now decorative ponds. The main Lin house in Wufeng, now a national historic site on the grounds of a local high school, had defensive towers. Drew, who had toured the house before, said that there was a tunnel from the outer area to the inner, where the family hid for three days during the 2-28 massacre.

Old porcelain inserts.

Many Japanese-era wood fittings remain.

These paintings must be 19th century.

Although the house is modern, traces of the Lin's past are written on it: the small second story window is intended as a gunport.

A closeup of the paintings.

A Rising Sun on the door, a reminder of the previous cycle of colonialism.

This old house was intact when Andrew was here last time, but has since collapsed.

Wood roofing beams remain.

The courtyard where the women carried on their lives.

Behind a door, another Rising Sun, done in white.

The family has put in modern steel roofs over each of the old structures to help protect them.

A typical area lane.

A view of the nearby property. In the distance apartment buildings line Toujia Rd, once an aboriginal village site. The Lins acquired aboriginal land by every way imaginable, including force, intermarriage, and purchase.

We next drove up to Fengyuan to have a look at an aboriginal cemetery there. On the way we passed these marching band members giving a concert at a local temple.

The aboriginal cemetery serves a branch of a people that also lives around Puli. During the 18th and 19th century the border between the Han and the aboriginal population was between Taichung and Fengyuan. As the Han population expanded, the line was pushed further and further north. Today, to preserve the connection, Andrew said, some people from the Puli branch bury their dead here.

Here lies the civilizing mission hard at work: an aboriginal chief, surnamed Pan, was elevated to the gentry in the 18th century, and his descendants remain a prominent local family. The portrait shows him as a Confucian scholar-bureaucrat, and preserves detail of his ears, elongated from the aboriginal practice of inserting discs.

Andrew looks at the 18th century stelae given by the emperor to show that Pan was now a member of the gentry.

The cemetery is located just north of Chungcheng Rd in Fengyuan, within a block of the giant 3C store.

The remains are being dug out of the 19th century tombs and reinterred in modern constructions.

Some older tombs in the aboriginal style. Local families to the west bury their dead in their yards, preserving an aboriginal custom. It's a good thing defining Taiwan as Chinese saves us the trouble of thinking; otherwise the discourse on Taiwan's identity would have to deal with all these complexities and idiosyncrasies.

A cactus flower.

More precious than diamonds: Andrew's map of many of the aboriginal sites and names in the area. Names with "she" (village) often indicate the presence of an aboriginal hamlet. For example, "She Kou" (village mouth) or "Hsin She" (new village).

Our next stop was An Li Elementary right on Chungcheng Rd. This is a Japanese era school building in the front, with a typical huge Taiwanese elementary in the rear.

The school houses boundary stelae used to mark the difference between us and them.

Note the date of the stelae: the ninth month (lunar or solar?) of the 24th year of the Chienlung Emperor, which near as I can tell was 1759.

Old headmasters -- Andrew noted the presence of three prominent local surnames: the Lin, so important in the border regions around Taichung and Changhua; Chen, a powerful local Hakka clan, and Pan, the aboriginal family than became gentry.

A Japanese-era elementary on the other side of Fengyuan, our next stop.

This beautiful school, lined with graceful old trees, is a joy to behold.

Unify China! A worthy goal, achieved back in 1949 by the CCP.

All quiet on the eastern frontage.

Big trees are one of the most common objects of reverence in Taiwan.

The old Japanese-era headmaster's house, slogans fading on the wall.

We headed further east, to Tu Niu elementary between Shihgang and Fengyuan. Pictured here is a bridge on the long bike trail that stretches across the area.

Tu Niu was totally destroyed by the quake; the current school was rebuilt with much creativity, like so many quake devastated buildings. If only oversight of public construction matched its creativity.....

This stele preserved at the school marked the boundary of civilization; after this came lions, and tigers, and bears. And savage aborigines who might lop your head off.

Drew studies the presentation on the object.

This large temple, completely deserted except for one lone visitor performing divination, was our next destination.

Next to it was a trail, which we duly explored.

Andrew spotted this aboriginal grave site on the mountain slopes.

The trail is well developed and has wooden paving for much of its length.

The area by the temple is covered with beautiful flowers.

Like this one, for example.

The views out over Shihgang and off to Dongshih are excellent.

The road here is lined with tourist attractions, including this large brown Japanese-era building, a granary.

Of course, it is a given that no water is too dirty or shallow for locals to fish in.

The temple is not yet finished, but has some interesting statuary.

And some wonderful views.

I panned it, of course.

And again.

The rear court of the temple.

After visiting the temple, we drove up one of the nearby roads, which, we figured, went somewhere that we knew.

Once up on the ridgeline, the views over the ridges and toward the central mountain range were stirring.

A hamlet on the way.

This is on the road near Chunghsingling.

Slopeland means graveyards in Taiwan.

The sky looked a bit ominous, and later we were subjected to a few minutes of rain.

We picked up 88 heading back to Fengyuan, and watched the sun set behind Taichung.

On the way we passed a group of men setting up for a large temple festival.

4 comments:

Kaminoge said...

The aboriginal cemetery and An Li Elementary School are very close to where I live!

How long did it take to walk the trail next to the temple in Shihgang? I'd like to check it out if it isn't too short.

Karl said...

Lin Clan REPRESENT!

Future history books shall read thusly:

In the late 20th century, the Lin clan secured a relationship with the powerful Chaon tribe through the marriage of a beautiful but ill-tempered Lin female. This solidified Lin control of the local beer drinking, chess hustling and bitter sarcasm industries.

Geoff said...

Great photos Michael! That red flower is a migrant...a callistamon, otherwise known as a "bottlebrush". It is a bloody Aussie mate! Cheers, Geoff, Adelaide.

Joanna said...

Beautiful photographs, especially your shots of the temple. It looks like you had a wonderful time and I appreciate being able to see your view and perspective on Taiwan.