Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gateways: Indigenous Villages in Sisetu, Taiwan

Gateways project completed 3.49% (26 out of 746).

746 is the number of indigenous villages ratified by Council of Indigenous Peoples, Central Government Taiwan from  2010 until 2015. A complete list of all villages can be downloaded from the CIP website. Gateways is a personal project by which I hope to visit these villages and take back as witness a photo either of the arch gateway or of any decorated monument at the village's entrance.

After Sinevaudjan and Manju, I moved on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 northwards towards Sisetu Township.  A large part of Sisetu marks the traditional territory of a powerful Paiwan chiefdom Tjakuvukuvulj since the Dutch Period until Japanese Occupation. Among the current seven administration areas, Paiwan inhabitants of the region can at least recognize (and have the government ratified) fifteen traditional villages. In total, Sisetu is now home to 15 Paiwan villages, 1,721 households and 5,348 inhabitants.

Gateway to Tjuruguai

Starting from Hengchun, I decided first to take Provincial Highway 26 (a.k.a Ping-E Highway) for five villages to the border of Kasuga Township, then drove back for Provincial Highway 9 (a.k.a South-Link Highway) for nine villages along the highway, and finally, turned right into County Road 199 for the old chiefdom headquarter Tjakuvukuvulj.

Tjuruguai (100 households / 299 villagers) is the first Paiwan village on the road, which spreads itself on along the northbound lane of Provincial Highway 26. Perhaps geography forbids the construction of an arch gateway; indeed, where do you count the entrance to a wayside village?

Gateway to Nansiku 

Nansiku (123 households / 382 inhabitants) is the northernmost Paiwan village in Sisetu. In addition to traditional Paiwan symbols, the village's gateway also proudly demonstrates the cash crop that sustains the entire community: mango.

Sisetu claims the largest mango plantation in Taiwan; its climate is perfect for growing the best kind. Therefore, Paiwan villages here can be called the mango-basket of the island.

Gateway to Kacedas

Kacedas (196 households / 691 inhabitants) is connected with Nansiku via a short assess road. Assess or contact roads between villages are maintained by township administration and best used by local residents driving in motorbikes, pickups or four wheel drives other than walking due to their conditions.

This contact road inKacedas and Nansiku, however, is probably among the best! South-link railway also stops here. There is a train station.

Gateway to Tjusinlung (left)
Gateway to Qaljecim (below)

Both Tjusinlung (81 households / 251 inhabitants) and Qaljecim (92 households / 312 inhabitants) count for one Sisetu Village for the township administration.

Unlike its counterpart between Nansiku and Kacedas, the contact road connecting the two proved too treacherous for my Nissan to go through, so I was prevented from enjoying that part of the mountain and resorted to the coastal highway.
In comparison, Qaljecim has a better gateway, more pronounced for its present-day leading status in the mango industry. Tjunsinlung, on the other hand, cannot state the same. Its sylvan character is quiet and deep-set in verdancy. Situated 690 meters above sea level, its outlook towards Taiwan Strait is breathtaking.

On the day I traveled, I spent some time standing by the gateway and looking out to the sea. More than five liners were cruising in a distant on the grayish water, breeze wishing and birds chirping. Here is a perfect spot for tranquility.

Gateway to Kaidi 

Kaidi (408 households / 1308 inhabitants) stands at one end of South-Link Highway. From here I started to drive eastbound on the highway. This village is the seat of administration of Sisetu; facilities such as the township office, library, council, police station and so on can be accessed here.

Considering the layout of villages in Sisetu, Kaidi is probably the best location. It also is just next to Feng-gang, the proud hometown of the current president of Taiwan.

Gateway to Yungkilu

Curiously, Yungkilu (164 households / 491 inhabitants) divides itself in halves; one part belong to the administration Kaidi or Feng-ling, and the other to the administration of Danlu.

Again, Danlu comprises of four Paiwan villages: part of Yungkilu, Pasumaq (97 households / 310 inhabitants), Tjacekes (79 households / 276 inhabitants) and Lemiyau (58 households / 140 inhabitants). On the map from west to east, Yungkilu meets the visitor first, followed by Pasumaq, Tjacekes and Lemiyau.

Nevertheless, although both Pasumaq and Tjacekes are bigger in size, the smaller Yungkliu and Lemiyau seem to be better cared for with proper identity-asserting entrances.
Gateway to Lemiyau

Before South-link Highway meanders through the southern section of Mount Central Range in line with Feng-gang River, ancestors of Paiwan have long ago occupied the few slots of cultivable land in the region. Many were witnesses to many eastbound expeditions since the seventeenth century, and still are today to the flow of tourism.

Gateway to Tjisaulem (above)
Gateway to Puljekuwan (blow left)
Gateway to Kuangka (below right)

Like Danlu, Tsaopu is also comprised of four Paiwan villages: (from west to east) Tjisaulem (54 households / 159 inhabitants), Puljekuwan (41 households / 141 inhabitants), Kuangka (83 households / 253 inhabitants) and Tjinavanavalj (58 households / 195 inhabitants).

I was actually surprised to find the gateways in Tsaopu so homely. This is the village whose elementary school choir has won large Taiwan and international audience, yet nothing in sight could help me make that connection. Guess it takes more than eyes and presence to truly see an indigenous village, pace Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942).

Gateway to Tjakuvukuvulj

Leaving Provincial Highway 9, I took a right turn and started a southbound route on County Road 199. Here lies the last, but never the least, Paiwan village in Sisetu: Tjakuvukuvulj (87 households / 230 inhabitants).

Thanks to the efforts of people, including a Paiwan historian and a retired school principal Yeh Shen-bao, the story of Tjakuvukuvulj being a powerful chiefdom since the seventeenth century was uncovered in articles, dissertations and even bilingual (Paiwan-Dutch) animation. I helped the project in 2010 by translating and dubbing the Dutch text. My Paiwan is yet to improve.

In history, it is always exciting to hear a different voice to the same story. When the voice is from one of the participants, the excitement skyrockets in spite of the upshot. Today, Tjakuvukuvulj is just like any other indigenous village on the island, sleepy in a summer day. Yet, amidst the smoke rising up from the dormant village, I will always see the giant in its yesterday glory.

Sisetu 獅子鄉(屏東縣)

Tjuruguai 竹坑村或竹坑部落
Nansiku 南世村或南世部落
Kacedas 內獅村或內獅部落
Shizi 獅子村:Tjusinlung 中心崙部落、Qaljecim 和平部落
Feng-lin 楓林村:Kaidi 楓林部落、Yungkilu 新路部落
Dan-lu 丹路村:Yungkilu 新路部落、Pasumaq 下丹路部落、Tjacekes 上丹路部落、Lemiyau 伊屯部落
Tsaopu 草埔村:Tjisaulem 雙流部落、Puljekuwan 下草埔部落、Kuangka 橋西部落、Tjinavanavalj 橋東部落
Tjakuvukuvulj 內文村或內文部落

(Gateways to be continued)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Seven Books on the English Language

I know the title sounds ambitious. As I practice to write in good English, the English language inevitably draws me to itself per se. I wonder about its history; I am curious to know its lexicon; and I desire to acquire  or develop a good style. So, I gorged on the following seven books about English on my shelf, and here are some of the things I learned.

Bryson, Bill. The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way. Haper Perennial: 2001.

First published in 1990, my copy was a reissue by HaperCollins ten years afterwards. A sign of the book's longevity.

Bryson is very prolific; The Mother Tongue is only one of his three books on the English language. Consulting  at least 112 pieces of publication, he dabs by chapter on the history, vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, style, lexicography, variety, status and future of the English language. Every chapter  can be (and has been) blown into a big volume by different authors, which renders Bryson's quite fit for a beginner on the subject matter. I picked up this copy at the airport and read it on the plane.

As Bryson explains, the English language is "order out of chaos", whose felicities include fusion (like trusteeship consists of  a Nordic stem trust, a French affix ee and an Old English root ship), democracy (common usage is preferred to authoritative dictate) and global presence empowered by entertainment, business, tourism and so on. Guess what language does the Belgium National Football Team use in the dressing room? English.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Gateways: Indigenous Villages in Sinevaudjan & Manju, Taiwan

On Saturday 30th of June I took a road trip to visit the indigenous villages in my hometown Sinevaudjan Township and the neighboring Manju Township, Pingtung County. 

The purpose of my trip is to initiate a personal project 'Gateways', in which I hope to visit the 746 indigenous villages of Taiwan in person, and take a photo of the gateway to each village as my witness. 

This region, better known as Lonckjouw in the early modern period, is home to indigenous peoples such as Paiwan, Amis, Makatao and Sqaro (the so-called Paiwanized Pinuyumayan). Nowadays, visitors can easily reach every village by following the loop sign put up by Kenting National Park. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Ape, Human, Superhuman: Two Books on the History of Humankind

(IBM's Watson)

Originally published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 and 2013, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (HaperCollins, 2015) and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (HaperCollins, 2017) by Oxford-trained historian Yuval Noah Harari (b. 1976) have since publication received global attention and praises. 

Continuing a personal quest after the birth of universe and living beings, I too picked these tomes up and journeyed through the evolution of humankind, which historian Harari explains case by case in a familiar and accessible style. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Greatest Show on Earth: Two Books on History of Science

Honestly, my math is poor; lab quotient almost nil; stargazing restricted only to appreciation of nature's wonder. Except for getting good grades at school geology and biology examinations,  there was nothing really scientifically smart in me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed these two books so much that I regretted why I had voluntarily stopped myself at science's door.

They are Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything (Black Swan, 2003) and William Bynum's A Little History of Science (Yale, 2013).

Monday, June 4, 2018

Taiwan National Highway No. 61

On Friday May 25th 2018, Eleng and I took Taiwan National Highway No. 61, also known as West Coast Highway or Poor People's Highway (meaning 'toll-free'), southbound, all the way from the head to the tail of this island.

Officially in statistics, the length of Taiwan National Highway No. 61 reaches 351.4 km (195.98 mi). It begins at Bali District New Taipei City and ends at Qigu District Tainan City.

With speed limits ranging between 90 km/hr and 30 km/hr, this Highway offers itself as the third north-south corridor in the west in addition to National Highway No. 1 (Sun Yat-sen Freeway, completed in 1978) and National Highway No. 3 (Formosa Freeway, completed in 2004).

Our trip, however, took 525 km in 7 hours in total.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Life on High Waters: Two History Books

My stepfather spent some of his teen years working on a fishing boat. Destined for inshore waters such as East China Sea and Taiwan Strait, their boat would leave Keelung Harbor once in three to six months, so its young crew could hunt white pomfrets day and night until the fridge was full and the captain called home.

Before returning to the harbor, my stepfather knew his parents would come to collect most of his salary, leaving him with only a few thousands. Yet for the value of currency then in early 1960s, that amount was more than enough for a young man to enjoy beyond his imagination on the coast among alcohol, women and films. When every dollar was gone, he would also be ready for another journey. But for an unfortunate event of attack on their boat, I guess he might not have wanted to end this life that soon. 

How weird is this feeling of deja vu between a piece of life I heard in the 21st century and history books on life lived at least four hundred years ago in the 16th and 17th centuries! The utterly adventurous but reckless lifestyle on both sea and shore; the unpredictable and intransigent turn of fate on board; the insanely lucrative but very short career span. Whether it is a fishing boat, a pirate vessel or a slave ship, similar fates lead these lives on high waters.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Loaded Words: A Few Comments on the Publication of Dictionaries of Indigenous Languages

My article for Publication and Reading in Taiwan《臺灣出版與閱讀》(前為《全國新書資訊月刊》)Taipei: National Central Library (March 2018), pp. 154-157. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

For the People and In the Language: IPCF in Taiwan

Published in IPCF Bimonthly Vol 19 (December, 2017), pp. 30-32.

What is IPCF?

My fourth editorial for IPCF Bimonthly (原視界雙月刊)Vol. 19 (December, 2017):