Antiquities


Are antiquities antiques? What can be called cultural resource antiquities?

To tell the truth, antiquities is the hardest topic for me to start talking about. In the past in many, many cultural survey discussions, I have always treated the question of antiquities and cultural resources with great caution. From a certain point of view, the Hakka architectural aesthetic comes from deep cultural values but the vast majority of people have great difficulty in comprehending the structural nature of deep layers of cultural value and focus their attention on carved beams and painted rafters and tou-kung decorations. What I worry about is the more that is written about construction decorations, the more this will become something antique sellers will be relying on in the future to buy and sell on the market! After a while, it will become increasingly difficult to talk openly in public forums about antiquities associated with architectural structures. Of course, antiquities are not exclusively on architectural structures. You could say whenever you have living, you have artifacts. After a certain period of time these artifacts become the antiquities that we today study and investigate.

Although it is difficult to make an immediate connection between antiquities and cultural heritage, the absence of antiquities makes a recreation of the cultural life scene a near impossibility. Especially from a museum point of view. Antiquities constitute important evidence of the cultural process of human living.

Leaving aside museum collection plans, from the point of view of the recognition and preservation of Hakka culture, Hakka cultural artifacts are pioneering exhibits for the Hakka movement.

The "Taiwan Hakka Folk Culture Exhibit" that started in 1985 in Lungtan, Taoyuan (2nd Exhibit, 1991, 3rd Exhibit, 1995 and the 4th Exhibit, 2001) can be said to have begun the exhibit of Hakka culture, introducing the use of artifacts as the core of the exhibit. The basic focus of the exhibit was "food, clothing, housing and transportation" because the Lungtan government offices at the time had a great many old agricultural tools via the Farmers Association that gave a concrete glimpse into the life of Hakka ancestors. It is difficult to say whether after repeated cultural artifact exhibits Lungtan has become more prominent in a recognition of Hakka culture, but finally in 2006 Lungtan will have a "Hakka Culture Guild Hall" that will be able to continue the dream the people of Lungtan to stage Hakka folk culture exhibits.

According to the Preservation Act definition, "antiquities refer to the man-made artistic products, implements of daily life or ceremonies and books and documents with a cultural significance done by various ethnic groups of various ages." I worry that such high-sounding, polished words might scare away the broad mass of Hakka who are not terrific writers, might open up a rather large gap with the content of the Hakka many culture exhibits staged by the Luntan village government. Nevertheless, modern students of Hakka culture do not want the "rakes and rollers" or "paper parasols and straw clothes" to always symbolize the Hakka people, yet beginning with artifacts intimately connected with their life most closely approaches the meaning of a cultural heritage for the common people. It is difficult to say whether the Hakka consider the gradual transition from agricultural to urban life progress, but we can assert that different life styles have different cultural artifacts

The Hakka movement, which only began at the end of the 20th century, staged its own first self-presentation exhibit by focusing on its cherished agricultural society, not seeking the Hakka essence from the artistic antiquities of the Palace Museum. As a result, the agricultural tools like forks and rollers that were gradually falling idle by the end of the 20th century have become front line weapons in the Hakka movement.

The Nanhua community in Chian, Hualien, has in recent years achieved some impressive building projects. Under the joint efforts of the village head and cultural workers, cultural resources of the community have been constantly mined. Aside from the renovation and re-use of the tobacco barns (what is especially valuable is that the Nanhua community has emphasized the passing down of the technical arts), there has been a constant search for the age-old technical arts of the community (of course master craftsmen who teach apprentices is the core value), like bamboo weaving: bamboo baskets, steamers and other articles of daily life. This is the way it should be, like in the Nanhua community. A Hakka zhuang seeking its cultural heritage--the breakthrough point for antiquities.

If the definition of the Preservation Act can be extended to include things made out of stone, jade, iron, gold, silver, copper, glass, bone, horn, teeth, shell, wood, pottery, and ceramic as well as written materials, art works, things of daily life and ceremonial items, and if each of these things can demonstrate some meaning for Hakka culture, then they all can be studied as antiquities. But as for antiques that are taken out of their context, (like tou-kung taken down from the housing frame that find their way onto the antique market), how can we restore their original cultural heritage significance as antiquities--the problem of so doing is made enormously more difficult. (text: Chen Pan)