Natural Landscape


There is a difference between the natural landscape and the cultural landscape, but there are places where they flow together. Although there must be a clear line drawn between the two on the basis of administrative requirement, in reality, in terms of practical living, the same thing can have many different definitions. And between the natural landscape and the cultural landscape there can be overlapping areas.

Of course the natural landscape was included in the Preservation Act but the competent authority is not the Council for Cultural Affairs, it is rather the Council of Agriculture. The definition in the Preservation Act is : "natural areas, topography, vegetation and minerals that possess value as elements of nature." The Council of Agriculture, basing itself on the Preservation Act, wrote a more detailed "Methods for Determining and Annulling Natural Landscape" (January 6, 2006) in which the definition was taken further: "The criteria for determining natural landscapes are the following:

1. A nature reserve:
(1) a representative ecological system, (2) an area with unique topography or geology, (3) an area that has permanent value for observation education and research related to gene conservation.

2. A natural monument:
(1) precious and rare plants, i.e., plants unique to the country, those with a very small number of varieties or in immediate danger of extinction, (2) precious and rare minerals, i.e., rocks or minerals unique to the country or represented in very small numbers." From the Hakka or cultural point of view, it is difficult to define the uniqueness of a natural landscape, but it is possible to search out what the natural landscape is for Hakka areas through a consideration of geographic space.

The large part of the area hit by the earthquake of September 21, 1999 was home to Hakka families and the geologic fault that caused this earthquake can be termed the natural landscape. A fault line intersects the Fengshih Road in Shikang. The local people call the landscape created that night "Singapore" ("newly added slope") and "Kuala Lumpur" ("quickly risen slope"). After the earthquake I took a picture of a rice field cut in half by the fault ner "Singapore." It is hard to imagine how a paddy field could be torn into two pieces by underground forces. If there had been some way to initially preserve this rice field, it would have been a precious piece of Hakka natural landscape.

In addition, different ethnic groups (or nationalities) have different ways of coping with and conceptualizing the natural environment and landscape that derive from different cultural understandings, and they also have different ways of referring to it. In Li Chiao's his monumental work, Three Songs for a Winter's Eve, there constantly appears a "yao-po Mountain" ("old Mrs. sparrow hawk mountain) atop Fantsailin." '"Yao-po" is the word for "eagle" in Hakka. Because this mountain at an elevation of 901 meters looks like "an eagle spreading its wings" the Hakka call it "yao-poMountain." In the Shuiweipa community of Fuhsing Village, Tahu in Miaoli, to make prominent a unique community cultural resource, they suggested to the Miaoli county government Cultural Preservation Division to list the eastern slopes of Yao-po Mountain as an important cultural landscape. Prior to this, in 2000, Yao-po Mountain had been registered by the Shei-pa National Park administration office on the list of special landscapes.

The biggest river in Hsinchu is the Touchien ("in front of the head") River and the Lin Family in Chupei think the names derives from the fact that this river is situated "in front of the head" of the Lichangli Lin Family, and the river behind the Lin Family is called the "Houpei" ("behind the back") River. The Chinshan Mountain that lies between the Touchien River and the Lin Family residence is referred to by the family as the Mienchien (in front of the face") Mountain. The Hakka have an especially rich life experience in agriculture and names of mountains and rivers frequently derive from this experience. The image of two buffalo locked in struggle is often used to represent two canyons running side by side cut through by a river. Kungkuan, Miaoli at the Chukuang Pit and Kuanhsi, Hsinchu both have a "buffalo fight pass." Similar topography in Shihtan, Miaoli and in Puli, Nantou is called the "door bolt." Tradition has it that in Shitan that when Huang Nan-chiu was fighting for the land occupied by the Aborigines and saw this excellent topographical position "enveloped by two dragons" it was like two door shut tight, a natural geographic defensive environment.

As for unique topography and geology, perhaps the mud volcano of Luoshan village in Fuli, Taitung would be an example. Luoshan is located on the western side of the coastal mountain chain on the upper reaches of the Luotzu River and the the that has become famous in recent years for producing "fuli rice." Although research has not yet shown that the eruptions of the mud volcano has any particular relationship to the cultivation of fuli rice, the mud volcano is definitely an important natural landscape for the Hakka people of Luoshan.

Let's try to list here the areas of natural landscape that might be explored: rivers, river banks, river beds, streams, watersheds, lakes, water currents, hillocks, sacred mountains, minerals, coal, oil, natural gas, waterfalls, ravines, slopes, precipices, hills, rocks, pebbles, gravel, soil, clay, sandy soil, mounds, basins, swamps, coasts, sandy areas, sand bars, forests, forested areas, redwoods, broad leaf trees, needle leaf trees, shrubs, arbors, bamboo, grasslands, and weeds. I think that through listings people can be provided some leads, for example, the potter's clay of Kungkuan, Miaoli, the kiln clay of the Shihku studio at Lungtan, Taoyuan both were developed into industries. This natural landscape is of course the cultural heritage of these two Hakka zhuang.
(text: Chen Pan)