Historical Sites

Can we talk about historical sites when it comes to Hakka culture in Taiwan? If we equate historical sites with prehistoric archaeological sites, then finding Hakka sites in Taiwan is indeed a difficult matter. But if we think along the lines of the definition in the Preservation Act then it becomes quite an interesting prospect to discus Hakka historical sites.

The definition of historical sites in the Preservation Act is: "Places that contain relics, historical remains and associated items of historical significance left by people who lived in the past." According to this definition, prehistoric archaeological sites of course fall within this scope, but prehistoric sites are only one phase of human life "lived in the past." For several hundred years, the Hakka in Taiwan have naturally represented a phase of human life "lived in past." Aside from the "Hakka spirit" of which people are proud, things passed down and not yet passed down (and relics) having to do with a way of life all naturally constgitute "evidence" used to understand Hakka life.

To regard Hakka cultural historical sites as evidence for knowing Hakka culture is perhaps also a motive for searching for these sites.

Following the urbanization of Taiwan, old Hakka dwellings were torn down one after the other. For the Hakka, who had worked hard on this land, the old houses represented the achievement of a family or a clan. After the houses were demolished all that was left was a memory in people's minds. If it were possible from the perspective of historical sites to re-affirm the values of this cultural heritage, then this would pull together the images of people's memory and go on to create an even greater cultural heritage.

Aside from historical structures, there is the whole series of historical ruins remaining following the disappearance of the traditional villages. For example, the construction of airports, reservoirs, high-speed rail, urban planning zones, etc., turned the traditional villages (Tayuan, Chingpu, Liuchia, Amuping, Paoshan, etc.) into ruins. After the transformation of industry, many age-old industries disappeared turning the tobacco curing barns into ruins. Today most camphor, tea and paper works, ditch making and farm pond making factories have all become ruins. Also, places where specific things occurred or were done during historical times: ancient battle fields, places where peace talks were held, and tu-niu ditches--all have become ruins. After rivers change course or cut a new beds because dikes have been built, this creates archaeological sites out of the places where they used to flow.

Traces of human habitation in these sites, like trash heaps, things left behind after having been used, when archaeologically excavated prove important in getting a picture of ancient civilization. Graves from which bones are recovered, the remains of mud walls, workshops long abandoned, etc., also show traces of what human life was like.

Rubbish heaps are made of things people generally considered to have lost their significance but these things left behind still retain a definite significance and value, although they have lost their function. Stone, jade, iron, gold, silver, copper, glass, bone, horn, shell, wood, pottery, porcelain pieces...these are in this category. Because relics have a certain market value they frequently become commodities in antique shops. Nevertheless, separated from their original context (such as the tou-gong, furniture and decorative wooden pieces) these items have a greatly reduced cultural significance.

Things change as the years go on and the Hakka, along with other ethnic groups in Taiwan, move forward. Things that once existed but no longer do, all feed into the great river of Hakka culture. In Hakka archaeological sites there remain many precious things to bring up to the light of day! (text: Chen Pan)