Cultural Landscape

The cultural landscape is a piece of cultural heritage with tremendous imaginative power. Some people feel that the concept of cultural landscape is the most difficult, requiring the most imagination to define. Others say that idea of cultural landscape in the Preservation Act includes just about everything. By comparison, the other items in the Preservation Act are clearly defined and understood by most people as "culture." Nevertheless, the concept of cultural landscape is like the air--without a specific and special explanation, people can't see it, can't touch it.

"Cultural landscape: myths, traditions, sagas, historical incidents, religious life or ceremonial activities tied to a specific space and the related environment."

From the literal meaning of the definition, for the cultural landscape to be a cultural heritage there must be a process of study and identification before society at large can understand. In fact, things that on the surface do not attract any attention can constitute a cultural heritage.

The agricultural landscape common to all Hakka villages: paddy fields, mountain fields, mountain gardens, gardens, vegetable, tea and fruit gardens; and the irrigation facilities--ditches, walls, ponds, watersheds, reservoirs...all these are part of the cultural landscape stemming from the Hakka life style. We could say that as a result of the Hakka life style and production methods, the surface of the earth has been changed and a specific cultural landscape has been formed.

As an example, Chupei city in Hsinchu is located on an alluvial plain where the Touchien and Fengshan rivers meet. Because the Six Clan area is located right in the center it was known in the past as the "Hsinchu rice granary." Nevertheless, according to Lin Family oral traditions, when the ancestors of the Lin Family first came to the area it was a "wasteland." Yet what was a wasteland to the Hakka, was a fishing and hunting area for the original inhabitants. Two hundred years of development then turned it into the "Hsinchu rice granary." It is just such topography we could call the Hsinchu Hakka cultural landscape.

Another example would be the oldest Hakka habitation area in the Six Clans village--Liuchangli. The Lin Family has a very clear historical oral tradition of the cultural landscape. The very small habitation area actually had an eastern, southern and western gate. Outside the eastern gate there was a practice field for running horses and archery used by those preparing for the military exams. The Lin Family tradition refers to the area as "horse race alley." Although today this topography has actually undergone enormous change, in the memory of the local inhabitants and in the oral history there is profound value. As it is an historical site, we may call it the cultural landscape.

Also, in the Hakka had experience working in the mountain forests, working in government and private wooded areas, forests and tree farms and logging roads. There was every form of occupation landscape: pastures, farms for raising birds and domestic animals, fishing ports, fish ponds, fish farms, stone fish traps. In the north of Taiwan the Hakka had experience in minerals and mining: kilns, coal mines, oil pits; in more modern times, power plants, sand and gravel pits and industrial science parks. In the Railway Bureau Hakkas are represented in significant numbers, a unique ethnic phenomenon. Thus Hakka TV produced a TV series describing the life of the Hakkas "on the rails"-- Love of the Old Mountain Line. Hakkas were late to arrive in the Taipei urban districts but they are regularly present in the fresh produce market, fish market, general market and the night market. If a fellow Hakka uses the Hakka dialect when shopping, a discount is usually in the offing.

After the establishment of the Council for Hakka Affairs assistance was made available for Hakka cultural installations throughout the country and thus a great many elements of a Hakka cultural landscape appeared containing unique Hakka characteristics, like parks, courtyards, athletic fields, tourist spots, museums, art galleries, art museums and Hakka academies. (text: Chen Pan)