2015年7月25日 星期六

Gunboats in Tamsui

The presidential gunboat in Tamsui (courtesy of Prof LY Tseng)
Gunboats in Tamsui were never a rare sight, historically they arrived from China, England, France, and Japan, in both war and peace times. Even Steve McQueen's the Sand Pebbles (1966) was kind of there. Nothing really surprises us until the recent realization that two were actually reserved for CKS's personal use.

Tamsui-lang who grew up in town in the 60s still remember seeing a small gunboat moored near the piers behind Tamsui Post Office. It magically disappeared whenever a typhoon visited only to re-emerge from somewhere afterwards. Little did we known that it was part of CKS's "escape" plan.  And it was not only one but two gunboats. According to this site http://60-250-180-26.hinet-ip.hinet.net/taiwan/4425.html:

海軍配合總統府侍衛室的要求, 於1960年春在淡水河口編配一支快艇隊以供萬一蔣介石總統緊急需要時, 可自士林官邸趨車直奔淡水巡防處碼頭登艇, 開赴外海轉乘來接駕之座艦. 當時建造了兩艘交通艇, 並編制"定海"號為座艇, "鎮海"號為副艇. 兩艇規格不明.
Translation: At the request of the Presidential Guards, the Navy commissioned a speedboat team in the spring of 1960 to serve CKS in case of emergency. CKS was to be driven directly from his official residence in Shilin to a gunboat stationed at the coast guard docks in Tamsui and the boat was to ferry him to a presidential warship awaiting at high sea. Two such transfer boats were built and christened DingHai and ChengHai, respectively, with the latter designated as the backup. The specs of these two gunboats remain unknown.

Judging from the part of GuanYin Mountain appearing in the background, the gunboat in the photo above was most likely the DingHai, hiding inside the then restricted zone of the Customs Wharf. The one parked in the back of Tamsui Post Office for all to see was the smaller ChengHai.

This contingency plan of course was never put in action; although it was certainly far more elaborate than that for the first and only president of  the Republic of Formosa, 唐景崧Tang Jing-Song. Who, on June 6, 1895, sneaked from Taipei to board a German passenger ship Arthur anchored in Tamsui Port and sailed off to Foochow, leaving the Taiwanese behind to fend for themselves.

2015年7月23日 星期四

Light House in Tamsui 1796

Located inside the MaZu Temple in Tamsui, on the left wall in the main hall, there is a stone tablet commemorating the building of Tamsui Overlook Light House:

Light house memorial tablet (1796)
The entire inscription is shown below. Not only the purpose of the project, it also recorded that all ships presently in port contributed one Spanish silver dollar each to the construction, and a fee of 40 cents would be collected from each entering ship to pay for light house upkeep. Notice at the end, the names of the donors all contain the character "觀":


仝立望高樓泉廈郊出海戶尾街董事 茲為設立守望以便利涉事 窃惟淡江港口係諸舡出入要津之所 其東北勢旁 有假港一處 每遇黑夜沙汕障蔽 莫辨真假 前經一二舡隻悞認假港 致遭不利 爰是邀同船戶相議 捐資建立望高樓一座 在假港水涯 付與
福佑宮住僧度西倩工守護 每夜明燈 照應諸船 由燈下南勢進港可保無虞 其建立費項 業經在港諸船允捐銀壹大元外 再到本港者 每次出銀四錢 以為守樓工資油火等費 願我同人 玉成其事 捐金不替 則眾生無迷津 而諸船皆利涉矣

嘉慶元年端月 日公立

黃從觀 歐居觀 林格觀 林騧觀 林疑觀 林詹觀 林鎮觀 紀意觀
王由觀 林禎觀 紀恭觀 朱相觀 黃經觀 高二觀 洪的觀 傅球觀
林景觀 洪德觀 陳評觀 紀暨觀 薛鎮觀 傅橙觀 周古觀 紀草觀 王仕觀

觀 was a salutation, equivalent to 官 (Master/Sir). For example, the first one on the list 黃從觀 was from 黃x從, x was removed to make room for 觀. In other instances, 觀 was simply added after the full name. This form of salutational address is no longer in use in the Chinese language, however.

2015年7月20日 星期一


PRC map of Greater Xiamen including Xiamen Island
Throughout Chinese history, names of places are often changed to conform to new civil administrative systems imposed by new rulers/conquerors. This is a geographical identity cleansing on an unimaginable scale. Xiamen Island (廈門島) is no exception. Xiamen is of course known to the West as Amoy.

Xiamen Island was known as 嘉禾嶼 during the Song Dynasty and 中左所 during Ming Dynasty. It had been part of the TongAn Prefecture (同安縣). During the Song Dynasty, TongAn was made up of 11 Li (里) which became 44 Du (都) in Yuan Dynasty, and 37 Du in Ming. The 11 Li's were named 長興, 同禾, 民安, 從順, 翔鳳, 感化, 歸德, 仁德, 安仁, 積善, and 嘉禾. And 嘉禾里 was the original name of Xiamen Island.

The ancestors of some Tamsui-lang were from 嘉禾里 or Xiamen Island, while others, the rest of the old TongAn Prefecture (here). Not to be out-done, the PRC has also re-districted these areas and lumped them into the City of Xiamen (above), adding even more confusion.

2015年7月16日 星期四

Merchants in Tamsui

Prof 曾令毅Tseng Ling-Yi of Tamkang University has just posted the following:

A quick translation: A stone tablet can be seen in a temple near Yin-Zhuang Road (below). The land nearby originally belonged to the Aborigines, later taken over by the Han people complete with deeds. In 1867, merchants contributed funds to build this earth-god temple. On the tablet the names of donor corporations, locally from Tamsui and other prominent families from Taipei, were recorded...

A local "吳鶴記Wu He Ji" was mentioned as one of the donors and three of the Wu family members appeared on the tablet (lower right):

同治六年 (1867)
The donation was made in 佛銀, Spanish silver dollars, common currency at that time (one 佛銀 = 0.67兩紋銀silver tael x 8880 = NT$5949.60).

A real estate transaction contract from dated 1879 (GuanXu Year 5), mentioned 吳鶴記, a cropped section here:

Wu Family collection
Indeed, as Prof Tseng has pointed out that the middle Qing era has witnessed the development of Tamsui, the interaction between the Han ad the Aborigines, and the mercantile activities before Tamsui became a major sea port.

2015年7月9日 星期四

Oyster Lady

The Oyster Lady (1964), the first movie in CinemaScope
in full color produced in Taiwan
Up and down the west coast of Taiwan, oyster-farming can be found almost everywhere, most notably in JiaYi, Tainan, Yunlin, and Changhua. About 50% of oysters in Taiwan are produced in TungShi 東石 in Jiayi. It has a long history as well, for example, in Tainan, part of Ft Zeelandia was built with cement made with oyster shell ashes. In HenChun, there is a oyster shell island in 大鵬灣 formed from discarded oyster shells over the past few centuries.

Harvesting oysters
Eating oysters raw is not in the Taiwanese culinary culture. In Tamsui, oysters have always been prepared as clear soup. In the now demolished Grand Rotary 圓環 in Taipei, oyster pancakes with or without eggs mixed in the batter were served. These oysters were all small in size. Even today, the most seeded jumbo Clausen Pacific oysters are allowed to grow for only 6 months to one year, as opposed to 2-4 years in north America, before harvesting. Catering to the consumers' preference aside, the giant variety never tastes good anyway, in fact, the flavor is all wrong. Restaurants advertising Taiwanese cuisine in the US also serve 蠔仔煎, albeit with jumbo ones. After a few tries, the verdict is often a "Don't bother".

Oyster pancake/omelet, usually served with a ketchup-like 海山醬
Oysters grown in Tamsui River in Tamsui are now too polluted to eat. The same small oysters with the same distinct flavor, however, can still be found in Sendai, the 宮城三陸牡蠣 Miyagi Sanriku Kaki, This photo shows an example, second from the left, the smallest one:

From left to right: 能登岩牡蠣, 宮城三陸牡蠣, 宮城福貴浦牡蠣, 北海道厚岸牡蠣
Taiwan has 18 varieties of oysters. The taxonomy is best left to the experts, we the consumers only need to know where to get and how to eat them. Charcoal-grilled oysters on the half-shell washed down with Taiwan Beer are most definitely more satisfying than oyster soup. Even better, they can be found in 鹿耳門 in Tainan (where Koxinga's fleet sailed through in 1661 before the first battle against the Dutch) - no need to travel to Sendai. 

2015年7月5日 星期日

Beautiful Duckling

Beautiful Duckling
Beautiful Duckling (養鴨人家) is an award-winning movie that premiered in 1965. The storyline is based on a loving relationship between farmer Lin and his adopted daughter Little Moon (小月). In the background was naturally the ducks - with duck breeding woven into the plot.  So what kind of ducks were in the movies? Answer: brown Tsaiya (菜鴨).

Tsaiya in fact comes in two colors: brown is the oldest that came from southern China, and white, bred from male muscovy and female tsaiya under strict protocols (officially known as Yilang white duck, 宜蘭白鴨). The brown tsaiya is raised mostly for its eggs, and white, for meat.

The red-faced black muscovy is the ferocious territorial kind. Its meat has a distinct flavor often used in the preparation of the ginger-duck-soup (薑母鴨) (below), a winter-time favorite for the Taiwanese. White muscocies were introduced from Australia in 1962, later also from the Netherlands and the US, and in 1984, France.

The lovely Peking duck, originally from northern China, was imported to Taiwan in 1954. Then there are the hybrids: male Peking + female tsaiya = kaiya (改鴨), and male muscovy + female tasiya = mule duck (土番鴨), bred for speedy maturation and increasing weights.

Consumption of duck eggs gradually shifted to chicken eggs after the introduction of large-scale chicken farming into Taiwan in 1961. These days, just like in the US, duck eggs are hard to find in supermarkets. And because of the elevated fatty contents of duck meat especially the skin, it has also fallen into disfavor for some consumers (even though there has been no evidence linking duck fats with cardiovascular diseases). The challenge now is how to breed ducks with lean meat.