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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ching Shui

A Pillar of Empire

Saturday was supposed to be a busy riding day. I woke up at 6:00am to join a ride with some local triathletes and then I was going to split off after a couple hours to do hills with Michael T. The sound of thunder and rain made the idea of a hard, fast ride at early o' clock in the morning sound un-fun, so I went back to bed with the hope that the rain would piss itself out by mid morning and I could still catch the afternoon session.

I was paranoid I'd be late and rode way too fast for a warm-up from Taichung to Tanzi. I met Michael and off we went to the mountains. Just before starting the climb, the clouds opened up and we retreated to Feng Yuan City for coffee.

When the rain stopped we headed out to the coastal town of Ching Shui instead. We took the Highway 10 out of northern Taichung County down a fast and fun descent into Ching Shui and took it from there.

Ching Shui Elementary

The Ching Shui area was formerly the home to the Papora speaking Austronesian cultural-linguistic group of indigenes. Prehistoric evidence of the Pre and Proto-Papora has been found in several parts of Taichung County. There are archaeological sites around Dadu Shan and one adjacent to the Tiger City mall. Taichung Mayor, Jason Hu, a Han-chauvinist at heart, once declared that he would move to continue development at the Tiger City site as the find was "not as significant as terra cotta warriors". Much of the site had been destroyed before scholars could file an injunction.

The Papora cultures were documented in Dutch records and Ching Shui is routinely mentioned in Dutch sources as, "Gommach", which is believed to have originally been located near Ching Shui Elementary School. Neighboring Shalu was another major village called "Salach". Each village was surrounded by several satellite villages that made for more balanced trade and resource management in the era before the Dutch organized the deer trade, which helped trigger a collapse of the traditional political economy on the indigenous Taiwan plain. Later effects of this policy would culminate in pressure for indigenes to acculturate into mainstream Taiwanese/market culture.

During the Cheng siege of Fort Zeelandia, in 1661, a Cheng garrison was stationed near Ching Shui. Soldiers from Cheng's forces started interfering in village life and molesting the local women, thus antagonizing the Papora villages, this and other forms of social tension led to several large revolts. In 1670, another revolt in the area led to the destruction of one satellite village and the wholesale slaughter of its inhabitants.

Later, in 1722, during the Qing administration over Taiwan's western frontier, Papora revolt leads Cheng commander Luo Guo Hsuan to destroy the village of Sha lu. In response, Governor Man pao ordered a boundary line constructed running North to South delineating the non-tax paying aborigines from the Han and Aborigines loyal to the Qing. The boundary of trenches and hills was meant to prohibit settlers from occupying land beyond the markers that may result in any more destabilizing Aboriginal violence.

Corridors of Imagined Communities

During the initial phases of Japanese colonial administration on Taiwan, Ching shui was one of the earliest towns in central Taiwan to be integrated into the greater imperial economy. Ching Shui is a fantastic example of the early Japanese infrastructure project as the town became a hub for moving produce and goods along the coast. Ching Shui also became one of the earliest manufacturing hubs in central Taiwan. Local weavers were recruited to produce hats and textiles in Ching Shui's industrial district. At one point Ching Shui was the largest producer of the popular straw hats the Japanese were fond of in the early 20th century. The industrial infrastructure laid by the straw hat producers provided fertile ground for other industries seeking skilled weavers; namely the sporting goods industry. Straw hats led to footwear, tennis racquets and later, in cooperation with the machine tool training many Taiwanese received during and after WWII... bicycles.

On our ride, Michael and I stopped at Ching Shui Elementary School on Guang hua and Zheng Nan roads, which was one of the earliest elementary schools in central Taiwan. It was founded in 1907, primarily for the children of Japanese industrialists, but later the children of the Taiwanese gentry were allowed to attend. This had a major impact on society asTaiwanese were, for the first time, able to be educated with the mission in mind, to help them read about and imagine their community.

Pedaling Pilgrims

We ran into the Hsin Kang to Dajia cycling event. The even is a 110km ride to follow the route the Dajia Mazu will take on her annual pilgrimage from her home in the Cheng Lang Temple in Dajia. The Mazu festival marks the traditional arrival of Spring. Although Mazu pilgrimage in nothing new to Taiwan, I have heard... ahem!... the Dajia event has become mainly a tourism juggernaut run by organized crime and local politicians to fulfill their political fortunes and fortify their local fiefdoms of gravel, construction, bid rigging, sex, drugs, weapons and betel nut. I have also been told that some of the revenue generated from these events, eventually makes its way into the coffers of a particular political party with roots in China... ahem!

Making for Mazu

We made our way out of Ching Shui back along the villages along the base of Dadu Shan. I noticed that the villages had a strange layout, like a soldier village, and Michael suggested they were more recent plains Aborigine villages. The names suggested as much. Much of the Taiwan plain is dotted with this type of village and EVERY major town was once a center of indigenous life. The villages we passed through on our way up the hill are in an area known as Fan Cheng, or "Barbarian City". These areas were probably considered indigenous until the Japanese colonial period when the ethnic markers that once delineated Aborigine from Han were eliminated only by official caveat.

We rode back to Tanzi and I sped the 8 miles home at speeds between 23(37kph) and 29mph (46kph). Another great little ride complete. For the day I only logged 50 miles (80km), but it was a really nice ride.


  1. Neat,

    I grew up playing on those school grounds. I grew up about a block from there on Tzun Nan St.

  2. Cool! That is one of my favorite buildings. There is a similar school in Feng yuan.