Erenlai - Landscapes and skylines 探訪亞洲城鄉
Landscapes and skylines 探訪亞洲城鄉

Landscapes and skylines 探訪亞洲城鄉

Growing cities and declining hinterland- or is the plot more complex? We look for a new equilibrium between these two faces of Asia and celebrate the diversity of landscapes and ecosystems, through pictures, videos, essays and poems.

亞洲的城鄉差距有多大?它們各自創造的優勢都被妥善地運用了嗎?城鄉之間的拉距戰是否加深了不同族群間的心靈距離呢?

 

Monday, 08 April 2013

蘇州手工精神

  作為明清江南區域的中心地,蘇州不僅當時經濟文化領先於全國,而且也是中國第一個早期工業化城市。因而那個時代也可以稱之為中國經濟的蘇州時代和中國文化的蘇州時代。在那個時代,蘇州手工業的發達為其區域經濟文化繁榮提供了物質基礎。明清蘇州的棉紡織業、絲織業、刺繡業、服裝業、建築業、裝潢業等產業,正如當今美國的微軟、德國的汽車、日本的半導體等成為一個地區或一個國家的支柱產業。

撰文∣ 施春煜 攝影|梁准

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Hand-Drawn Map of Taipei

Tom Rook was born in in Exmouth (England) in 1988. After he graduated from the geography department of the University of Nottingham, he moved to Taipei where he makes a living as an English teacher. He shares with us his passion for maps by introducing us the map of Taipei he meticulously drew for more than 100 hours.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Last Fight, Last Hope

After capturing and presenting the atmosphere at night in the Huaguang community - one of the last mainlanders village left in central Taipei-, here are the voices and faces of its last residents. This old community retains the mood and traditions of old Times. Its inhabitants, civil servants from the ministry of Justice, mainlanders' families and others Taiwanese, have been living here for more than 50 years. By the end of 2012, this community will be demolished to give way to a financial center called "Taipei Wall Street". The residents are claiming for Justice and decent solutions.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Life on the Yangtze in the early 20th century

My grand-father had always been a great fan of photography. As a photographer himself he did some exhibitions with his own pictures and had the opportunity to share his passion with many people.

During one of his exposition for the « Week of Arts » at the Lanvignec Junior High School of Paimpol the school bursar told him she had very old pictures in her attic and would like to share them with him. These pictures were in fact photographic glass plates taken between 1903 and 1905 in China by the old landlord. My grand-father who was very interested in sharing these began to take pictures of the plates using his own camera and developed them in his photography studio.

He then proceeded to make contact with the family of the original photographer, Leon Collos, a sailor, and his grandson encouraged him to pursue his work in order to honor the officer's memory.

Leon Collos was a sailor during the 1900's, he was born in Noumea in 1879 and died aboard the Kleber in 1917 after the ship was hit by a mine. Collos was honoured afterwards for his bravery during the sinking. He stayed aboard the ship until the last sailors could escape, and continued leading his men with great self-control.

Old picture of the Kleber crew.

Nowadays the Kleber wreck can be found near the Brest harbor, in Brittany, and many scuba-divers like to explore it as it was very well conserved. You can find pictures of the Kleber taken by Hervé Severe in may 2003 on this website and also watch this video made by the CSA Diving Club of Brest which regularly goes diving near the wreck by clicking this link.

 

 

olry1d
Picture of the Olry taken by the crew of the english gunboat Kinsha. Source

During his career in the navy he was an officer on the Olry, a french gunboat that travelled along the Yangtze river in China. He stayed 3 years on this boat and had the occasion to take pictures shown here.

Boats and harbours:

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Near the river:

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Original pictures by Leon Collos taken between 1903 and 1905, rediscovered and scanned by Jean-Claude Baron, arranged digitally by Witold Chudy and Marie Baron.

Monday, 30 April 2012

A World Falling Apart

The Huaguang community (華光社區) is one of the last mainlander villages left in central Taipei. This old community retains the mood and traditions of old times. Its inhabitants, civil servants from the Ministry of Justice, mainlander families and others Taiwanese, have been living here for more than 50 years. By the end of 2012, this community will be demolished to give way to a financial centre called "Taipei Wall Street". Inhabitants are calling for justice and decent relocation solutions. Through this documentary, a collection of nocturnal colors photography, the presence of the inhabitants is suggested but not shown outright, their anger and frustration is just acknowledged but not emphasized. The wall and windows, the alleys and the vegetation, where you can feel the sweat of their existence, are all photographed by night to underlie the unreal mood that will follow the demolition. No digital retouchings have been made to the photos; all shot with a Kodak Ektar Chrome 100.

 

Friday, 02 September 2011

被「出賣」的台灣農地

─「土地徵收條例」的圈地陷阱

台灣的糧食自給率只有31%,但「土地徵收條例」卻以開發之名,不斷將農地變成建地,將生機轉為投機。

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Hourglass Configurations

In response to the Focus 'Beyond the Pale: Architecture in Taiwan' Pierre Maranda would like to introduce readers to what world-famous anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote on the subject of religious and cosmic interpretation of traditional Chinese architecture. With this aim Pierre gives you a quote of the first two pages of the chapter Lévi-Strauss wrote for a book he edited. The book is availible under hardcover and also as an e-book from the University of Toronto Press in Canada: P. Maranda (ed.) The Double Twist: From Ethnography to Morphodynamics. Toronto-Buffalo-London. 2001, 316 p.

It was in 1977, in Japan, facing the Ise Shrine, that the reflections I am sharing here took shape in a somewhat disorderly fashion. I was struck, as would be most people, by the roof frames of which the principal rafters cross in an X and jut out past the ridge. The Izumo Shrines, also of archaic style, have a similar appearance, but due to crossbeams which are not part of the structure but are affixed to the roof as a decoration.

This is reminiscent, of course, of islands in the South Seas where the roofs of certain houses resemble those of Ise: a further indication of the links which existed between Japan and that area of the world, already manifest when one compares their myths[i]. However, to apprehend what this kind of structure could signify to the Japanese themselves, we must let their ancient texts speak. According to the Kojiki, a ritual formula accompanied the construction of a palace or a shrine: "Root the posts of your palace firmly in the bed-rock below and raise high the crossbeams unto [the upper world][ii]." In this manner, the shape of the roof frame, which one might say recalls that of an hourglass, reproduces the form of the universe. The part below the roof ridge corresponds to the earthly world, the part above it, to the heavenly world which rises up to the "plain of the highest heaven" inhabited by the gods.

This representation of the cosmos comes to us, by way of China, from India. It may have originated in Mesopotamia, but this will not be my concern; rather, I will consider its extension in the opposite direction. Paul Mus has often evoked, in its Indian form, the axial Mountain which carries the lower stories of the divine worlds, while more immaterial worlds float above its peak.[iii] "The first feature to be considered" of this axial Mountain, center of the world, Meru or Sumeru in Sanskrit, writes Rolph Stein, "is the mountain's shape. [...] it is a pointed cone emerging from the sea and carrying on its summit another, inverted cone that represents the abode of the [...] Gods. [...] The whole thing resembles an hourglass. Wide above and below, it is narrow in the middle.[iv]"

A feature of religious architecture thus refers to a cosmology. These hourglass forms, in their application to architecture or to movable objects imbued with symbolic meaning, are also found in the New World that Orientalists have left out of their investigations.

Before coming to America it is appropriate to make a stop in eastern Siberia, en route to Bering Strait. In his investigation of the relationship between architecture and religious thought, Stein has mentioned the Koryak who reside in wooden houses, roughly hexagonal in shape, with roofs in the form of a funnel or an inverted umbrella. [FIG. 3] Like other commentators, he has reiterated Jochelson's utilitarian explanation in which this unusual structure functions to protect the entrance hole in the roof from snow, or to break the force of the wind during a blizzard so as to prevent snow from covering the house[v]. Stein remarks in a note, however, that this inverted umbrella-shaped roof evokes the form of K'un-Lun (Chinese name for the cosmic mountain) and that of Mount Sumeru[vi].

 

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Whatever the practical utility of such an appendice, one must not exclude that it may also be imbued with symbolic meaning. This appears even more credible since other parts of the house or furnishings, such as a notched central post used as a ladder, the hearth, a fire-drill, etc. all have symbolic value and because, for the entire region of the Far East, the house and each of its parts have symbolic significance, as Stein has admirably shown.

Hourglass Configurations by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Translation from the French original by Robbyn Seller, Anthropology, McGill University, Montréal, Canada.

 


[i]. C. Lévi-Strauss, "La place de la culture japonaise dans le monde", Revue d'esthétique, 18, 1990, p. 12-14.

[ii]. Kojiki. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Donald L. Philippi, University of Tokyo Press, 1968, ch. 24 (14), 27(3), 39 (18); see also Nihongi. Translated by W.G. Aston (Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, London), 2 vols. 1896, Vol. I, p. 132-133.

[iii]. P. Mus, La Lumière sur les six voies (Travaux et Mémoires de l'Institut d'Ethnologie, T.XXXV), Paris, 1939, pp. 42, 54, 172-174, 284 sq.

[iv]. R.A. Stein, Le Monde en petit, Paris, Flammarion, 1987, p. 232. (English translation, Phyllis Brooks, The World in Miniature, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 246.)

[v]. R.A. Stein, l.c., p. 163 sq. (English translation, p. 169); W.W. Fitzhugh and A. Crowell, Crossroads of Continents. Culture of Siberia and Alaska, Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988, pp. 33, 200, 201.

[vi]. R.A. Stein, l.c., p. 318 n. 93. (English translation, p. 323, n. 60).

 

Sunday, 05 December 2010

不能沒有東南亞

文創產業的未來,不在東方,不在北方,不在西方,而在台灣的東南方。

 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

After the Show

The Shanghai World Expo is coming to an end… Six months and around seventy million visitors after its launch, what will remain of this mammoth happening?

The most enduring legacy will be the reshaping of Shanghai, the dense metro networks, innovative urban planning and international outlook. Truly, this has been a coming of age event, and its effects will be long term.

Besides this, the event has been mostly a “Fair”, a kind of festival. Chinese people have been coming from afar to get glimpses of world diversity or just to enjoy themselves. For sure, there have been many group visits fostered by work units and other institutions, but it was somehow moving to witness the zeal of individual visitors, quite a number of them elderly people who were seeing in this event a once in a lifetime opportunity. I met with an elderly couple of photographers coming from Chengdu who stayed in Shanghai for a good part of the summer and visited no less that 150 pavilions…. As a reluctant visitor who painfully reached the threshold of 3 pavilions visited and found the experience already rather exhausting, I could not help to feel deeply impressed. Many Chinese coming from far away provinces were rising up at 5am so as to be among the first ones in the queue and were coming home late at night, only to then download pictures and comments on their blogs. Actually, I realized that telling your blog’s readers where you had been and what you had done was a major incentive in realizing such feast of sheer will and energy…

On the other hand, it seems that the foreign audience was much more modest than originally expected. And, for an event focused around green and sustainable cities, the final contribution to the future of city life seems to me remarkably modest. My overall impression has been the one of a show – a rather good show actually – that was played to the benefit and for the contentment of a Chinese audience happy for the “free gift” that such event was representing. The happening was well in line with what the Olympic Game had already been, and as successful in terms of image and organization.

Do world fairs still have a future? There will be other such events after Shanghai 2010, but the genre needs to be renewed. Shanghai has shown the concept’s everlasting attraction as well as the severe limits that such happenings are now meeting with. In any case, the city has now secured a leading role on both the Chinese and world scenes for many more decades to come.

Photo: BV

Paul Farrelly also went to the Shanghai World Expo: he tells us why he didn't go to the Chinese pavilion and why you should go to the South Korean one instead of the Australian one...

Wednesday, 04 August 2010

A glimpse into Matsu’s island

Have you ever heard of Matsu?

Most of the people I have met in Taiwan or abroad who never been to Matsu refer to it as a military island or think of the famous Chinese Goddess of the Sea: “Mazu” (馬祖). Unfortunately not many people know about this beautiful and quiet island (actually, Matsu is an archipelago of 19 small islands, divided into four townships*), which belongs to Lienchiang County (連江縣) of the Republic of China (ROC). Matsu is situated in the Taiwan Strait, only 10 miles (16 km) away from China, close to Fujian province, but 120 miles (193 km) away from Taiwan. I was astonished to see at Nangan harbor how very close China is to Matsu, just 40 minutes by boat.

My first trip to Matsu was during the Chinese New Year and I will never forget it. Indeed, as you might say, I did not choose the right time to go to this island. The weather was bad and all the residents of Matsu were going back home to Matsu to spend New Year with their families. My flight was delayed and I had to wait until the next day before to take another plane.... However, there were no normal passenger planes and I had to take a military transport airplane. Everyone was in the baggage hold, sitting all together in two long rows, not so comfortable but quite worth it simply for the experience. Fortunately, the plane trip was short, only 45 minutes, and I did not have to jump by parachute for the landing. This reinforced my strong impression that Matsu is well served by its nickname of Military Island! However, I discovered during my stay on this island that Matsu is much more than just a military island.

Matsu was the furthest military outpost of Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalists when the Communists established their power in the mainland in 1949. Since 1992, when martial law on the island was lifted, the number of soldiers stationed on Matsu has significantly decreased, as has as the fishing industry, which has had an adverse effect on Matsu’s economy. Consequently, with the support of the Taiwanese government, Matsu decided to develop a cultural economy. For example, many military facilities and historic monuments can now be visited, such as the secret military tunnels. They were built during the 1950s to hold ships that could launch surprise attacks on the mainland. It is quite amazing that the existence of these tunnels was unknown even by the residents of Matsu until 1992. Capitalizing on the fame of its Goddess namesake, the tallest statue of Mazu in the world is in Nangan Township.

lise_darbas_matsu2In addition, I was quite impressed by Matsu’s unique stone houses, built in the style of Eastern Min architecture. Indeed, the native people of Matsu were originally immigrants from Eastern Fujian or Eastern Min, so they do not speak Taiwanese but the Fuzhou dialect (福州話, or閩北話). One of the most well-known traditional sites, the village of Qinbi in Beigan (dating from the Ming and Qing Dynasties), bears a strong resemblance to Mediterranean architecture. Most of these houses are nowadays not inhabited during winter vacations. They have been restored and converted into art galleries, coffee shops and bed and breakfast guesthouses to cater for tourists. Walking between these houses made me felt like if I was in a small ghost town. There was strong wind coming from the sea, and I noticed the peculiarity of the roof tiles of the stone houses, which were all weighed down with rocks to defend against the wind. Winter vacation is not the ideal time to fully enjoy Matsu, rather the best time to go to this island is from June to November. During this period the weather is much more favorable for hiking and enjoying a coffee on the terrace of stone houses next to the seaside.

Matsu is now trying its best to lure tourist and attract more interests. Before going to Matsu, I heard of Josh Wenger, an American doctoral student at National Taiwan University who won a competition to be mayor of Matsu for a day. In October 2009, inspired by the famous publicity of “The best job in the world” on Hamilton Island (part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef), Matsu had the brilliant idea to create an online quiz of 10 questions on Matsu’s geographical and historical facts to promote itself. The winner had the amazing opportunity to become the mayor of Matsu for one day, with an award of NT$10,000, and a stay of 3 days and 2 nights in free accommodation.

lise_darbas_Josh_Matsu_5I interviewed Josh who was deeply impressed by Matsu, which he describes as an interesting island with a rich cultural heritage and beautiful natural sites, friendly people and exceptionally tasty food, which was some of the best he has ever tasted in Taiwan. The food he enjoyed the most was fresh seafood, such as seafood noodles, the Buddha hands (炒佛手), and fried clams (炒花蛤). I also found Matsu’s food very delicious, for example, I enjoyed eating Matsu’s “Red rice yeast chicken” (紅糟雞) in the small cozy coffee shop “Lady Coffee” (夫人咖啡) next to the coast in Nangan Township.

Josh’s favorite places were in Beigan island, such as “Biyuan Park” (碧園, which means “green garden”) a small beautiful park with plaques containing the names of soldiers who lost their lives serving in the military; the mountain “Bishan” (北竿大沃山) is the highest peak of the Matsu island with an incredible view of Beigan island, and the “88 tunnel” (八八坑道), which originally took its name to commemorate Chiang Kai-shek’s 88th birthday. Since 1992, this tunnel is no longer a military facility, but is instead used by the people of Matsu to keep their best old rice liquor (老酒) in ceramic pots.

Following on from my short stay in Matsu, and after having interviewed Josh, I became even more interested by this small island. Although Matsu is not as well known as the main island of Taiwan, it is undoubtedly one of the most interesting historical and natural sites I have visited here. I believe that Matsu is an indispensable destination for understanding cross-Strait relations. Moreover, Matsu’s cultural assets such as the stone houses are some of the most important attractions of the island, and have given Matsu a charm and special atmosphere that seems to be from another time. What was once a frontier of the Cold War is now ideal tourist spot for a relaxing couple of days.

(Photos courtesy of J. Wenger and L. Darbas)

Links:

“Matsu National Scenic Area,” http://www.matsu-nsa.gov.tw/User/Main.aspx?Lang=2.

“Matsu’s best-kept cultural heritage: Eastern Min architecture at Qinbi village,” http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1430&Itemid=157

Watch Josh Wenger’s report about his experience being the mayor of Matsu:「 一日縣長」溫賈舒:馬祖的美麗景點,絕對要去看

 

*Nangan (南竿鄉), Beigan (北竿鄉), Juguang (莒光鄉), Dongyin (東引鄉)

Wednesday, 04 August 2010

A glimpse into Matsu’s island

Have you ever heard of Matsu?

Most of the people I have met in Taiwan or abroad who never been to Matsu refer to it as a military island or think of the famous Chinese Goddess of the Sea: “Mazu” (馬祖). Unfortunately not many people know about this beautiful and quiet island (actually, Matsu is an archipelago of 19 small islands, divided into four townships*), which belongs to Lienchiang County (連江縣) of the Republic of China (ROC). Matsu is situated in the Taiwan Strait, only 10 miles (16 km) away from China, close to Fujian province, but 120 miles (193 km) away from Taiwan. I was astonished to see at Nangan harbor how very close China is to Matsu, just 40 minutes by boat.

My first trip to Matsu was during the Chinese New Year and I will never forget it. Indeed, as you might say, I did not choose the right time to go to this island. The weather was bad and all the residents of Matsu were going back home to Matsu to spend New Year with their families. My flight was delayed and I had to wait until the next day before to take another plane.... However, there were no normal passenger planes and I had to take a military transport airplane. Everyone was in the baggage hold, sitting all together in two long rows, not so comfortable but quite worth it simply for the experience. Fortunately, the plane trip was short, only 45 minutes, and I did not have to jump by parachute for the landing. This reinforced my strong impression that Matsu is well served by its nickname of Military Island! However, I discovered during my stay on this island that Matsu is much more than just a military island.

Matsu was the furthest military outpost of Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalists when the Communists established their power in the mainland in 1949. Since 1992, when martial law on the island was lifted, the number of soldiers stationed on Matsu has significantly decreased, as has as the fishing industry, which has had an adverse effect on Matsu’s economy. Consequently, with the support of the Taiwanese government, Matsu decided to develop a cultural economy. For example, many military facilities and historic monuments can now be visited, such as the secret military tunnels. They were built during the 1950s to hold ships that could launch surprise attacks on the mainland. It is quite amazing that the existence of these tunnels was unknown even by the residents of Matsu until 1992. Capitalizing on the fame of its Goddess namesake, the tallest statue of Mazu in the world is in Nangan Township.

lise_darbas_matsu2In addition, I was quite impressed by Matsu’s unique stone houses, built in the style of Eastern Min architecture. Indeed, the native people of Matsu were originally immigrants from Eastern Fujian or Eastern Min, so they do not speak Taiwanese but the Fuzhou dialect (福州話, or閩北話). One of the most well-known traditional sites, the village of Qinbi in Beigan (dating from the Ming and Qing Dynasties), bears a strong resemblance to Mediterranean architecture. Most of these houses are nowadays not inhabited during winter vacations. They have been restored and converted into art galleries, coffee shops and bed and breakfast guesthouses to cater for tourists. Walking between these houses made me felt like if I was in a small ghost town. There was strong wind coming from the sea, and I noticed the peculiarity of the roof tiles of the stone houses, which were all weighed down with rocks to defend against the wind. Winter vacation is not the ideal time to fully enjoy Matsu, rather the best time to go to this island is from June to November. During this period the weather is much more favorable for hiking and enjoying a coffee on the terrace of stone houses next to the seaside.

Matsu is now trying its best to lure tourist and attract more interests. Before going to Matsu, I heard of Josh Wenger, an American doctoral student at National Taiwan University who won a competition to be mayor of Matsu for a day. In October 2009, inspired by the famous publicity of “The best job in the world” on Hamilton Island (part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef), Matsu had the brilliant idea to create an online quiz of 10 questions on Matsu’s geographical and historical facts to promote itself. The winner had the amazing opportunity to become the mayor of Matsu for one day, with an award of NT$10,000, and a stay of 3 days and 2 nights in free accommodation.

lise_darbas_Josh_Matsu_5I interviewed Josh who was deeply impressed by Matsu, which he describes as an interesting island with a rich cultural heritage and beautiful natural sites, friendly people and exceptionally tasty food, which was some of the best he has ever tasted in Taiwan. The food he enjoyed the most was fresh seafood, such as seafood noodles, the Buddha hands (炒佛手), and fried clams (炒花蛤). I also found Matsu’s food very delicious, for example, I enjoyed eating Matsu’s “Red rice yeast chicken” (紅糟雞) in the small cozy coffee shop “Lady Coffee” (夫人咖啡) next to the coast in Nangan Township.

Josh’s favorite places were in Beigan island, such as “Biyuan Park” (碧園, which means “green garden”) a small beautiful park with plaques containing the names of soldiers who lost their lives serving in the military; the mountain “Bishan” (北竿大沃山)is the highest peak of the Matsu islandwith an incredible view of Beigan island, and the “88 tunnel” (八八坑道), which originally took its name to commemorate Chiang Kai-shek’s 88th birthday. Since 1992, this tunnel is no longer a military facility, but is instead used by the people of Matsu to keep their best old rice liquor (老酒) in ceramic pots.

Following on from my short stay in Matsu, and after having interviewed Josh, I became even more interested by this small island. Although Matsu is not as well known as the main island of Taiwan, it is undoubtedly one of the most interesting historical and natural sites I have visited here. I believe that Matsu is an indispensable destination for understanding cross-Strait relations. Moreover, Matsu’s cultural assets such as the stone houses are some of the most important attractions of the island, and have given Matsu a charm and special atmosphere that seems to be from another time. What was once a frontier of the Cold War is now ideal tourist spot for a relaxing couple of days.

(Photos courtesy of J. Wenger and L. Darbas)

Links:

“Matsu National Scenic Area,” http://www.matsu-nsa.gov.tw/User/Main.aspx?Lang=2.

“Matsu’s best-kept cultural heritage: Eastern Min architecture at Qinbi village,” http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1430&Itemid=157

Watch Josh Wenger’s report about his experience being the mayor of Matsu:「 一日縣長」溫賈舒:馬祖的美麗景點,絕對要去看

 

*Nangan (南竿鄉), Beigan (北竿鄉), Juguang (莒光鄉), Dongyin (東引鄉)

Friday, 26 March 2010

Tianmu’s ‘Jungle’ is in danger

Located in the north west of Taipei city, Tianmu is a pleasant quarter: a quiet and calm environment quietly bisected by the Huangxi River with Yanming Mountain rising at the back. Tianmu has become one of the favourite places for foreigners to live in Taipei and is well known as a pleasant place for a stroll. In Chinese ‘tian’ means ‘sky’ and ‘mu’ means ‘mother’ but I would say that more so than the sky, it is Mother Nature who has given Tianmu most of its beauty. Now development plans threaten to destroy much of this.

I have been informed by a resident of Tianmu that a huge real estate project is to replace the green space along the river. This green part of Tianmu, called ‘the Jungle’ by some residents, extends for 5,000 square metres. A big part of the space is a private ground owned by an old woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is not able anymore to fight for her land rights. Because she likes trees so much she protected this area all her life. Thanks to her acts, today this ground holds more than 30 different kinds of tree such as cotton tree, flamboyant tree and the money tree. Furthermore, 26 special trees are protected by the law due to their environmental value (most of these trees are more than 100 years old). You can also find squirrels, frogs, the blue magpie and a species of eagle (the Crested Goshawk) that cannot be seen anywhere else in Taipei. In concrete terms, if nothing is done to protect ‘the Jungle’ then it will be the end of this amazing green space along the river.

A very concerned resident of the Tianmu west road received me in his house and showed me ‘the Jungle’. In order to have the best view, we went on the roof of his building and from here I saw: a ground covered by trees with the river running in the middle and the Yanming Mountain in the back , what an amazing landscape! I also could hear birds and the sound of the river. For one second I forgot that I was in a city that has more than 2 million inhabitants. On these grounds, you will also find three rare traditional houses. The famous movie director Li Han Xiang, who directed more than 80 movies and won the best director award at the Golden Horse Awards in 1965, lived in one for 8 years. Less than 6 months ago, an old man who was still living in one of those three houses was asked to leave to allow the grounds to be cleaned. Since that day nobody knows where he now lives.

Tianmu8The lose of this rare green area will be a pity for all and because they are the most directly concerned by the situation, residents of Huangxi river area decided to gather and fight. They started a petition against the real estate project that has already been signed by 2,500 residents, or 95% of all Tianmu west road residents.

But it seems that the fight is unfair: residents on one side against banks and powerful companies on the other. The project that the Shilin Kaifa ( branch of the Shilin Dianxi Company) wants to build is a $2 billion NTD project, financially large enough to sweep environmental considerations aside. A first project was rejected by the competent authorities because of environmental consideration but another project that ensures the conservation on site of the protected trees was approved and the construction should start very soon. What does the approved project means by “preserve trees on site”? It does not mean that trees cannot be moved, it just means that you can uproot a tree and plant it again at a different place inside the ground. But according to research most of the trees die 2 or 3 years after replanting. When applied to century old trees, this process is even more delicate.

In April 2009, the building company destroyed 5 protected trees without authorization before a neighbour stopped them from destroying more trees. How much does the destruction of a protected tree cost? The price of the fine is only $70,000NTD per tree. Definitely not heavy enough to dissuade real estate companies. Having to pay $70,000NTD per tree is nothing compared to the potential gains of a $2 billion NTD project.

There remains time to get in on the act and defend the green around the Huangxi River. These kinds of ground are getting more and more rare inside cities and should be protected. Are we really to let this real estate project ruin the heritage of this old woman, a heritage that is enjoyed by the residents of Taipei? Banks and big companies surely have a huge influence but it is time to gather and show them that for some people preserving nature and a certain way of life is priceless.

 

More information can be found at: http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/oldtree-911/archive?l=a

Or contact Anne ZHOU: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Photos provided by Marie Delaplanche and the Old Trees association

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