Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Highways and Byways: Pioneer heritage in Pingtung’s ‘fifth ditch’

The Hakka village of Wugoushuei boasts impressive specimens of traditional architecture

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

The Hakka settlers’ seizure of land and water resources inevitably led to conflict with the area’s indigenous people, and some of this history is preserved at Zhongyong Shrine (忠勇祠) on the southern edge of the village at 3 Sisheng Road.

It’s considered a shrine of the Hakka yimin (義民) folk religion, but rather than commemorate those who died protecting the community during the great uprisings of the 19th century, it was established to honor three settlers originally from China’s Guangdong Province who in 1833 were killed by indigenous people.

After that ambush, Wugoushuei’s Hakka pioneers realized that an early-warning system was needed. Some suggested that gongs be distributed to several households, but at that time, all available metal was needed for tools to work the land.

An innovative solution was eventually found. Bamboo baskets containing gunpowder were hung from trees near the frontline. When settlers came under attack, they’d ignite the nearest basket. Hearing an explosion, those nearby would rush to assist.

This practice evolved into a local custom called “detonation culture” (殲炮城文化). For generations, around the time of the Lantern Festival — the 15th day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar — a basket has been detonated to blast away misfortune. This tradition, known in Hakka as jiam pau sang, was registered in 2015 with the Ministry of Culture as a form of intangible cultural heritage.

LOCAL DELICACIES

Wugoushuei lies within Wanluan Township (萬巒鄉), which is famous for pig’s trotter. Local recipes result in meat which is sticky, yet deliciously succulent. Because of its heaviness, rather than eat it with white rice, you may want to order some stir-fried vegetables.

If you’re driving or riding from central Wanluan toward Wugoushuei, you’ll pass right through Minhe Road (民和路), which has the main concentration of eateries specializing in pig’s trotter. If you can’t find it, ask a local for directions to Pig’s Trotter Street (豬腳街).

Steven Crook has been writing about travel, culture, and business in Taiwan since 1996. Having recently co-authored A Culinary History of Taipei: Beyond Pork and Ponlai, he is now updating Taiwan: The Bradt Travel Guide.

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