A former publisher has returned to his Aboriginal community in a mountain village in southern Taiwan to open a not-for-profit bookstore for the benefit of students, researchers and local residents.
Lin Ming-te (林明德), 55, has been doing research into the culture and history of the nation’s Aborigines, along with Aboriginal rights activism works, for the past three decades.
Lin used to be the publisher of three Aboriginal weekly news journals, including the Aboriginal Post (原報) and Austronesian News (南島時報). However, due to financial and organizational problems, these news journals had limited runs and eventually folded.
Lin’s father is Paiwan and his mother is Amis. He formerly worked as a departmental secretary in the Pingtung County Government.
Lin’s Fan Yi Art Books House (蕃藝書屋) opened on Sunday in Pingtung’s Majia Township (瑪家), Sanhe Village (三和).
Lin said he had amassed a vast private collection of historic documents and books, mostly on Aboriginal topics, through his three decades of research and newsmagazine publishing.
“There are valuable materials in my collection. University students used them [as reference] for writing academic reports. I thought my collection should be made available so more people can access them. So although my friends were doubtful, I decided to go ahead and open this bookstore,” he said,
The store houses more than 50,000 books, half of which are on Aboriginal topics. Although he sells books, Lin said he allows students to take out books on loan for free, just like a library.
Lin said he did not open the store “to make money.”
“The bookstore was set up as a platform, to create an environment to promote a love of reading in the village. This way we can restore the traditional values of sharing and mutual support,” Lin said.
He pointed out the bookstore’s name, “Fan Yi” (蕃藝), meaning Aboriginal arts, which is also a homonym for fanyi (翻譯), meaning translation.
“By taking this name, I meant to tell people that comprehension is the key to reading and translating it into personal knowledge and wisdom,” he said.