Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Residents say little done to preserve Yingge’s kilns

By Chang An-chiao and Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Immediate preservation efforts are needed to protect historical kilns in New Taipei City’s Yingge District (鶯歌), but none of the kilns are listed as cultural heritage, despite numerous requests.

The capital of the nation’s ceramics industry, Yingge used to have more than 300 kilns during its heyday, but only a handful of these kilns remain as business declined, Yingge residents said.

While they atttest to the legacy of traditional kiln technology, the government is not acting to preserve the kilns, the residents said.

Only five antique kilns built more than six decades ago remain: the Honglu Kiln, the Palepu Snake Kiln, the Hohsing Square Kiln, the Renhe Kiln and the Chongcing Street Tunnel Kiln, they said.

With the exception of the Honglu Kiln, little remains of those kilns — only worn-out chimneys standing above firing chambers that have disappeared altogether — the locals said.

The Palepu Snake Kiln is the most damaged structure: A chimney stump covered with vines that stands forgotten at the rear of a private property is all that remains of a prosperous past, they said.

Even the largest and the most complete structure of all, the Honglu Kiln, is in danger of collapsing, as its walls are cracked and the chimney is perforated by tree roots. The property has lain idle for years due to property rights disputes, a local resident said.

The New Taipei City Cultural Affairs Department conducted an investigation of the historical kilns in the district, and placed the Honglu Kiln and the Hohsing Square Kiln on its observation list, saying that it would try to encourage property owners to preserve the kilns by offering building capacity transfers or other incentives.

However, no meaningful progress has been made yet, residents said.

Property owners have different ideas about traditional kilns, with proprietors demolishing an 80-year-old kiln and a square kiln despite discussions about their historical value, they said.

Lai Chen Hsi-mei (賴陳喜美), an owner of the complex where the Honglu Kiln is housed, said that seven or eight members of the family are willing to preserve the kiln.

She said the department had offered to renovate and conserve the property, but has not yet honored its promise.

“The damage is getting worse. It will soon be too late to preserve [the property],” she said.

Takekan Creek Environmental Association director Yang Kuo-jung (楊國榮) said the kilns take up very little space, so property owners have little incentive to sell the lots housing the kilns in return for very little profit.

The Honglu Kiln complex is bigger, measuring 200 ping (661m2), but it might not interest developers because its riverside location is not suitable for property development, Yang said.

The government should just purchase the property and transform it into a cultural park to boost local tourism, he said.

Department division head Tseng Chi-tien (曾繼田) said that it is up to the owners to maintain the kilns and handle the properties, a right that the government must respect.

The city government has placed some kilns on its observation list and commissioned China University of Technology to formulate a preservation and revitalization plan, he said.

He said that the Honglu Kiln is undoubtedly the one most worthy of protection in the area, but the department has met with great difficulty in preserving the kiln.

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