Nanliao Village (南寮) on the sparsely populated outlying island of Penghu might not look very different from any other rural Taiwanese community at first, but take a closer look and the fishing-turned-farming community is full of surprises.
A distinctive feature of Nanliao is that coral is used as a building material, which can be seen in the caijhai (菜宅, vegetable houses) — windbreaks set up to protect vegetable plots from the northeast monsoon winds which blow from September to April, and on the facades of older houses
Due to its arid weather — the village has an annual precipitation of only about 1m — and the sandy composition of its soil, farmers in Nanliao mostly grow peanuts and sweet potatoes, which do not need much warer, said Nanliao Village Warden Chao Chia-hsieh (趙嘉協), who has been promoting organic farming in the community for many years.
Photo: Sean Lin, Taipei Times
Describing Nanliao as an eco-friendly community with an emphasis on recycling, he said that residents have found applications for many things that are usually regarded as worthless, including coral, cow manure, discarded plastic fishing floats and even the small evergreen tree white popinac — which is not native to Taiwan.
Chao said that “cow manure cakes,” made from cow manure mixed with crushed peanut shells to increase flammability, are used as fuel for cooking fish in a “fish stove,” a lidded, well-like structure where fish, usually sardines, are cooked before being dried in the sun and sold.
Small dried fish are a popular snack, especially for people living on Taiwan proper, he said.
Photo: Sean Lin, Taipei Times
Making cow manure cakes is a decades-old tradition passed down from a time when the community was destitute and had trouble finding firewood during winter.
He said that residents used the white popinac cut down by the Penghu County Government and boiled its bark to extract an orange dye used to color the veils worn by women when they work in the fields.
As to the uses of the spherical fishing floats used by coastal fish farms to secure fish nets, he said that the most famous example is a piece of installation art created by local man Chao Chang-shou (趙長壽), 82.
The piece features more than 100 fishing floats of various colors suspended from a wooden frame.
The floats are also a favorite at a community workshop where tourists can experience life in Nanliao, he said.
Floats are cut open, decorated and turned into artworks, he said.
He said that his vision for the village is the pursuit of steady development without the sacrifice of cultural heritage.
Chao, who grows fruit and vegetables on his organic farm, said his dream is to start a farmers’ market in the village.
Wang Chen-ju (王貞儒), a community planner and teacher at the workshop, said that her aim is to restore the village to its original state by rediscovering its uniqueness.
Wang said she stumbled upon the idea of restoring the village after an old well paved with coral stones was reconstructed with gravel, which upset many residents, who said that they would like the well to be fashioned in the traditional way.
“People want to relive the good old days. Even though we did not have much, we were happy,” she said. “It prompted me to start tracing the ‘lights’ and ‘shadows’ of this community. I started looking for the things characteristic of this area and the parts that need improving.”
She said that the residents’ hard work to promote the village’s culture finally came into fruition when the county government granted funds to the workshop to reinforce and redecorate some dilapidated buildings, which prompted many young people studying or working on Taiwan proper to bring their friends to visit over the most recent Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.
She said that her experience with Nanliao’s community revival can be summed up as “allowing residents to do the things they love without forcing them to accept unfamiliar ideas.”
The burgeoning business from reviving the community has prompted young people working or studying on Taiwan proper to return to the village to help with farming and promote local culture, Wang added.
Days after it was banned in China, a Mandarin ballad satirizing nationalistic Chinese Internet users is trending at No. 1 on YouTube in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Fragile (玻璃心), by Taiwan-based Malaysian rapper Namewee (黃明志) and Australian singer Kimberley Chen (陳芳語), offers a tongue-in-cheek apology to “little pink” Internet users, a disparaging term that describes patriotic “keyboard warriors” from China. After racking up more than 9 million views on YouTube, the song reached No. 3 on the site in Malaysia on Thursday, according to Kworb, a Web site that analyzes music data from around the world. It is also the only Chinese-language
NO CHANGE: US officials indicated that the ‘one China’ policy remains in place, while the NATO chief avoided discussing Biden’s comment in an effort to ease tensions US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Friday that the Pentagon would continue to support Taiwan’s military, but he declined to say if US troops would defend the island against China, after US President Joe Biden said there was a US “commitment” to do so. “As we’ve done over multiple administrations, we will continue to help Taiwan with the sorts of capabilities that it needs to defend itself,” Austin said at NATO headquarters. “So we’ll stay focused on those things, and I won’t engage in any hypotheticals with respect to Taiwan,” he told reporters. Biden on Thursday sparked a new firestorm
PROTECTION: The Ministry of Health and Welfare is aiming for a full vaccination rate of 30 percent, and allowing mixed first and second doses to boost coverage rates Whether Taiwan reopens its borders would depend on the nation’s vaccination coverage rate and the COVID-19 situation in other countries, Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said yesterday. The Ministry of Health and Welfare is aiming for a 70 percent first-dose vaccination coverage and 30 percent two-dose coverage as part of its consideration, Shih told a media briefing following the weekly Cabinet meeting. In spite of a relatively stable COVID-19 situation in Taiwan, and calls from foreign missions and businesses in the country to allow more international travelers, the government is maintaining strict border control measures. Since March last year,
SCENIC TRAIN TOURS: TRA Director-General Du Wei said experts on aesthetics and railway culture have worked for 10 months to restore the blue locomotive Breezy Blue, the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) tourism train, is to be launched on the South Link Line on Saturday. The railway operator spent about 10 months restoring the blue diesel-powered train, which first provided service to students and commuters before being outsourced to Lion Travel, which organizes railway tour packages. TRA Director-General Du Wei (杜微) told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Pingtung County’s Fangliao Township (枋寮) that the agency hopes that the restored Breezy Blue would provide an authentic experience to railway fans as well as those with fond memories of riding the blue trains to work or