A movable car isn’t news, and neither is a movable house in Taijiang. Tales of folk wisdom and unique solutions devised by the residents of Taijiang will be showcased by the “Kng tshu tsau khe lau (Carrying the House over the River): Taijiang Customs and Nature” special exhibition at the National Museum of Taiwan History.
Annan District in Tainan City, where the museum is based at, was once a corner of the Taijiang Inner Sea. “Water” was always a matter of survival for Taijiang residents and their lives revolved around developing coastal fishery, cultivating saline land agriculture, and even “carrying houses over the river (扛厝走溪流)” in times of flood. One product of their distinct water-centric lives is the sacrificial ceremony of “pai khe kinn (拜溪墘),” or “worshipping the riverside rite.”
Taijiang Inner Sea was a lagoon separated from the ocean by a series of sandbars and barrier islands in southwestern Taiwan during the 17th century. It was one of the locations where foreign traders and explorers first landed and made contact with Taiwan, and Dutch colonists kept extensive records on the now-extant sea. By Qing dynasty, the region was silted by the over-flooding Zengwen River; it was used for fish farming until 1980, when parts of it were filled in to make way for urban development.
The long history of Taijiang Inner Sea will be on full display at the exhibition, where vintage maps portray the submergence and re-emergence of land and the ever-coiling Zengwen River, which is known colloquially as “the blind snake (青瞑蛇).” The river has changed courses over the years, giving rise to the practice of relocating houses and even communities when embankments break.
The display will include Taiwanese literature referencing the mighty river, oral records of Sinanliao Village (溪南寮) elders as they recall carrying thatched bamboo houses over water, as well as artifacts from the Oyster Shell Port Settlement (蚵殼港庄), which remain submerged at the bottom of the river since the great floods of 1910s and excavated in 2004.
Cultural relics include the lion heads used in the golden lion array of Hsinchichuang Village (新吉庄) and the props used in the centipede array of Kungwentsai Village (公塭仔) and Sipuliao Village (溪埔寮). These costumes illustrate how relocated communities continued to interact through parade formations and festivals while upholding common cultural and spiritual beliefs.
The exhibition will also display actual objects inherited from generation to generation, including photographs, family trees, personal resumes, and household registration papers to illustrate how families branched out after each post-flood relocation. Farming and fishery equipment devised to perform in the saline environment of Taijiang will also exemplify the unique lifestyle of Tainan’s ancestors.
Senior craftsman Lee Yang (李養) will also be on site to explain how Taijiang residents crafted their portable housing with bamboo rods and silver-grass thatching.
‘Kng tshu tsau khe lau: Taijiang Customs and Nature’
- Date: May 2 – Oct. 15, 2017
- Venue: National Museum of Taiwan History
- Address: No. 250 Changhe Rd. Section 1, Annan District, Tainan City, Taiwan (ROC)
- Site: www.nmth.gov.tw