1993 / 2月
Cheng Yuan-ching /photos courtesy of Cheng Yuan-ching /tr. by Phil Newell
For economic, educational, medical, and other reasons, most people want to move to the city. But for the Rukai aborigines of Haucha Village, some prefer to go against the stream, and want to go back to the hamlet life in the mountains, with its inconvenient communications and material shortages. Why?
The Machia Aboriginal Culture Park in Pingtung County is a famous tourism and recreational spot, and is a good place to understand something about the culture of Taiwan's nine aboriginal peoples. Going forward along the park road, about a half hour after passing through a Type A Restricted Mountain Area checkpoint, you can arrive at the "New" Haucha Village, located on the banks of the Nanyiliao River.
The original reason for New Haucha Village is because Old Haucha was situated in a remote area. Travel outside the village was difficult, leading to too great a gap between the villagers and residents of low-lying areas in terms of access to medical care, education, and economic opportunity. In order to improve their lives, the villagers of Old Haucha passed a plan in the village assembly in 1974 to relocate. In 1978 they received formal permission to move to the downstream portion of the Nanyiliao River at the current location of New Haucha Village, eleven kilometers from Shuimen. The village relocation was completed in 1979.
Not long thereafter, because the Machia Reservoir was going to be built, and New Haucha was within the water accumulation area, it would have been inundated. It just happened that somewhat over a year ago, Old Haucha was listed as a Class II Historic Site, so that the villagers now didn't know where to turn. This inspired the concept of returning to Old Haucha.
Chiu Chin-shih, a Rukai person who has been actively promoting a return to Old Haucha, recalls that before the road between New Haucha and Shuimen had been opened, it took six hours to make the hike up the mountain trail, and about half that coming downhill. The biggest problem was the time spent on the trail for ill people. Often medical treatment would be put off or missed for this reason, so that illnesses worsened or even became incurable.
After moving, this definitely resolved the problem of medical care. But at the same time that they gained access to the outside society, as with many mountain villagers, even more problems were created.
In terms of population outmigration, according to the statistics of Ko Chi-li, director of the Haucha police station, there are 118 households in Haucha, with 430 registered residents. But because the villagers have left in large numbers to pursue work or study opportunities outside, on an average day there are less than 100 people in the hamlet, with most of those being small children or elderly. Last year, the Haucha Primary School was closed because there were so few students. Those who have left for work or study only come back at Harvest Festival or over extended holidays.
But because those who have left find themselves in a strange environment and often adapt poorly, this creates even greater pressures.
Forty-nine-year-old Chiu Chin-shih, who has spent half his life on the plain studying, living, and working, uses his own experience as an example: If an aborigine is competing with someone else for a job, unless one is extremely outstanding and the only one qualified, if it's a situation where only one guy is going to get hired, they won't take the aborigine.
Some people wonder if it's just that Chiu can't cut it in the city and wants to run away back to the mountains, which is why he is loudly urging a return to Old Haucha. That's not in fact the way it is. Chiu studied in denominational schools right through graduation from university. Having studied business administration, before his resignation he was the head of the accounting department. He also had a three-story storefront on Shuimen Street, the main road heading off toward Santimen. These were the fruits of many years of efforts in the plains, and his life was really quite good.
After resigning, Chiu stayed at home to concentrate on writing. He wants to express his feelings and ideas about his life experience and work in the city over these many years through words. Moreover, he went all over to visit tribal elders, recording relevant stories, and made up a genealogy for every family in Old Haucha.
Chiu's decision to return to the village naturally drew opposition from his family, so why did he choose to stick to this difficult path?
At the practical level, the location is certainly not one for long term residence, says Chiu. Because the Machia Reservoir is going to be built sooner or later, the existing Haucha Village will inevitably be submerged. This creates a pervasive sense of panic that often sweeps through the psyches of the residents.
Based on the experiences of Lukai elders, when a betel nut tree by the side of the river grows to be about the same width as a waistline, the time of flooding is approaching. Those who know this legend look at the topography of New Haucha Village and look at the affair of the construction of the Machia Reservoir as a reflection of this. It seems that the legend of inundation fits right in.
For the above reasons, Chiu feels that psychological reaction is not as good as physical action, and he began lobbying the villagers. When he raised the idea of going back to Old Haucha, most of the older people responded positively, but the younger generation remained a bit skeptical. Some even considered the idea absurd and impracticable--how could we go back to our former existence? This is because the original motives for moving had not disappeared, and former problems still existed.
Faced with problems of transport, medicine, education, and so on that prompted the relocation in the first place, although Chiu has a few ideas, he has by no means won acceptance from the majority. But he plans to let his actions provide proof for his convictions. At the end of October of last year, Chiu invited five Haucha elders, including Lu Chao-feng and Chiang Teh-yang, up the mountain to rebuild a stone-walled Old Haucha home. After five days of effort, using local materials, they first restored to original condition the home of sculptor Li-ta-ku, himself a national treasure, and also repaired four other residences.
These stone houses have been standing in Old Haucha for these many years, watching the lives of the Haucha villagers as they passed from birth to adulthood to sickness to death. Today most of them have already collapsed, but it is incontestable that they have had glorious histories.
Looking forward as one stands in front of a stone home in Haucha, North Tawu Mountain rises impressively, while Wu-tou Mountain is to the east; you can see far off in the distance the Nanyiliao River and the Fawan village of the Paiwan aborigines.
The fabled founder of Haucha Village, Puranuyan, was an exceptional hunter. About six hundred years ago he traveled with a clouded leopard from Taitung upstream and across the mountains to the belt between Wutou Mountain and North Tawu Mountain to go hunting. The leopard wouldn't leave an area along a small lake just below a waterfall about 200 meters from the site of what became Old Haucha. It was only then that Puranuyan discovered what an excellent location it was for habitation. Later he returned to Taitung and brought his friends and relatives back to settle, and they prospered into a tribal village.
Based on this legend, the people of Haucha have always seen the clouded leopard as a sacred animal that cannot be hunted. As for the lake behind the village, because it is connected to the village's drinking water, the residents adhere to the principle of maintaining its purity. The small waterfall which originates from Chingpu Mountain has thus become a natural endowment much envied by other tribes.
The road from Haucha to Old Haucha is about five kilometers, winding along as it follows the mountainous terrain. The front and last sections are relatively flat, but the differences in altitude are more severe in the middle section, so hiking it is difficult. There are three rest stops along the way, with the last on an overhanging cliff, at the side of which is a red elm with an orderly rank of multi-layered stones to sit on underneath.
In former days, the red elm area was the gateway to Haucha, and was a strategically important area much fought over between the Rukai people of Haucha and the neighboring Paiwan aborigines. Standing amidst the red elms, one can take in at a glance the entire situation below the mountain any movements of the enemy. The nature of the terrain is easily defensible. It is said that in ancient times the heads of Paiwan from Fawan and Maer Villages that had been hunted down would invariably be hung from that tree as a warning to the enemy not to start any trouble.
Further, the red elm forest plays an important part in Haucha culture. It is like a "pavilion" in old China. When villagers wanted to go down the mountain to work, study, or do their military service, or to stay away for a long period of time, friends and family would accompany them to and send them off at this point. Also, welcoming of brides who had married into the village or greeting of honored visitors would also take place here. In other words, the red elm know the history of Old Haucha better than anyone.
When Old Haucha was at its peak, it was a strong village which wasn't much interfered with by either the Ching dynasty or the Japanese occupiers. After its population rose, and it came into contact with modern civilization, the population began to steadily outmigrate. More than 80 households pulled out between 1961 and 1969.
After the relocation of the village in 1979, the structures on the mountain deteriorated for want of anyone to care for them, and now no one at all remains in Old Haucha.
For the Rukai aborigines who have lost Old Haucha, this has been like losing themselves at thesame time, which is cause for much regret. Thus after Chiu Chin-shih proposed moving back to the old homestead, he got sympathy and support from many people who are enthusiastic about preserving aboriginal culture.
Among these was Wang You-pang, a photographer who works in Rukai culture. He has already spent more than a year photographing all the stone homes and every tree and blade of grass in Old Haucha. Last August, during the Harvest Festival celebrations in Haucha, he presented a visual exhibit of the condition of Old Haucha, accompanied by textual explanation, in hopes of inspiring identification with this place among the villagers.
Hung Kuo-sheng, director of the Aboriginal Culture Association, often takes friends and those interested in the culture of Taiwan's original inhabitants to Old Haucha to look around. He hopes to broaden the interests of the general public in diversified culture through the sensations experienced on the spot.
The periodical Aboriginal Report, whose main appeal is for the survival of aboriginal culture, devotes even more regular encouragement to this movement. And the magazine's publisher, Chao Kui-chung, himself comes from Old Haucha, and was one of the last students to graduate from Haucha Primary school, he is naturally very supportive of this idea. Moreover, last year he held "Rukai Camp" in Old Haucha. In the three days of activities, many young Rukai developed a deeper understanding of the culture that was their own.
In order to raise funding for restoration and repairs. Chiu and Chao printed up "Rebuild Old Haucha" T-shirts and sold them, hoping to repair a few old stone houses before the government formally approves funding.
In contrast to the passion of these people, the attitude of Haucha residents is rather reserved. Actually there's nothing strange about it. Those beating the drum most loudly are outsiders, who, unlike the villagers, don't have to worry about how to make a go of it after returning to Old Haucha.
This is the question that Chiu had no way to deal with in lobbying the villagers--you can't ask the villagers to live off the northwest wind! Still less would they want to return to their pre-modern lifestyles.
Chiu states that after more than a decade of living in touch with the world of the plains, the villagers have learned much about modern civilization. This could be of great help in life after returning to the mountains in the future. You don't have to live a primitive existence just because it's the mountains. Instead people should take the experience they have acquired over the past decade plus, integrate it with the traditions of their ancestors, and thus live even better than they do now.
But how would the villagers get income? Hunting is already impracticable. Chiu suggests that perhaps valuable cash crops could be planted on the mountain slopes. For example, as a Japanese agricultural specialist has noted, the soil is suitable for planting coffee beans, and perhaps harvests could resolve economic difficulties.
He has also thought that if the villagers could make and sell handicrafts, this would be another way to increase incomes.
Associate professor Kao Yeh-jung of National Pingtung Teachers College, who has researched Old Haucha culture for 25 years, has a more cautious attitude toward this point. He states that from the point of view of the arts, the handicrafts and art work of the local aborigines is not all that outstanding, and, even though selling well, are more a symbol of sympathy for the weak and poor. If you compare them with the art work of the people of Africa, Bali, Latin America, or other places, they are still quite a ways behind.
This generation of sculptors is not up to the standards of the last, and in this period of cultural transformation there is already a situation of techniques not being successfully passed along. But carvers now emerging don't necessarily comprehend this. They have no real capacity to judge the merit of their own work, and think that they just have to chip out a centipede and people will buy it. If people lose their sense of sympathy, the results would be disastrous.
If you want handicrafts to be a way out, the best way would be to turn to handicrafts which are of use in modern daily living, such as carved wall trimming or ash trays. In terms of weaving, the rough cloth of the Rukai people could be improved and decorated to become tablecloths or tapestries.
As for the problem of transportation, today an industrial use road has been built, and in the future the government will set aside funds to repair it. After this road is completed, this will resolve half the problem of getting back and forth to Old Haucha. Some people think the road should not go directly to Old Haucha, and that the best thing would be for it to stop at a certain place so that people would have to walk a ways to get to their destination; this would avoid too much outside pollution.
After being listed as a Class II Historic Site, there is now a formal basis for the preservation of Old Haucha.
Right now the most important task is to restore and preserve the stone houses. From the sketch of the layout of Old Haucha residences made by Professor Kao in 1967, because the construction followed the mountain slope, the effect of the whole village was quite impressive. Moreover, the arrangement of the village made it hard for any stanger to figure out the paths and houses in a short period of time. This defensive cluster made it more difficult for enemies to enter. This is one of the unique characteristics of the village.
The houses, completed by piling up flat stones, are only a meter tall. The doors and windows open in the direction of the rising sun, and another special feature is that they are warm in winter and cool in summer.
Besides the five houses that Chiu Chin-shih paid out of his own pocket to restore, the first stage of restoration work has been determined to be the houses in the neighborhood of the home of second chief An-mu-lan in the north part of the settlement. These include restoration of stone houses, clearing of the trails on all sides, and the repair and recreation of the original wood and stone carving.
Right now the biggest problem seems to be that village mayor Ku Tseng-hsiu is still raising a flock of sheep here. Unfortunately, the sheep are apparently not aware that they are trampling across the stone houses of a Class II Historic Site, so that the uninhabited buildings are suffering even more severe destruction.
These plans for restoration are the responsibility of the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning at National Taiwan University. Kao Yeh-jung has suggested that the problem of feasibility of implementation should be weighed in the planning stage, and the local character should be an even more important consideration, in order for there to be a hope of success.
In Chiu's scheme, in order to make life easier, improved stone houses should be given to the villagers to attract more of them back to take up residence. As for the expense, the government could appropriate funds.
The courage and ideal to return to the old habitat is a good first step, and can give them a stronger sense of belonging. In particular, many young urban aborigines who work in the city and often meet disappointments or cannot adapt well should support this idea. More important is how to realize this sense of belonging in concrete action and considerations of future life. If this first step is made, but there is no concrete action, this could create great harm, because this is, in the final analysis, the first idea and action undertaken by the aborigines.
It is perhaps not difficult to return to Old Haucha, for the challenge is not really in roughness of the road,Instead, it lies in how to keep on living after returning, and how to stay a part of society. If some related measures and infrastructure can continue to move forward, perhaps this idea--which most people see as going back to square one--will have its day of realization.
The road back to Old Haucha is rough.
A bird's eye view of Haucha: Part of the area in the middle is the location where traditional stone houses will be reconstructed.
New Haucha is located along a river, and will be inundated when the Ma-chia Reservoir is buit.
Population outmigration from New Haucha is serious; most of the people left are small children or the elderly.
The red elm area was strategically important because it is easily defensible; it is also the gateway to Old Haucha.
The sheep and goats raised by village mayor Ku Tseng-hsiu are having an adverse effect on the stone houses.
Most of the old houses in Old Haucha, now listed as a Class II Historic Site, are in ruins and are in desperate need of repair.
Chiu Chin-shih is devoted to the idea of returning to Old Haucha Village.
Work of Li-ta-ku, Haucha's last sculptor, can still be found in his former residence in Old Haucha.
The water originating in Ching-pu Mountain is clear and sweet, the greatest natural gift Haucha enjoys.
Villagers who have left to find work or pursue their studies only come back over extended holidays or at Harvest Festival.
Wang You-pang has long been photographing scenes of Haucha. He presented an exhibit at last year's Harvest Festival, attracting the interest of village elders.