蘭花將軍在「異域」

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1989 / 3月

文‧蕭容慧 圖‧王煒昶


他出身軍旅,爾後從事情報工作,這輩子從來沒想過會變成一位「養花人」。

在泰國,這位來自中國的蘭花將軍所賣的花數量可不少,居排行榜前三名絕沒問題。

怎麼發跡的?這故事可要慢慢說咧……。


華人大批移入泰國,應是近百年的事。

根據研究,在十七世紀歐洲所出版介紹泰國的書籍中,就觀察到已有幾千名華人的工匠和貿易商在當地活動。十七世紀末,有三千名華人居住在當時的首都。

一九二二年,由於中國南方發生飢荒,移民泰國的人數開始增多,大致說來,第一代華人人口增加以一九○○至一九三二年為巔峰。

比起東南亞地區其他國家,由於泰國華僑較能與當地社會融合,不少人也歸化泰籍,因此現今確切的華人數目不太可考。根據美國人口調查局和外交部的統計,華人人口在泰國佔百分之十四,約七百萬人。

泰國華人若以方言來區別,潮州、客屬、廣東、海南、福建可說是主要的五類,此外還有少部分江浙、台灣籍的華人。但一般認為,泰國華人社會可說是潮州人的「勢力範圍」。

如果從職業來看,可以發現有一半以上的華人從事商業和金融業,其次是技術勞工和非技術勞工。在曼谷繁華的商業大道上,銀行林立,觀光客隨手一指,它的主人很可能就是華人。

老鼠的兒子會打洞?

有趣的是,華人之中因方言互異,也有不同的職業圈。如碾米由潮州人包辦,鋸木業多半是海南華人,酒樓經營屬客籍華人最在行,典當業則是潮陽縣籍華人的天下,粵籍華人獨佔機器製造……。

英國學者Guy Hunter曾針對這種現象解釋:多數華人都是跟著鄉親到僑居地謀生,由於初來乍到,無一技之長,只好跟著鄉親打雜,邊做邊學。等到可以自立時,當然會從事他熟悉的行業,時日一久,就會變成某地人專門從事某種行業了。

但是,在為數頗多的泰國華人中出現一位「無黨無派」的「蘭花將軍」——甫景雲,他的故事和別人的不太一樣。

民國卅八年,在軍中當軍長的甫景雲打共產黨打到雲南,後來跑到緬甸成立游擊隊。政府來台後,他被情報局留下來辦理撤退事宜。次年,他來到泰國。

人生且地不熟,甫景雲無法靠他的本職來謀生,只好放下軍刀拿起鋤頭,種起橘子來了。孰知橘子不好伺候,必須等八年才能收成。「我不能吃它,它反而要吃我,只好砍掉了」,甫景雲邊比劃邊說,那時聽說種花八個月就可以賣,加上他從小喜歡種花,於是很快下了決定。

離鄉背井學種蘭

剛起家,技術是一大問題。在同行留一手的情況,甫景雲只好摸索,那時學不到組織培養,只好利用分枝來增加產量。他還又「派」懂泰語的太太到農業大學學種花。後來連在台灣念大學的小孩,也到懂蘭藝的友人家學組織培養。

甫家從六百棵蘭花開始養起,澆水、施肥及佈藥,一切自己來。

種花才三個月,甫景雲的體重從一百一十公斤降至八十公斤。外人看來,鐵是辛苦差事,才會如此磨人,「不,我覺得這是讓自己高興的運動」,他說,喜歡種花的人,天天澆水、施肥,一天跑一百趟也不覺得累。對自己的「減肥成功」,他倒是挺得意的。

小店越開越大,甫景雲夫婦忙不過來,才開始請人手。另方面也在當地和台灣購買有關的器材。然而,最重要的,還是研究如何種好蘭花。

蘭花對濕度十分敏感,水太多太少都會影響花的生長。甫景雲平常一天澆一次水,到了二、三月就增至二、三次,把花兒伺候得舒舒服服的。

他把這些外人看來不值錢的法則付諸於不停的實驗,「泰國以前的農業大學校長是現任世界蘭花公會會長,他學問也許比我好,但種起花來我可能不輸他!」甫景雲自豪地說。

蘭花媒人不含糊

第二年,甫家花園蘭花從六百棵增至三千棵,第三年就有一萬五千棵。

甫家主人對配花也興致勃勃。對他來說,配花能享受到「發明」的樂趣。

「泰國氣候好,整年都適合種蘭花,有時我東配西配,糊婼k塗就配出來了」,他笑道。

配花到出花,前後約需五年的時間。首先要買花來配,這時就應知道花的血統為何。出花之後,如果這花符合形好、色好、耐久和花多(以出花多寡來論)幾個條件,就算是佳作。

有次甫景雲曾配出藍色的蘭花,當時在泰國還是第一回。有顧客聞風上門,堅持非買不可,後來居然出高價以六十萬泰幣購得,甫景雲心中暗驚:「這花本來只打算賣一、兩萬元而已。」

配花配出心得後,甫家夫婦樂此不疲,陸續有「新作品」問世,像「蒙十六」、「蒙十七」、「蒙十七變」……,色彩更純更鮮豔,都是他們的代表作。而在曼谷的新品種中,約有一半來自甫家。

近悅遠來

對有價值的花而言,組織培養可以擴大買賣的市場。它可以「拷貝」很多棵,色彩、特徵不變。

甫家花園設有二間實驗室,內有十名人手從事組織培養的工作,精密的儀器整天不間斷地運作。這座外表看起來只像普通民房的實驗室,每年吸引泰國、菲律賓、台灣、美國、歐洲等蘭藝界的人士來訪。久而久之,這「甫將軍」的名號就叫開了。

泰國的花商有四、五千家,規模較大的約有十家。甫景雲的花圃佔地十甲,規模在第二、第三位。

每年生產三百萬棵蘭花,約有二、三百個品種,銷量最大的是秋石斛,歐洲、日本、美國、台灣是主要市場。

一般的行情是,一枝蘭花可賣八到十元泰幣,而身價較高、花朵較小而細緻的跳舞蘭則要賣到十五元一枝。

看來,蘭花將軍真是「發」了。

而這位年屆七旬的老先生卻是照樣賣力地工作,淡泊地度日。有空時練練毛筆字,和來自各地的蘭友交換意見,至今仍不會說泰語的甫景雲,靠著太座的翻譯,和當地花商交易、交朋友。

有朋自遠方來,甫家夫婦會精選一大把不同品種的蘭花,獻上馨香。還會「附贈」插花要訣一則,讓花朵在水瓶中較能耐久。

插花有妙方

如何插花,其實也是一門學問。有時一枝蘭花在瓶中可耐一個月之久。甫景雲透露:很簡單,每天把根剪一點下來。因為根泡在水中,泡久會爛掉,水分不能上升,花會凋萎,瓶中的水二、三天要換一次,否則久了會發臭。

此外,在水中加點鹽、糖、醋,或一點阿斯匹靈,都能讓花「延年益壽」。若詳究其因,甫景雲則搖頭笑道:「我也不知道為什麼。」這個沒有根據的「土方」,是他的經驗談,據說頗有效的。

甫景雲強調,種花並不辛苦,「只要守著看它開花,就覺得非常痛快」,他說,人家要,就賣;不賣就留著自己欣賞,沒什麼壓力。

對在異鄉開天闢地的華人而言,甫景雲過的日子實在令人羨慕。但明眼人也能從他清理得井井有條的蘭圃、日夜運作的實驗室中看出,成功並沒有僥倖。

下次若到泰國一遊,別忘了買一束嬌豔的紫色秋石斛,或是俏麗的鵝黃跳舞蘭,說不定它就是蘭花將軍栽種的得意作品。

〔圖片說明〕

P.116

「蘭花將軍」甫景雲夫婦,在蘭圃巡視寶貝蘭花。甫太太為了拍照,還特別換上洋裝。

P.117

出身戎馬的甫景雲,以身為軍人為榮。

P.118

甫家花園所栽培的蘭花,在市場上甚具競爭力。中間那株身價六十萬泰幣。

P.119

實驗室裡的工作人員分植蘭苗出售。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

A Transplanted Orchid General

Sunny Hsiao /photos courtesy of Wei-chang Wang /tr. by Peter Eberly

A military man by background and later an intelligence officer, he never imagined that he would end up growing flowers for a living.

Yet Fu Ching-yun (Pracha Ropbanphot-wilai in Thai), the "orchid general" from China, is easily the third largest orchid raiser in Thailand.

How did he achieve his success? The story takes some telling. . . .


Chinese people immigrated to Thailand on a large scale only during the past hundred years or so, reaching a peak during the first third of this century. Because they have fused rather easily into the local society, the figures are none too exact, but the number of people of Chinese ancestry in Thailand is estimated by the U.S. State Department at around 7 million, or 14 percent of the population.

As to their occupations, more than half are engaged in commerce and finance, with skilled and nonskilled labor next.

Different trades are often monopolized by Chinese from areas with different dialects, interestingly enough. The rice pounding business is generally handled by Chinese from Chaochow, for example; pawnshops by Chinese from Chaoyang; woodcutting by Hainanese; wineshops by Hakkas; and machine making by Cantonese. The reason is that most new immigrants had to depend on friends from home to find a job when they arrived, so they naturally gravitated to the same trade as their fellow provincials.

But among all the numerous overseas Chinese in Thailand, a true "independent"--whose story is completely different from all the rest--is Fu Ching-yun, the Orchid General.

In 1949 Army Commander Fu fought the Communists into southwest China and then slipped into Burma to set up guerrilla forces. After the government's moving to Taiwan, he remained behind working for intelligence to handle the pullout. The next year he came to Thailand.

A stranger in a strange land, Fu had to change careers and decided to set aside the sword for a plowshare, or rather a spade--planting orange trees. But orange trees turned out to be difficult to care for, requiring eight years before they could be harvested.

"I couldn't eat them--instead, they were eating me--so I had to chop them down," Fu says, with a gesture. So when he heard that flowers, which he had liked since a child, could be raised in just eight months, he decided to switch.

Acquiring the necessary skills was a big problem at first. With no one to teach him, Fu had to grope his own way. His wife, who understands Thai, enrolled in an agricultural college to study horticulture, and later one of their children, who was studying at a university on Taiwan, learned more from the family of a friend that raised orchids.

The Fu family started out raising 600 orchids, watering, fertilizing, and spraying them all by themselves.

After he had grown flowers for just three months, Fu's weight dropped from 110 kilos to 80. It must have been tough work, you might think. "No, to me it felt like enjoyable exercise," he says, explaining that someone who really likes to grow flowers won't feel tired even if he has to run about watering and fertilizing a hundred times a day.

When their business became too big to cope with on their own, the Fus began to hire help. They also bought equipment locally and from Taiwan. But the most important element was still technique.

Orchids are extremely sensitive to moisture; too much or too little has an adverse effect on their growth. Fu usually waters his orchids once a day, increasing to two or three times a day in February and March, which is just the kind of care they like.

He observes these seemingly trivial little rules religiously. "The former president of the Thailand Agriculture University is now the head of the World Orchid Growers Association. He may have more academic knowledge than I do, but in growing flowers I might not come out second!" Fu says proudly.

The second year the Fu family's orchids inreased from 600 to 3,000, and the third ear to 15,000.

Fu has also been fascinated by crossing flowers, which gives him the joy of invention. "Thailand has a good climate, suited for growing orchids year-round. You can mix and match them left and right and you may just happen to come up with something," he says with a smile.

New creations come out constantly. About half of the new varieties on the Rangoon market are his.

Fu's orchid gardens include two green-houses tended by ten workers and watched over by round-the-clock precision equipment. Outwardly unprepossessing, the greenhouses have attracted visits from orchid lovers in Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, the U.S., and Europe, and the Orchid General has become a well-known figure in the floral world.

There are 4,000 to 5,000 firms engaged in the floral business in Thailand, around 10 rather large in size. Fu's gardens, which cover 10 hectares, are the second or third largest.

Each year his gardens produce around 3 million orchids in 200 to 300 different varieties. His biggest markets are Europe, Japan, the U.S., and Taiwan. They generally sell for 8 to 10 Thai baht (less than US$0.40) per stem, the more expensive varieties for 15 (less than US$0.60).

Fu Ching-yun, it seems, has really made it.

Now in his seventies, he still lives simply and works as hard as ever. In his spare time he practices Chinese calligraphy and exchanges ideas with orchid lovers from around the world.

The next time you're in Thailand, don't forget to pick up some orchids. They may well be works of the Orchid General.

[Picture Caption]

Fu Ching-yun, the "orchid general," inspects his precious creations. Mrs . Fu dressed specially in Western style for the picture.

Fu Ching-yun has always been proud of his years in the military.

The Fu family's orchids are highly competitive on the market.

Workers in the lab separate orchid sprouts for selling.

 

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