布袋

老鹽田曬出新活力
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2014 / 6月

文‧朱立群 圖‧莊坤儒


台灣西南沿海地區日照充足,具有曬鹽的優勢條件,尤其是嘉義和台南。然而,當今「鹽分地帶」一詞,泛指台南鹽村佳里、學甲、西港、七股、將軍及北門,讓與台南僅一溪之隔的嘉義布袋,頗不服氣。

 

但在2002年台灣鹽田全面廢曬之後,布袋勇敢走出新「鹽」路,透過民間的力量,完成洲南鹽場的復曬,打造「文化鹽」生產基地,成為民眾進行「體驗之旅」必訪的鹽田。

 

鹽田帶頭點燈,其他農、漁業「無毒」生產的亮點陸續發光,在一群熱愛環境、善待土地的青年努力下,串起布袋之光。


「我會用心感受海水、土地、季風與陽光,將土地公的智慧放心中,作一個快樂『心』鹽工。」

赤腳踏上鹽田之前,六十幾位參加校外教學的小學生,興奮地跟著導覽媽媽,複誦嘉義布袋洲南鹽場的誓詞。

布袋,舊稱布袋嘴,位在嘉義縣西南沿海,往南跨過八掌溪就是台南市。清朝以降,到2001年停止曬鹽,這裡一直是台灣重要的鹽場。

有鹽、無鹽,大家來作伙

台灣的曬鹽產業,始於荷西時期。1648年,荷蘭東印度公司在現今台南地區試辦台灣第一座鹽田─瀨口鹽田。

1661年,國姓爺鄭成功軍隊攻下台灣,另外開闢位於今台南市永康區的「洲仔尾鹽田」,以及位在今高雄市鹽埕區的「打狗鹽田」。

之後,經過來台漢人的開墾,確立了清代台灣六大鹽場,分別是「瀨北場」、「瀨南場」、「瀨東場」、「瀨西場」、「洲北場」,以及「洲南場」。

但因為海水暴潮或河川改道,有些鹽場必須遷徙、重新闢建。原址位在今台南市永康區的洲南鹽場,先是遷到現在的台南市七股區,最後才於1824年,落腳在嘉義布袋新厝仔至今。

台灣光復後,政府接收日本人留下的鹽田,重劃為鹿港、布袋、北門、七股、台南、高雄共六大鹽場。

其中,嘉義縣布袋鹽場占地1,800公頃,面積全國最大,包括洲南鹽場在內,範圍跨越布袋鎮、東石鄉與義竹鄉。

天日曬鹽是人力勞動的產業。1970年代以來,六大鹽場陸續廢曬。2002年5月,七股鹽場拉下大門之後,台灣355年的曬鹽產業,正式成為歷史。

布袋鹽場是在2001年廢曬。7年之後,布袋嘴文化協會發起洲南鹽場復曬,曬鹽的生命因此得以延續。

在鹽田裡曬出文化

57年次的蔡炅樵是布袋子弟,大學畢業後,當了3年的報社記者,主跑嘉義沿海鄉鎮新聞期間,算是他第一次完整地認識故鄉。

離開報社後,他加入「布袋嘴文化工作室」。廢曬前,鄉親問他,「文化工作者能做什麼?」

「當時就是覺得無能為力,只能幫鹽田拍照、寫文章,哀悼兩下。」蔡炅樵自嘲當時「被逼著要有看法」,但實際卻拿不出任何辦法。

後來,布袋嘴文化協會成立,公益認養洲南鹽場,並向文建會提案,以產業營造與文化資產活化為宗旨,申請復曬。但荒廢6年的鹽田,已經地力枯竭、海水滲漏、土壤淡化,不具涵養的能力。為此,協會只好買來300公噸的粗鹽,撒回田裡,把土地「鹹回來」。

這時,對鄉親當年的提問,蔡炅樵有了更篤定的答案:把新生的洲南鹽場當作文化資產,在這裡生產「文化鹽」,而且要讓民眾參與,才有文化資產活化的價值。因此,洲南鹽場把曬鹽的要素:海水、土地、季風、陽光,以及最重要的「人」,視為鹽場的精神象徵。

鹽來如此

洲南鹽場自2011年起,開放戶外教學與遊憩,現已成布袋熱門的文化景點,去年就有將近3,000名小學生,來此勞動體驗。

跟著導覽媽媽走,每一位體驗者都會走過「大蒸發池」、「小蒸發池」、「結晶池」,看到鹽粒從無到有的產曬流程。在結晶池裡,也學老鹽工用耙子、竹畚箕等工具,採收粗鹽。

此外,也能看到鹽田結出外觀像薄玻璃一樣的鹽花,摘一片含在嘴裡,入口即化,散發出帶有淡淡香氣的爽口鹹味。

布袋嘴協會目前正朝社會企業轉型,希望自力更生,用販售鹽田產品的收入,來支持洲南鹽場永續經營。以「風和日粒」品牌為名,夏天的鹽花,以及冬天的霜鹽,都是洲南鹽場炙手可熱的產品。

走一趟生態魚塭之旅

此外,鹽場也結合十幾位友善的小農,成立「布袋真食館」產品平台,並結合遊憩,推動產地小旅行,讓布袋小鎮的魅力可以看得到、摸得到、吃得到,也能讓民眾用心體會得到。

走進邱經堯與弟弟一起經營的魚塭,就能感到一種專屬於沿海小鎮生態產業的魅力。

邱家兄弟的魚塭位在南布袋濕地附近。這片一望無際的濕地,幾十年前是白茫茫的鹽田,現在每到秋冬候鳥季,都能看到黑面琵鷺前來度冬,景色十分秀麗。

魚塭占地30公頃、分隔成四十多個水池,四周是比人還高的雜草,給人的第一印象,就是「野」跟「粗獷」。

「最好的魚,就是自然野生,」邱經堯大方說出他的養魚秘訣。主要就是不投藥(無毒飼養),以及各類魚種混合養殖(生態飼養)。

飼養的經濟魚種包括虱目魚與白蝦,以及扮演「魚塭清道夫」角色的草魚、大頭鰱、鯽魚、豆仔魚等「工作魚種」。邱經堯說,大頭鰱會吃藻類,豆仔魚會在池底「收拾」無法被消化的飼料,在食物鏈裡扮演各自的角色,因此每個水池都是獨立的生態系。

因為不用藥,所以每一池都必須低密度養殖,為魚蝦創造更健康的環境,減少水產疾病傳染的機會;因為採用無毒養殖,從2000年起,供貨給推廣健康食材的主婦聯盟消費合作社。

布袋還有一種另類的「產地小旅行」,搭船出海、向海上的漁民購買「現捕現賣」的漁獲。

出海觀光兼買魚

布袋本身就是傳統的漁港,漁民除了從事海上養殖牡蠣與出海捕魚之外,近年也做起「觀光漁船」的生意,載客出海賞景、搶灘登島,以及海上漁獲買賣的服務。

一個四月天裡,六十多歲的老船長陳永春,把漁船緩緩駛離布袋漁港碼頭。船上三十幾名來自新竹的遊客,跟著卡拉OK唱著〈快樂的出航〉台語老歌。

陳永春以前也是職業討海人,這幾年半退休,幫兒子陳冠魁經營的「布袋港潮間帶」觀光漁筏開船。

自苗栗龍鳳港到嘉義外傘頂洲,已是農委會核定的「中華白海豚野生動物重要棲息環境」。陳永春說,出海後,運氣好的話,可以看到俗稱「媽祖魚」的中華白海豚躍出海面。

陳永春解說時,把船駛近一艘正在收網的小漁船。有些遊客第一次目睹海上捕魚,對龍蝦、章魚等漁獲特別好奇,當下向漁民購買,然後交由觀光船上的廚師現場料理,招待同船旅客一起享用。

陳冠魁說,觀光船讓民眾在海上購買新鮮的漁獲,除了增加出海漁民的收入之外,最重要的是遊客體驗東南亞國家「水上人家」的風情。

因為臨海、曾經曬鹽,布袋長期給人漁鹽之村的印象。但是,當漁撈不再興盛、鹽業已成歷史的時候,布袋還剩下什麼?走一趟布袋,你會發現它新舊並存、豐富更勝以往的內涵。

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EN

Budai: Bringing New Life to Old Salt Fields

Sam Ju /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Phil Newell

The coast of southwest Taiwan—especially ­in Chiayi and Tainan—gets plenty of sunshine, making it an ideal location for salt pans, where seawater is evaporated by sun and wind to leave the salt behind. Alas, the last commercial salt pans closed down in 2002. But one locality, Bu­dai Township, has dared to pioneer a new “salt road,” bringing the Zhou­nan Salt Fields back into operation. They have become an essential stop for citizens seeking “experiential travel.”

 

With the salt makers lighting the way, other points of light—toxin-free agricultural and fisheries producers—have followed. Thanks to the efforts of some young people who believe in treating the land with respect, Bu­dai is setting a shining example.


Bu­dai Township, once known as Bu­dai­zui, is located in the southwestern corner of ­Chiayi County, adjacent to Tainan City. It had long been an important salt producing region until operations ceased in 2001.

An industry rises… and dries up

Taiwan’s sea-salt industry dates back to the days of Dutch and Spanish rule. It was in 1648, in what is now the Tainan area, that the Dutch East India Company opened the first salt evaporation pools: the Lai­kou Salt Pans.

In 1661, after Ming Dynasty loyalist Zheng Cheng­gong took Taiwan from the Dutch, the new regime opened up two additional salt producing sites: Zhou­zai­wei (in modern Tai­nan’s Yong­kang District) and Da­gou (in Kao­hsiung’s Yan­cheng District).

After many Han Chinese pioneers came across to Taiwan, the “Six Major Salt Pans” of Qing-era Taiwan came to the fore: Lai­bei, Lai­nan, Lai­dong, ­Laixi, Zhou­bei, and Zhou­nan.

But due to destructive ocean tides and rivers changing course, some salt operations had to be relocated. The “Zhou­nan” operation, originally in modern Tainan’s Yong­kang District, moved to what is now Qigu District, and finally, in 1824, resettled in today’s Bu­dai Township, Chiayi County.

After World War II and the ensuing end of Japanese colonial rule, the ROC government redefined the six major salt producing areas as Lu­kang, Bu­dai, Bei­men, Qigu, ­Tai­nan­, and Kao­hsiung. Of these, the Budai Salt Pans (including the former Zhou­nan Salt Pans) covered 1800 hectares, making them the largest site in the country.

Making salt from seawater by evaporation is a labor-­intensive endeavor, and starting in the 1970s, one by one the salt-making areas went out of business. In May 2002, the Qigu Salt Pans halted operations, and Taiwan’s 355-year-old sun-dried sea-salt industry passed into history.

The Budai Salt Pans closed down in 2001. But seven years later, the Bu­dai Cultural Association (BCA) relaunched the Zhou­nan evaporation ponds, giving new life to sun-dried sea salt.

Salt-of-the-earth citizens

Tsai ­Jiung-­chiau, born in 1968, is a native son of Bu­dai. After graduating from university he worked as a reporter for three years, then joined the “Bu­dai­zui Cultural Workshop.” Prior to the closing of the salt pans, he was asked by people from his hometown, “What can cultural workers do?”

“Back then I felt powerless, completely incapable of doing anything. I could just take photos of the evaporation ponds, write some essays, and maybe do something perfunctory to mourn their passing,” says Tsai wryly.

Later the BCA was formed and “adopted” the Zhounan Salt Fields, agreeing to take non-profit responsibility for their management. They submitted a proposal to the Council for Cultural Affairs (now the Ministry of Culture) seeking permission to bring the ponds back into operation. However, the salt flats had been abandoned for six years by then, and the soil was cracked and dry so that seawater just drained away. For these reasons, the association had to first buy 300 tons of crude salt and scatter it in the pans, in order to “resalinate” the land.

Despite the difficulties, at least at that time Tsai Jiung-­chiau could give his fellow Bu­dai country folk a more positive and concrete answer: Cultural workers could transform the Zhou­nan Salt Fields into “cultural heritage,” making them a place to produce “cultural salt.” The BCA also aimed to get ordinary citizens involved, because only then would the salt flats have any authentic value in terms of revitalizing local cultural traditions. For the operators of the Zhou­nan Salt Fields, it is the essential ingredients of salt production—sea, land, wind, sun, and most important of all, people—that are the genuine spiritual icons of the project.

Crystallization of experience

Since 2011 the Zhou­nan Salt Fields have been opened up to school field trips and tourists, rapidly becoming a popular cultural attraction for Bu­dai. Last year alone nearly 3000 schoolchildren came here to personally experience what it was like to be a salt pan laborer.

Every “experiential visitor” passes through the “big evaporation ponds,” the “small evaporation ponds,” and the “crystallization ponds,” viewing the entire sea-salt production process from start to finish. At the crystallization ponds, they do just what the “old salts” did, using rakes and bamboo scoops to harvest the crude salt, as demonstrated by elderly retired salt pan laborers.

Also to be seen are “salt flowers,” which crystallize in the fields and look like thin panes of glass. Pluck a “petal” and put it on your tongue—it melts in your mouth, releasing a subtle fragrance and a refreshing salty taste.

The BCA is moving toward becoming a social enterprise. They hope to become financially self-sufficient, using the income from their salt products to sustain operations at the Zhounan Salt Fields. Marketing these products under the brand name “Grains of Wind and Sun,” they are getting an especially enthusiastic response to summer salt flowers and winter “frost salt.”

Aqua+culture

In addition, they have gotten together with a group of small farmers to form the “Bu­dai Real Food Restaurant” product platform. Their work includes promoting mini-trips to production areas, so that people will be able to see, touch, taste, and especially experience the appeal of Budai.

Qiu Jing­yao and his younger brother run an aquaculture operation that is on the Bu­dai mini-trip menu. When you go there you will feel the special appeal of an environmentally conscious small-town business.

The Qiu brothers’ aquaculture operation is situated near a wetland in southern Bu­dai. A few decades ago, this expansive wetland was a shimmering sheet of white salt. Nowadays, it provides a winter home to the black-faced spoonbill, offering beautiful scenes to the visitor.

The aquaculture operation occupies 30 hectares, divided into more than 40 ponds. The land is surrounded by wild grasses taller than a man, giving a first impression that can be summed up as “untamed” and “rough around the edges.”

“The best fish are those that grow naturally in the wild,” says Qiu Jing­yao, generously sharing his simple secret: learn from nature! The main lessons are, first use no artificial chemicals, and second, raise a mixed group of fish that form a quasi-natural ecology in the aquaculture pond.

The main earners are milkfish and vannamei shrimp. These are raised alongside other fish that provide “janitorial services,” such as grass carp, bighead carp, crucian carp, and otomebora mullet. For example, says Qiu, the bighead carp eat algae, while the mullet “sweep up” undigested feed from the bottom. Each pond is an independent ecological system.

Because Qiu does not dose his fish with pharmaceuticals, they can only be raised at a low density, to minimize the transmission of diseases. Having adopted chemical-free aquaculture, Qiu has been selected as a supplier by the Homemakers Union Consumer Co-operative, and together they continue to promote toxin-free seafood.

There is one “alternative” mini-trip in Bu­dai that bears special mention: Visitors can take a boat out to sea and buy fresh-caught seafood directly from fishing boats.

Tourist shopping at sea

Bu­dai has long had a working fishing harbor. Local fishermen continue with traditional activities like growing oysters in offshore pens and fishing at sea, but in recent years they have also turned to the business of “tourist fishing boats.”

On one day in April, veteran fishing boat captain Chen Yong­­chun, now in his sixties, eases his boat away from the pier at Bu­dai Fishing Harbor, carrying out to the open ocean a group of more than 30 tourists from Hsin­chu.

Captain Chen, a semi-retired fisherman who now operates a boat for his son Chen Guan­kui’s tourist fishing boat company, says that if you are lucky, when you get to sea you just might glimpse the creature known by locals as the “Mazu fish” jumping through the ocean surface. This is the beautiful Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin or Chinese white dolphin.

As Chen brings his craft alongside a boat that is just hauling in its net, some tourists who are seeing a fishing boat in action for the first time show great curiosity about the lobsters, squid, and other catch, and even offer to immediately buy something from the fishermen. They then turn their seafood over to the chef on board the tourist vessel to be prepared for the table.

Chen Guan­kui says that while of course one reason that they bring the tourist boats out to buy seafood directly from fishing boats is to help the fishermen make some extra money, more important is that the tourists will get a first-hand experience of what it means to depend on the sea.

Budai was long perceived as a community that lived off fishing and salt. Now that the fishing industry is in decline and salt making is of purely historical interest, what is left for Budai? Pay a visit to this community and you will see new and old side by side, and a richness of life that is by no means inferior in depth and content to that of the past.

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