客家新桃花源──美濃、六家的危機與轉機

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1999 / 10月

文‧張瓊方 圖‧張良綱


散居都市的客家人,因環境等因素逐漸「隱形」,面臨著客家語言、文化流失的嚴重危機。在此同時,聚居鄉村的客家,也因農業衰退、人口流失、都市化等因素,不可避免地也在改變中。

高雄的美濃與新竹的六家庄,是南、北兩個客家人口密度極高的客家村落,近年分別因為美濃水庫興建計畫與高鐵設站問題,比其他的客家村落面臨更嚴重的危機。


「七、八年前,一般人對美濃的印象只是粄條、客家人、鍾理和紀念館,」美濃愛鄉協進會執行秘書張正揚說,現在不同了,大家都知道美濃人在反水庫。

民國八十一年底,鎮公所和地方社團在美濃召開第一次的興建美濃水庫公聽會;次年,美濃的老師、藝文工作者等組成反對興建水庫工作隊,七、八年來,美濃人的愛鄉護土運動越演越烈,水庫已被視為客家文化的終結者,美濃人誓死要終結水庫。

「連根拔除」客家文化?

相較於美濃──水庫聳立頭頂,隨時可能垮壩淹村的潛在危機;高鐵設站對六家庄的影響,看似沒有這般負面與危險,但對當地環境與人文的影響,實則更為無形、徹底。在六家長大的文化工作者陳板說,高鐵帶來的不是都市化,而是將傳統客家文化「連根拔除」。

六家庄有三百多公頃的田地被劃入高鐵車站特定區,在特定區內的居民約有三千人。對於這個天外飛來的變化球,每個人的反應不一。

「高鐵要來了!」有些人很高興,因為可以不用耕田,立刻可以分家、拿錢。

有人覺得無所謂,「對我們年輕人來說,影響不大,」在新竹工業區工作、假日就回六家看父親的劉福洲、陳玉枝夫婦說,他們不靠土地維生,土地被徵收對他們沒有影響;相反地,高鐵在此設站,假日回來看老人家時,他們還能享受高鐵帶來的周邊利益。

有人則憂慮,一旦土地被徵收、房子拆了,家族從此也就散了。

持這種想法的多半是老人家,六十多歲的劉炳圭生活空間向來以種田為主,一旦沒有田地,生活會頓失依據。今年六月,他流著眼淚拆了房子,隨即在原地弄個貨櫃屋,每天仍在此耕種,與鄰居朋友下棋、聊天。短時間內,生活看似沒有多大的改變,「只是每次播種都不知道能不能熬到收割,」劉炳垚心裡的不踏實感,正是現在六家人的普遍心態。

末代農民

美濃與六家都是務農為主的農庄,居民的生活與兒時記憶都脫離不了田地。

「對土地的感情,不是來自每天看山、看水,而是共同工作,」美濃愛鄉協進會總幹事鍾永豐說,那種相互幫忙、開玩笑的感情與氣氛,一直存在自己的記憶中。

「從小在田裡勞動,對土地的感情比較複雜,」美濃愛鄉協進會成員鍾秀梅說,日出而作、日落而息的生活,與世無爭,但所得少,沒有出路。

美濃原有五萬多人口,而今實際居住在當地的大約三萬多人。美濃的人口在快速流失中,這與年輕人出外討生活有關。

為了要幫忙家裡種菸葉、香蕉,鍾沐卿一直留在家鄉美濃教書,七十三歲的他現在每天仍在田裡工作。在他看來,這些年美濃的改變很大。農業衰退是最明顯的,「很多田在那裡長草,」鍾沐卿說,由於年輕人口外移、加上種田收益不好,很多人乾脆休耕,領休耕、轉作補助。

二十多年前,美濃種菸面積達兩千兩百多公頃,現在只剩下九百多公頃了。

曾富壬四個兒子都離鄉出外工作,偶爾回來也不能耕作,因為他們禁不起太陽曬,一曬皮膚就起泡。眼看無以為繼,將來一甲半的田地如何是好?「我也不知道!」老農夫搖頭說。

若說美濃的農民是「末代農夫」,六家庄的農民情況也大同小異。比美濃更慘的是,竹北的六家庄有所謂的「九降風」,無法像美濃地區轉作水果、檳榔等經濟作物,只能種稻。

不再是客家村

縱然務農已是「末代產業」,但是美濃與六家對於水庫或高鐵並未因此人人心存期待。

「水壩動工的那一天起,美濃就不存在了!」張正揚如是說。

美濃水庫的興建一定會破壞美濃純樸的客家文化,反水庫大聯盟副會長黃廷生指出,一來興建水庫對身家財產安全的威脅,搞得人心惶恐,甚至遷居他鄉。社區一旦破壞,文化脈絡也就沒有了。水庫興建並非一年、兩年,至少耗時十年,這其間必須引進四千名外地勞工,對美濃的民風會造成相當大的衝擊。

六家在高鐵範圍內的住民大約有三千人左右,規劃中的高鐵新市鎮,人口將會增加到四萬五千人左右。

客家最後的「香格里拉」

美濃屬南台灣客家團練組織「六堆」中的「右堆」,是目前公認保留客家文化最完整的地區,素有「客家最後的香格里拉」之稱。

美濃愛鄉協進會執行秘書張正揚解釋,美濃百分之九十五以上都是客家人,是很純的客家地區,再加上美濃山脈、茶頂山脈、荖濃溪的天然阻隔,地形封閉、交通又不是那麼便利,文化流失得較慢。

竹北六家庄的地形不如美濃「包被」,是比較「穿透」的,可以說是一個以客家族群為主的文化擴散點。「這裡有複雜、有趣的族群互動關係,」陳板說。這裡曾經是六個不同支脈、不同來台祖的林姓單姓聚落,隨著族群間的往來密切,也產生閩南變客家、原住民變客家的例子。

位於頭前溪畔的六家庄是新竹地區最好的「米倉」,此外六家也是北台灣形成義民信仰的根據地。每年農曆七月二十日義民節大拜拜,新竹、桃園地區共十五聯庄,輪流舉辦。

與其他客家村落相同的是,隨著都市化的腳步,南部的美濃與北部的六家或多或少都在改變。

「在美濃,放眼望去一定是以山為終點,但近年,突然之間就會冒出兩棟大樓、公寓擋住視線,無法看見山……」張正揚說。「六家的嘉興路已經變成每天晨昏兩次嚴重塞車的路段,」陳板說。

高鐵是房地產?

與其他客家村落不同的是,美濃與六家因為水庫、高鐵帶來的影響將更為劇烈,立即可見的影響是土地的價格。

「高鐵是交通,但六家人普遍認為高鐵是房地產,」陳板說,過去以甲計的農田,一夕之間改成以「坪」計價。五年之間,六家的農地從一坪八千八百元漲到三萬三千元,將來預估一坪二十萬。自從開始賣地的那一天起,六家人就不可自拔地陷入一場金錢夢魘中。

六家的居民在區段徵收後,雖然可配還四成的土地,但補償的錢只足夠買地,沒錢蓋房子了!因此,地方人士預估,約有三分之一的人口會搬出去。

相對於六家的農地飆漲,美濃的地價卻是直直落。在美濃開設幼稚園的黃美英說,兩年前買的房子,現在虧一百萬都賣不出去;五十坪、四樓的透天厝,原來定價一千萬,現在幾百萬都乏人問津。

龍肚老農的憤怒

面對可能毀庄滅村的水庫,美濃人在「美濃愛鄉協進會」多年凝聚的文化意識下,群起抗爭。

鍾秀梅說,愛鄉協進會花了將近三年的時間,慢慢地讓鄉親瞭解,花費大筆金錢、犧牲美濃自然人文環境所建造的水庫,竟然是為少數的產業服務。

「反水庫,救美濃」「好男好女反水庫、好山好水留子孫」「水庫係築得,屎嘛食得」(水庫若能蓋,連糞都可以吃了),如今在美濃,不論男女老少、無論知識份子或農夫村婦,每個人都可以侃侃而談水庫議題。

只有小學三、四年級學歷的曾富壬,務農之餘也關心時事,經常寫文章投稿美濃的地方刊物「月光山雜誌」,一篇名為〈龍肚老農的憤怒〉的文章中,寫著他對興建美濃水庫的看法:「……子孫前途越來越渺茫、良心道德流失太平洋,忍無可忍大家上戰場。」

為了反水庫,擔任反水庫大聯盟執事的退休老師楊乾昌也跟著北上立法院、頭綁白布條抗議,「在抗議的現場,會掉眼淚,」老先生激動地說。

「美濃人多半是農民,性格保守,他們的天地就在那一方田地之間,」張正揚說,反水庫運動後,美濃人對公共事務的看法、水資源的瞭解,都已經有所不同了。

一旦投入抗爭,客家的硬頸精神與對土地深厚的感情,便成了很大的助力。

「鳥不得已才遷移,人也是一樣,」反水庫大聯盟總幹事宋吉雄說,先祖來台迄今已十二代,二百四十幾年世居美濃,「這是我的地方,絕不輕言放棄!」他說。

婦女出頭、青年現身

反水庫也帶來意想不到的收穫。「反水庫運動是美濃婦女自覺意識的契機,」鍾秀梅說,過去婦女都在河邊洗衣服,女性對河流、水的感覺更為直接。

早期上立法院時,婦女都是站在第一線的;反水庫大聯盟去做家戶調查時,也都是女性在跑,「婦女是最穩定的基礎,」鍾秀梅說。

美濃的反水庫運動,不僅讓客家婦女出了頭,甚至出外求學的美濃子弟也因此勇於「現身」,投入抗爭運動。目前在淡江大學就讀英文系三年級的張淑君說,每次美濃鄉親到立法院抗議,她一定到場聲援。

「因為參加反水庫運動,我在班上的地位提昇了,」目前就讀台北醫學院三年級的張維財笑說,在他們這個族群意識已經模糊的世代,竟還有人肯為保衛鄉土而抗爭,他感覺同學們對他都像「稀有動物」般另眼相看。

最令人感動的,莫過於放棄人們眼中「正當頭路」,返鄉投入運動的「回鄉青年」,張正揚便是其中之一。

民國七十七年的「還我母語」運動之後,學校紛紛成立了客家研究社,張正揚在大三加入了台大客家社,「參加客家社我才知道自己對客家如此陌生,我甚至不知道還有其他不同語音的客家人,我不僅對台灣其他的客家地區陌生,對自己的家鄉美濃也很陌生。」

「在鄉下地區,年輕人回鄉是不被允許的,」張正揚說,客家地區這種價值判斷更為強烈,年輕人回鄉總被視為在外面混不下去。特別是像他身為長子、又念到台大,母親、親戚都不能接受他放棄高薪的工作,回鄉搞運動。張正揚認為:「我們身上背負的不光是自己的前途,同時也是上一輩的那一口氣。」

然而,這批年輕人的投入,不僅讓反水庫運動成為美濃的「全民運動」,也為正逐漸走向沒落的美濃,帶來再生的希望。

「菸樓再生」就是他們提出來的一種可能。

美濃從日據時代開始發展種菸產業,菸樓是用來烤火燻菸葉的,十幾年前,燻菸技術進步到由電腦控制,菸樓慢慢地被廢棄不用了,而今美濃地區約有近千座菸樓,成為當地頗具特色的建築。

美濃愛鄉協進會鍾永豐指出,文化保存並非定型化、脫離社會生活內涵的。以菸樓為例,空間的保存只是表象而已,人的社會關係、精神文明才是重要的。

我等就來唱山歌

「往時燒火燻菸草,現下錄音生樂章……」,在泥磚打造、挑高的菸樓裡錄音,聲音很特別,對美濃人而言,這也是大家熟悉的空間,可以說是個「社區錄音室」。以《我等就來唱山歌》這張CD為例,錄製過程中就有上百人次參與。

除了將菸樓改成錄音室,也有人把廢棄的菸樓改成陶藝教室。

鍾建志,人稱「阿志牯」,是回鄉創業的青年。退伍後,由於工作不順利,阿志牯十年前決定返鄉。

從田園造景作起,繼而接觸陶藝,三年多前鍾建志在美濃龍肚大崎下、阿太(祖父)留下來的菸樓裡,教學、做陶,不僅讓塵封已久的菸樓得以再生,永續利用,也為自己找到一條出路。

剛回來家人也很反彈,「能搞得到食?」是普遍的懷疑。如今他不僅走出自己的路,也希望將美濃這項新興產業做得更具地方特色,因此他不斷地實驗,像將稻草灰拿來配釉配方;拿菸葉來燒陶、用菸葉來做陶盤……等等。

除了菸樓再生、發展新興產業外,美濃最讓人感到希望無窮的是客家文化的傳承工作。

美濃後生會的青年,每年寒暑假都會返鄉帶領「八色鳥兒童生態體驗營」,教小學四、五年級的孩子認識美濃的客家文化,走老街,看藍衫……,此外,還有針對剛考上大學、五專等大孩子的「成長營」。

「這個機會是反水庫運動促成的,我們是第一批被找回來的年輕人,」張維財說,這一代的孩子娛樂方式完全不同於他的童年。「小時候我們在田野跑,現在的孩子看電視、玩遊樂器,童年生活完全脫離土地,」他認為,藉由兒童生態體驗營的活動,可以把孩子拉出來,在美濃的土地上活動,是件很好的事。

「新瓦屋」獨向黃昏

相對於美濃的自主與自信,六家人似乎尚未有這麼深刻的「覺醒」。六家庄面對高鐵,居民不是「逆來順受」,就是不知如何反應。

「我們來不及做任何反應,」陳板說,「在還沒對六家有任何文化性的認識前,如何判斷六家可以被犧牲?」陳板說,國家公共政策從來沒有從社區、地方的角度去考量,六家的文化價值與文化意義,從沒有被認真對待過。

已有近兩百年歷史的林家「新瓦屋」,是六家高鐵區內最老的聚落,高鐵計畫原本保留下公廳和門樓做為公園,但地方人士和林家人並不滿意,目前正在向高鐵當局抗議,希望能將整個的聚落保存下來。

然而,不論是變成公園或整個聚落保留,六家新瓦屋裡,人唯一的命運就是搬家,新瓦屋也不再是新瓦屋。

「人都散了,公廳燒香要怎麼燒?」今年八十一歲的林礽堭說,目前這裡住了二十多戶、一百多人,要搬哪裡去,現在都不知道。

四月底他們拿到了補償金,知道搬家已經成定局,現在林家人退而求其次,只求將來配地不要離現址太遠,還能經常回老屋看看。

「我的根本在這個地方!」看著二十七歲那年與父親一起打造的土塊厝,七十多歲的林煥水眼角含淚地說:「我這麼老了,要在別的地方住到習慣,恐怕已經潮了(發黴)。」

「美濃人意識到美濃是有價值的,六家的時間太短,日後一旦覺醒必會後悔,」陳板說。

趕在高鐵來臨之前,陳板加緊從事《六家庄風土志》的紀錄工作,過程中也因此促成了六家庄「新瓦屋林家班花鼓隊」的再生。

「新瓦屋林家班花鼓隊」是六家自創的陣頭,在沉寂多年後,去年才又重建起來。現任花鼓隊隊長林煥庚指出,當年為了慶祝台灣光復,六家自創了與眾不同的花鼓隊,隊員清一色男扮女裝,詼諧逗趣很受歡迎,不時應邀表演。如今花鼓隊重建,名聞遐邇,舉凡客家的活動,他們都會應邀到場助陣。

再造桃花源

今年五月,在美濃人的抗議、下跪哀求聲中,立法院依然通過了美濃水庫的預算。問起反水庫運動何以為繼?「前途一片光明,」鍾永豐堅定的說,在反水庫的過程中,美濃人在不斷地改造、建設自己的家鄉。

「我們以前很擔心反水庫成功了,我們不知道接著要做什麼,但所幸反水庫時間拖得很長,讓我們有機會把根扎得很深,」八色鳥協會成員劉昭能說,「美濃人已經把反水庫內化為生命的信仰!」

有感於愛鄉協進會比較文氣,反水庫運動在行動上必須激進一些,一年多前,美濃地方人士又組織了「反水庫大聯盟」。

今年五月二十三日,「六堆反水庫義勇軍」在高樹鄉的「恩公廟」前宣佈成立,祭告文中有言:「……效法先烈精神,結合六堆鄉親,組織義勇軍、共同奮鬥,解救美濃,我六堆忠義精神得以發揚……」

眼看美濃人的誓死抗爭、六家人的默默承受,有人不禁問:「客家何該註定要浪跡天涯?美濃人、六家人要到哪裡去尋找下一個桃花源?」

從另一個角度來看,水庫、高鐵議題讓美濃與六家獲得新生的機會,或許他們正在改造客家的桃花源。

p.119

美濃是南台灣客家重鎮,這次因反水庫興建,大家出錢、出力、說理、抗爭,反而凝聚了前所未有的強烈客家意識。

p.121

經過兩年多的爭取,六家庄隘口村的伯公樹終於可以留下來,樹上包著「高鐵植栽測繪」的紅色塑膠袋,正是「免死金牌」。

p.122

高鐵計畫在六家設站後,農民土地、建物被徵收拿到的補償金,不足以在當地買地建屋,只有另覓住處了。像這樣的售屋看板在當地隨處可見。

p.123

林家的「新瓦屋」已有將近二百年的歷史,高鐵留下公廳及部分建築作為公園,林家人希望爭取全部保留。

p.124

美濃地區有近千座老菸樓,往昔燒火薰煙草,現下錄音生樂章。圖為交工樂隊主唱林生祥攝於第七小組菸樓錄音室。

p.127

田地是劉炳垚(右)一輩子的生活重心,雖已被徵收,高鐵未開工前,他還是繼續耕作。每逢假日,兒子、媳婦回來探望他,順便帶些沒有農藥的「安心菜」回去。

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EN

Building a Hakka Utopia? Meinung and Liuchia at a Crossroads

Chang Chiung-fang /photos courtesy of Vincent Chang /tr. by Scott Williams

Taiwan's Hakka are in the midst of a cultural crisis. People of many ethnicities have found that they tend to lose their ethnic identity in the city as both language and culture slip away. Hakka are no exception in this respect. However, now even Hakka remaining in rural communities are being struck by unavoidable changes to their way of life-the decline of agriculture, dwindling populations and urbanization.

Meinung and Liuchia are rural Hakka communities located in Kaohsiung and Hsinchu Counties, respectively. With a reservoir planned for Meinung and a high-speed rail station to be built at Liuchia, the crises confronting these two Hakka towns are more serious than most.

Viewed positively, a crisis can be a turning point. How are the people of Meinung and Liuchia confronting these potentially huge changes to their way of life?


"Seven or eight years ago, most people associated Meinung with bantiao [a wide, flat rice noodle], Hakka culture and the Chung Lee-ho Memorial," says Chang Cheng-yang, executive secretary of the Meinung People's Association. Now things are different; everyone knows the people of Meinung are opposed to the reservoir slated to be built in their community.

At the end of 1992, the town hall and various local organizations held their first hearings in Meinung on the construction of a reservoir. The next year, teachers and citizens involved in the cultural life of the town formed the Work Group Against the Reservoir. Over the last seven or eight years, the movement to preserve Meinung has gradually picked up steam. The town's citizens view the reservoir as the "exterminator" of Hakka culture-the reservoir is to be located directly above the village, so that if it were to collapse, the village would be flooded-and have sworn on their lives to stop it.

Out by the roots

Although the danger that the high-speed-rail station poses to Liuchia is not so obvious as that which the reservoir poses to Meinung, it will nonetheless have a very real impact on the environment and culture of the village. Chen Pan, a writer who grew up in Liuchia, says that the high-speed rail is not bringing urbanization to the village, but is instead pulling its traditional culture up by the roots.

More than 300 hectares of fields around Liuchia, currently inhabited by some 3,000 people, are to become part of the high-speed rail station's development zone. Around town, the response to this "development from out of the blue" varies from person to person.

"The high-speed rail is coming!" cheer some folks, enthusiastic because they will no longer have to till their fields. Instead, they can divide up their family lands, take the money and move on to other things.

Other people don't care. "It doesn't affect us young people," say Liu Fu-chou and Chen Yu-chih, a couple who work in Hsinchu and only come back to Liuchia on holidays to visit Liu's father. They don't live off the land, so the government buyout doesn't harm them in any way. In fact, the construction of a high-speed rail station here means that when they come home on holidays, they'll be able to enjoy the benefits that the new railway line will bring.

But some people are worried. If the government acquires their land, and their houses are torn down, their families will come apart. In general, this is the view of the elderly.

Now in his sixties, Liu Ping-yao has spent his life working the land. Without land, he loses the cornerstone of his life. In June, he tearfully tore down his old home, moving into a cargo container which he placed on the same site. So far, his life hasn't undergone much change. He still spends his days tending his fields, and chatting and playing chess with his neighbors. But he says, "Now when I plant my fields, I don't know if I'll be able to hold out until harvest time." The uncertainty Liu feels about an activity central to his way of life is shared by many in Liuchia these days.

A dying breed

Not only do the economies of both Meinung and Liuchia depend largely on agriculture, the lives and memories of their citizens are bounded by the fields.

"Feeling for the land doesn't grow out of looking at landscapes everyday. It comes from working together with it." Chung Yung-feng, director of the Meinung People's Association, says that the helpfuness and playfulness of the villagers are integral parts of his memories.

"I've worked in the fields since I was a child, so my feelings for the land are complicated." Chung Hsiu-mei, a member of the Meinung People's Association, says that farmers go to work when the sun comes up, and rest when it sets. They are at peace with the world, but they don't make much money, and it is difficult for them to move on to other professions.

There were once over 50,000 people in Meinung, but today only about 30,000 remain. The rapid decline in the town's population is in part due to young people moving away from the town to work.

Chung Mu-chin spent his whole life in Meinung teaching so he would be available to help his family with their tobacco and banana crops. Now 73, he still works in the fields every day. But Chung feels that Meinung has changed a great deal over the last few years. The most obvious change has been the decline of agriculture. Chung points out that many fields are overgrown. He explains that with the young people having gone away to work and incomes from farming being slight, many farmers have simply given up farming. They prefer to let their fields lie fallow, taking government assistance to seek non-farming work.

Twenty-some years ago, more than 2,200 hectares of land around Meinung was given over to the cultivation of tobacco. Today, tobacco is grown on only 900 or so hectares.

Tseng Fu-jen's four sons left Meinung for work in other towns. Even when they make their occasional visits home, they can't help in the fields because they can't stand the sun; as soon as they get out in it, they begin to burn. With no way to carry on farming, what's to become of Tseng's one-and-a-half hectares of land? "I just don't know," says the old farmer, shaking his head.

Meinung's farmers may be a dying breed, but the situation in Liuchia is worse still. Located in northern Hsinchu County, the jiujiang winter wind prevents farmers in Liuchia from switching to cash crops such as fruit and betelnut. While these options exist for the farmers of Meinung, Liuchia's farmers can only grow rice.

No longer a Hakka town

But even with farming becoming untenable, Meinung and Liuchia are not looking forward to the construction of the reservoir or the high-speed rail station.

"The day construction of the dam begins is the day Meinung ceases to exist," says Chang Cheng-yang.

Construction of the reservoir is certain to bring about the destruction of the simple Hakka way of life in Meinung. Huang Ting-sheng, assistant director of the Alliance Against the Reservoir (AAR), says that the threat that the construction poses to the safety of the people, families and property of Meinung has made residents afraid and caused some to even move away from their hometown. Once neighborhoods are destroyed, the local way of life will disappear too. Moreover, the construction of the reservoir isn't simply a one- or two-year project. Instead, it will require at least ten years and 4,000 foreign laborers. This will be a tremendous blow to Meinung's simple way of life.

In Liuchia, 3,000 people currently inhabit the high-speed rail development area. This figure contrasts sharply with the 45,000 residents planned for the new town to be located on the site once the station is complete.

The last Hakka Shangri-la

Meinung is the "right-flank militia" of the six Hakka militia of southern Taiwan. The town is widely recognized as having kept its traditional Hakka culture largely intact, and is sometimes referred to as "the last Hakka Shangri-la."

Chang Cheng-yang explains that this has occurred because more than 95% of the people living in Meinung are Hakka, and the town itself is cut off from the surrounding area by mountains and the Laonung River. This isolation has helped to slow the loss of traditional culture.

While Meinung has been something of a "stronghold," Liuchia is more of a "nexus"-a mostly Hakka center from which culture has moved outward. "Interesting and complex ethnic interactions have taken place here," says Chen Pan. The town was originally settled by six different Lin and Shan families. Each was of a different Hakka clan and came to Taiwan independently, but close interaction between different ethnic groups in the area led to the "Hakkanization" of some local Fujianese and aborigines.

Liuchia, located on the banks of the Touchien River, is surrounded by Hsinchu's best rice-growing land. The town is also the focal point of the Yimin ("Militiamen") faith in northern Taiwan. The Yimin Festival is celebrated every year on the 20th day of the seventh lunar month with a major ceremony. Sponsorship of this ceremony rotates annually among 15 towns in Hsinchu and Taoyuan Counties.

Like other Hakka towns, Meinung in the south and Liuchia in the north are being changed by the progress of urbanization.

"In Meinung, your field of view used to be bounded by mountains. But over the last few years the views of the mountains have been obstructed by a couple of tall office and apartment buildings which have sprung up," says Chang Cheng-yang. Chen Pan makes a similar comment on Liuchia's development, stating: "Now there are serious traffic jams at sunrise and sunset everyday on Liuchia's Chiahsing Road."

The high-speed rail as real estate

But Meinung and Liuchia differ from other Hakka towns in the major impact that the reservoir and high-speed rail station have had on land prices.

"The high-speed railway is transportation, but in Liuchia it is viewed as a real-estate asset." Chen Pan says that fields used to be measured in jia, a measure equal to about 0.97 hectares. Now, they are being measured in ping-about 3.3 square meters. Over the course of five years, the price of one ping of agricultural land in Liuchia has risen from NT$8,800 to NT$33,000, and it is expected to rise to as much as NT$200,000 in the future. For people who had to sell out and now want to buy new land, it has been a financial nightmare.

As part of the high-speed rail's land acquisition, Liuchia's landowners are entitled to receive money and an amount of land equal to 40% of their original holdings as compensation for their land. Unfortunately, the money they receive is only sufficient to buy a little more land; it is not enough to build a new home. As a result, many locals are predicting that one-third of local residents will end up moving away.

In Meinung, on the other hand, property prices have been plummeting.

Huang Mei-ying says that homes bought two years ago can't even be sold for a one-million-dollar loss today. A four-story, 50-ping home that originally cost NT$10 million attracts no buyers even at a discount of several million.

The angry farmer of Lungtu

Faced with the construction of a reservoir which might wipe out Meinung, and after years of effort by the Meinung People's Association to create an awareness of their own culture, the people of Meinung are fighting back.

Chung Hsiu-mei says that the association has spent three years slowly making the people of the town understand that this expensive reservoir, to which their town and its culture are being sacrificed, is being built for the benefit of just a few industries.

The slogans seen and heard around town range from "Save Meinung, oppose the reservoir" and "Good men and women oppose the reservoir to preserve the environment for their grandchildren" to "If the reservoir can be built, then shit can be eaten." Everyone in Meinung, young or old, male or female, intellectual or farmer, has something to say on the issue.

Tseng Fu-jen, whose formal education was limited to only a few years of primary school, likes to stay on top of events when he's not at work in his fields, and he frequently submits pieces to Meinung's own Moonlit Mountain Magazine. In one of these pieces, entitled "The Angry Farmer of Lungtu," he expresses his view of the reservoir project: "Our children and grandchildren's futures are becoming more and more hazy. Conscience and morality have disappeared into the Pacific Ocean. We've suffered too much, now we must take up arms."

In "taking up arms," Yang Chien-chang, a retired teacher and member of the Alliance Against the Reservoir, has put on a headband and traveled to the Legislative Yuan to protest. "I've cried while demonstrating," exclaims the old man.

Chang Cheng-yang says, "Most of the people of Meinung are farmers. They are conservative people. Those fields are their world." He says that once the anti-reservoir movement got started, the local people's perspective on public affairs and their understanding of water resources underwent a sea change.

Once townspeople got involved in the movement, their natural Hakka stubbornness and their love of the land were very helpful.

Sung Chi-hsiung, executive director of the AAR, says, "Birds leave their homes only when they have to. People are the same." Sung explains that his family came to Taiwan 12 generations ago and has been living in Meinung for 240-some years. "This is my home. I will not give it up without a fight!"

Women and young people join in

The movement has also had some unexpected results. "The opposition to the reservoir has made local women more aware of their power." Chung Hsiu-mei says that because the women of the town used to wash clothes on the banks of the river, they have a very direct appreciation of the water.

In the early days of the movement, women were always in the front lines during trips to the Legislative Yuan. When the AAR conducted house-to-house surveys, it was women who did the legwork. "Women are the movement's foundation," says Chung.

Young people have gotten involved too. Chang Shu-chun, a third year student in the English Department at Tamkang University, says that whenever her fellow Meinung citizens travel to the Legislative Yuan to demonstrate, she shows her support by joining them there.

Chang Wei-tsai, a junior at Taipei Medical College, chuckles, "I've raised my standing among my classmates by participating in the anti-reservoir movement." Chang says that his generation generally has an unclear sense of its ethnic identity. As such, when it sees one of its own who is willing to demonstrate to protect his hometown, it views that person with new respect.

Others are moved when they see young people willing to give up their careers in order to return to their hometown and join the opposition movement. Chang Cheng-yang is a good case in point.

In the wake of 1988's "Return Our Mother Tongue" movement, Hakka student associations began appearing at many schools. Chang Cheng-yang joined one of these in his junior year at college. "It was only after joining a Hakka student association that I realized how much of a stranger I was to Hakka culture. I didn't even know there were other dialects of Hakka. I knew virtually nothing about Meinung, to say nothing of other Hakka areas of Taiwan."

"Young people from rural areas are not allowed to go back to their hometowns." Chang says that this idea is especially strong among the Hakka. Young people who return home are viewed as having been unable to make the grade in the outside world. This is particularly true of a young person like Chang, who is the eldest son and studies at the prestigious National Taiwan University. Neither his mother nor his other relatives were able to accept his giving up a high-paying job to return home and participate in the opposition movement. But Chang explains: "We don't just bear the burden of having a career; we must also carry on the torch for the older generation."

The involvement of these young people not only makes the opposition to the reservoir a movement which encompasses all segments of Meinung society, it also brings the hope of revitalization to a town in decline.

One way to do so is to revitalize the town's tobacco curing barns.

Meinung began cultivating tobacco during the Japanese occupation. Curing barns were then used to fire-cure tobacco, but a dozen or so years ago tobacco curing technology changed, and computers were brought in to control the process. The old curing barns have gradually slid into obsolescence, but they remain an interesting architectural feature of the area, and Meinung has nearly 1,000 of them.

Speaking on cultural preservation, the Meinung People's Association's Chung Yung-feng says that such preservation has no set form, and that it is of necessity closely connected with a society's way of life. In the case of the curing barns, preserving the space merely preserves the surface, whereas the important things are the spirit that permeates the barns and the interaction that takes place inside.

Let's "yodel"

One curing barn has become something of a "neighborhood recording studio." Recording in a high-ceilinged brick curing barn gives music an unusual sound. The studio has gotten many townspeople involved-more than 100 participated in the recording and production of "Let's Yodel," a CD collection of recordings of Hakka yodeling.

In another instance, an abandoned curing barn has been turned into a pottery studio and classroom.

Chung Chien-chih is one of those young people who have returned home to make a career for themselves. Three years ago, Chung began making pottery and teaching pottery classes in a curing barn which had belonged to his great grandfather and was located at the base of the Lungtu ridge. This not only put the long-derelict curing barn to use again, but also gave Chung a means of making a living in Meinung.

When Chung returned to Meinung, his family had protested, frequently wondering aloud, "Can you earn a living here?" But Chung has carved out a niche for himself, and is now experimenting with ways of shading this newly created cottage industry with more local color. For example, he has created his own glazes incorporating the ash from burned rice plants, and made an earthenware plate incorporating the ash of tobacco leaves.

While the revitalization of the curing barns and the creation of new industries open up new possibilities for Meinung, it is the passing on of traditional culture to the children that gives people the most hope for the future of their town.

The young people of the College and University Students' Association of Meinung are involved in this latter activity, coming home every winter and summer vacation to lead the Blue-Winged Pitta Children's Life-Camp. The camp teaches fourth- and fifth-grade children about the Hakka culture of Meinung. For example, the college students lead the children on strolls through the older streets of the town and show them the traditional blue clothing of the Hakka. These college students also act as mentors to children of the town who are preparing to go off to universities or junior colleges for the first time.

Chang Wei-tsai says, "This opportunity grew out of the opposition to the reservoir. We are the first group of young people to be asked to come back home." Chang points out that today's children entertain themselves differently than his generation did: "We played in the fields when we were kids. Children today watch TV and play video games. Their childhood is completely removed from the soil." Chang feels that Life-Camp activities are a good thing in that they get the kids outside and doing things on the land in and around Meinung.

The sun sets on the "New Tile House"

While confidence and activity reign at Meinung, full realization of their predicament has not yet come to the people of Liuchia. The people of the town either seem to feel that they should "go with the flow" by accepting the high-speed rail station, or they simply don't know how to respond.

"It's too late for any response," says Chen Pan. "Not yet knowing Liuchia in a cultural sense, how can we judge whether it should be sacrificed?" Chen says that public works planning has never taken local points of view into consideration. The value and meaning of the culture of Liuchia was never seriously addressed.

The Lin family's "New Tile House" was built almost two centuries ago, and is the oldest family compound in the Liuchia high-speed rail development area. The high-speed rail plan originally called for the ancestral shrine and some of the defensive walls to be preserved as a park, but local residents and the Lin family are not satisfied with this solution and have been protesting to the agency in charge of the high-speed rail in the hope of persuading it to preserve the entire compound.

Sadly, regardless of whether the site is turned into a park or the entire compound is preserved, all those residing at the compound will have to move. The New Tile House will never be the same.

"Who will light the incense in the ancestral shrine after everyone has left?" asks 81-year-old Lin Jeng-huang. He points out that there are over 20 households-more than 100 people-currently living at the compound. These people do not yet know where they will move.

Residents of the compound received compensation at the end of April, and know that moving is unavoidable. Now the Lin family only asks that the land they are given in compensation not be too far away so they will be able to come visit the old compound frequently.

"My roots are here!" Looking at the mud brick house he built with his father when he was 27, septuagenarian Lin Huan-shui exclaims with tears in his eyes, "At my age, by the time I get used to living somewhere else, I'll have gone all moldy."

Chen Pan says, "The people of Meinung are aware that their town has value. Liuchia didn't have enough time. If realization of what we've lost strikes one day, we'll feel regret."

In the little time remaining before the station arrives, Chen Pan is rushing work on a magazine recording the life and culture of the town. Interestingly, his work has prompted revival of the "New Tile House Lin Family Flower Drum Troupe." "Flower drum" troupes typically played drums and performed acrobatics at temple ceremonies.

The Lin-family troupe was Liuchia's "vanguard." Disbanded years ago, it was reformed last year. Lin Huan-keng, the troupe's current leader, says that it was originally formed to celebrate Taiwan's recovery from Japan, but it was a little different from other such troupes in that it was composed entirely of men masquerading as women. The troupe's uproarious shows were wildly popular, and it was in great demand. The fame of the revived troupe has spread, and it is now invited to lend a hand whenever Hakka activities are being organized.

Making a new utopia

In May, the Legislative Yuan approved a budget outlay for the Meinung reservoir over the protests and pleading of the town's residents. Whither the opposition movement now? Chung Yung-feng claims, "Our path is clear." Chung states with conviction that the movement has prompted the people of Meinung to rebuild their town.

According to Liu Chao-neng, a member of the Blue-Winged Pitta Association, We were afraid that we might not know where to go with the movement once it had stopped the dam. Luckily, the protests have dragged on for quite a long time, and we've become deeply entrenched." According to Liu, "The people of Meinung have now internalized the movement as a philosophy of life."

Unhappy with the unaggressive Meinung People's Association, anti-reservoir activists formed the Alliance Against the Reservoir a little more than a year ago.

This year, on May 23, the formation of the "Six Militias Anti-Reservoir Volunteers" was announced at Enkung Temple in the village of Kaoshu. The group's charter states, "Learning from the spirit of the martyred militiamen of old, the compatriots of the six clans have linked arms, forming a group of volunteers who are fighting together to save Meinung, and in this way bringing glory to the righteous spirit of the six militias. . . ."

Seeing Meinung's people fighting on and Liuchia's silently enduring, one can't help but ask, "Are the Hakka people fated to wander the world? Where must the people of Meinung and Liuchia travel to find a new utopia?"

From another point of view, however, the reservoir and the high-speed rail station may have brought these two towns an opportunity for rebirth. Perhaps they are building a new Hakka utopia at this very moment.

p.119

While Meinung has long been one of the important Hakka towns of southern Taiwan, it took government plans for a reservoir at Meinung-and strong local opposition to that plan-to create a "Hakka consciousness" among the townsfolk.

p.121

A red plastic bag around the trunk of the "Great Uncle Tree" in Liuchia's Yikou neighborhood lets everyone know that "uncle" is no longer slated to "get the ax." Townspeople struggled for more than two years to persuade the government to grant an "imperial reprieve" to the tree, originally to be removed to make way for the high-speed rail station.

p.122

The high-speed rail plan has meant government acquisition of land and homes in Liuchia. Unfortunately, those who have been bought out will have to move away from Liuchia because the money they received is insufficient to buy new land and homes in the area. "FOR SALE" signs like the one in the picture are a now common sight in Liuchia.

p.123

The High-speed Rail Administration has agreed to preserve portions of the Lin family's "New Tile House" as a park. The Lin family, however, still hopes to persuade the government to preserve the entire compound, which is nearly 200 years old.

p.124

There are nearly 1,000 tobacco curing barns in the Meinung area. Once used to fire-cure tobacco, some have now been converted to other uses. The photo shows Lin Sheng-hsiang, the lead vocalist of the Chiaokung Group recording in curing barn No. 7 .

p.127

Liu Ping-yao's life revolves about his land. Although it has already been purchased for the high-speed rail project, construction has not yet begun and Liu continues to till the fields. When Liu's sons and their wives come to visit on holidays, they always take some of their father's organic veggies back home with them.

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