The Back of the Mountains

Cycling Provincial Highway 11
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2019 / August

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Phil Newell


Surrounded by the Central Mountain Range, the Coastal Mountain Range, and the Pacific Ocean, the Hualien‡Taitung area has long been known in Taiwan as “the back of the mountains,” and is blessed with a unique natural environment. This place gives refuge to people from many other locations, who—because they have found a place where they can settle down and enjoy their lives—have made it “home” in their hearts and minds.

Starting from Dulan Village in Tai­tung County, we amble northward along Taiwan Provincial Highway 11, ultimately ending up in Chang­bin Township. All along the way we hear stories of “indigenous peoples” and “new immigrants.”

 


When you come to Dulan, you will see people heading for the beach carrying surfboards, artists’ and craftspeople’s studios in back alleys, and an Amis indigenous way of life that is close to nature. This is what attracted Zhang Jingru, the founder of 9 Dulan Soap, who goes by the Amis name Avi, to relocate her family to Dulan. She fell in love with an empty plot of land with a big tree in one corner, and decided to settle down here and begin a new chapter in her life.

9 Dulan Soap

“The main reason I wanted to move here was so that our children could grow up in a natural environment,” says Avi. She originally decided to have children because she likes children, but given the busy rhythms of daily life, the kids were sent to a childminder on weekdays, and Avi and her husband became “weekend parents.”

Faced with this contradictory outcome, Avi couldn’t help asking herself: “Is this really what we want for our children?” Thus, with their daughter not yet in primary school, Avi and her husband Sun Weizhi (Amis name Dagula) decided to leave Taipei and come to Dulan.

The couple restructured their priorities in life: Whereas formerly earning money was most important, now it was family first. Dagula had previously studied making soap by hand with a master soapmaker from the Nam­chow Chemical Industrial Company, and then spent two years combining cold-process soapmaking with hot-process soapmaking to develop his own patented method. Then Avi’s idea to extract essence of betelnut, tobacco, and millet and put these into soap came into play, forging a link with local indigenous culture and creating products that are uniquely the couple’s own, with the brand name “9 Dulan Soap.”

In Amis culture, betelnut, tobacco, and millet are sacred crops that link people with their ancestors, but they have been stigmatized in modern society. Aiming to reverse the negative stereotypes most people have about betelnut, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages (such as millet wine), Dagula sent his handmade soaps to be tested, and the tests showed the soaps to be naturally biodegradable, eco­friendly products. Betelnut and tobacco both have anti­bacterial qualities, while millet has moisturizing and whiten­ing properties that can solve skin problems for many people. This evidence gives Avi a great sense of achievement when she introduces her products to others. “It gives us more confidence because we use local ingredients,” she says.

So far, the thing the family has been most dedicated to is “living.” “In fact, we’re not very serious about running the shop,” laughs Avi. For the time being, taking their kids surfing, fitting into the local community, and understanding the Aboriginal way of life are more important.

Her son, who is in fifth grade, has been obsessed with the legendary Chinese deity the Third Prince (Prince Nezha) since he was in kindergarten, and each day at mealtimes he would share his love of the Third Prince with Avi. This year, after he talked it over with his parents, they decided to buy him a Third Prince costume, and he has worn it to take part in many temple processions and birthday felicitations for deities. Recently he has also been wearing it when he performs on Western-style drums. We can ­really get a feel for Avi’s sense of motherly satisfaction when we see the smile on her face as she describes the process of her son finding something he loves in life at such an early age.

The road back home to Taitung has given new shape to their lives. Dagula says, “I’m grateful for past failures, as they have been the key to finding courage for myself.”

“I tell myself, ‘Well done!’” says Avi with emotion. She is grateful to her past self for working so hard back then.

Wings to fly back home

From 9 Dulan Soap we freewheel down a small road and come across the Japanese-era “Sintung Sugar Factory.” We have come here to visit the Amis wood sculptor Siki Sufin.

Siki’s story can be said to reflect responsibility and the cruel irony of history.

After returning to Dulan from Taipei, Siki, who apprenticed for a short period in the workshop of the indigenous sculptor Rahic Talif, worked part time while continuing to make artistic works that convey Amis myths and legends, using driftwood as his material. He was the earliest artist to move into the Sin­tung Sugar Factory, and was a leader in creating the local atmosphere for creative artists.

Siki leaves the surface of most of his works untreated. “I like the marks that the chainsaw leaves on the wood,” he explains. He wants the concept behind each work to be able to directly enter the viewer’s consciousness.

Returning to his hometown, Siki discovered that there were a number of elders in the com­mun­ity who had pronounced Amis facial features but spoke mainland-Chinese-accented Mandarin, and he couldn’t understand this incongruity. It was only after asking all around that he unearthed the long-buried history of the “Taka­sago Volunteers,” Taiwanese Aboriginal soldiers who served in the Japanese military in World War II. Under different regimes, indi­gen­ous peoples were drafted by the authorities to go to the front lines and fight, only to be abandoned when the fighting was over. People failed to learn from history, for after the end of WWII much the same thing happened to these Mandarin-­speaking old soldiers in Siki’s community. Aborigines from Hua­lien and Tai­tung were conscripted and sent to mainland China to fight in the Chinese Civil War, but many were captured during the retreat of the Nationalist forces after 1947 and ended up fighting on the Com­munist side. ­Looking back on their lives, they were left with the perplexing feeling of not knowing what they had fought for.

Few people know about this period of history, so Siki filmed a documentary and set up a theater company to enable more people to remember it. According to an Amis myth, tribe members who die far from home can ask their ancestors for a pair of wings to carry their souls back home. This is why Siki has made many pairs of wings out of driftwood, to help these fellow tribespeople find their way home.

Speaking of the fate of both the Takasago Volunteers and the Aborigines who were sent to fight in the civil war, Siki says, “These things may appear to be of interest only to the indigenous community, but when you look more broadly you find they are an issue for the whole nation.” The artist is completely dedicated to getting people to pay attention to and reflect on the past. “If I am able, I want to build them a memorial, out there on Dulan Cape, so they will have a place where they can rest and be together.”

Pedaling through beautiful scenery

Continuing our cycling journey northward, we head to the Ma­wuku River to visit the two very different bridges that span the river mouth. The New ­Donghe Bridge, of red-painted steel, seems very masculine and modern. The Old ­Donghe Bridge was built in 1930. To accommodate the shape of the terrain on the two banks, the northern section of the bridge was designed with an arch, while the southern section was built on piers, making for an interesting juxta­position.

Nearby is the interestingly named “Baonon Bikeway.” Originally an old section of Highway 11, today it has been transformed into a bike path, and cyclists can see enchanting ocean scenery all along the route.

Leaving Highway 11, we turn into the Pisi­rian indigenous community near to San­xian­tai, a small island connected to the shore by a long footbridge. In Pisi­rian we can see an installation artwork depicting a bellwether goat, created by Amis people led by Rahic Talif. The work brings to mind scenes of days gone by when people here raised goats.

We then ride on to Zhong­yong Community in Tai­tung’s Chang­bin Township, where we find “Jin Gang Da Dao” (“Jingang Avenue”). As the seasons change, the ears of rice on both sides of the road turn from green to gold. The ruler-straight road heads directly toward the Pacific Ocean, offering a panoramic view.

Meeting a different self

Heading uphill along Jin Gang Da Dao, we see many “little suns” on roadside utility poles and fences. This is a clever idea of the “Sunny Buhouse” homestay. If you collect a number of suns along the route, then when you reach the end of the road you can exchange them for a chat with the owner that may turn your ideas upside down.

Sunny Buhouse is a new realm carved out by husband-­and-wife owners ­Zhang Nian­yang and Chen Cibu after ­Zhang lost his job in middle age. ­Zhang reminds us of the charac­ter Grandpa Tomo­zou Sa­kura in the Japanese comic ­Chibi Maruko-­chan, while Chen’s grace and ­cordiality make her like the girl next door, albeit an older version.

After being a public servant for 17 years, one day ­Zhang had had enough and felt the urge to change tracks. He got a job in an electronics company, but then the economy turned sour and the company was on the edge of collapse, so after eight years there ­Zhang found himself out of work.

Chance brought them to Chang­bin, where they bought land, built a guesthouse, and began to strive to fit in to local life.

Besides running their homestay, the couple has also launched the “­Chang ­Cheng Project.” The ­chang refers to Chang­bin, while the ­cheng refers to the Hua­yuan Xin­cheng gated community in Xin­dian, New Tai­pei City, where they lived for a long time.

Zhang Nianyang enjoys making friends, and his friends back at Hua­yuan Xin­cheng have many talents. Families in remote areas lack economic, social, and cultural capital, and children may have limited visions of their futures. But what if the children could be linked up with his friends, and they could share their ­experiences with the kids? The ­Chang ­Cheng Project opens windows on the world for children living in remote areas. ­Zhang and Chen hope to be there for the children of Chang­­bin as they go through the important process of growing up, and to awaken them to greater possibilities for their futures.

This idea has attracted all kinds of people to come and join the project. Renowned ultramarathon runner Kevin Lin came here on his own initiative to run with the children; Stacey Wei, spokesperson in Taiwan for Yamaha trumpets, brought a whole jazz band to Chang­bin to put on a concert; and Dr. Sheu Min-muh, winner of a Medical Contribution Award in 2014, has held free clinics here.

Part of the attraction of Sunny Buhouse is that it gives people a sense of ease that is like coming home.

At the guesthouse, the day begins with a breakfast meticulously prepared by Chen Cibu. Breakfast usually lasts two or three hours, with people sitting around the long table and chatting. The paths of many people have crossed at this long table, around which many stories have been told, and ­Zhang Nian­yang is skilled at observing people’s innermost thoughts and feelings, helping them to lower their defenses and speak from the heart. “Other people help out by building bridges or laying roads, but I don’t have those skills, so I just inspire new ideas in people,” he says. And Chen Cibu can often touch the softest spots in people’s hearts.

Having lived here for the last decade, Chen says that her personality has changed from preferring to be solitary to feeling now that being alone or being with many people are both fine. A perfectionist in the past, she is learning to relax and to accept herself as she is.

Zhang Nianyang, who was always a top student, has been most tied up by rules in life. He still hesitates: Though their income is now reasonably stable, he thinks about putting something aside for a rainy day, and wonders if he shouldn’t be working more and saving more. But now the guesthouse is closed two days a week, and the husband and wife contentedly say they are happy if occupancy is 80%.

This attitude and this mood are just the right fit for living on Taiwan’s East Coast.                         

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繁體

騎行後山

踩踏台11線風景

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧莊坤儒

被中央山脈、海岸山脈、太平洋包圍的花東地區,素來被稱作台灣的「後山」,地理環境渾然天成,得天獨厚享受大自然的抱擁。這裡收容來自各方的人,因為各種原因回來了,停下了,不走了。只因為他們找到安身立命的地方,找到心的故鄉。

在台11線上,我們以都蘭為起點,慢遊北上,最終停駐在長濱,一路聆聽在地「原住民」、「新移民」的故事。

 


來到都蘭,悠閒的街道上有許多外國友人閒晃著,路上不時有人扛著衝浪板準備去海邊,藝術家的工作室就在巷弄間,阿美族人的生活型態親近自然而有分。這就是吸引「足渡蘭」張景如(原住民名字Avi)舉家遷來都蘭的原因,看上邊角有一棵大樹的空地,就在此落腳,開始人生新的一頁。

足渡蘭──

給孩子「玩」得滿足的童年

「移居主要是想讓孩子在大自然的環境裡長大。」Avi說。當初因為喜歡孩子才決定生小孩,但忙碌的工作節奏,小孩平日寄宿保母家,讓他們成了假日父母。

這樣的本末倒置,Avi不禁自問,「這是我們想給孩子的嗎?」「孩子終究會長大離巢,人生一定會遭遇各式的問題,但一個開心的童年會支持他們度過一切的困境。」於是趁著女兒上小學前, Avi 跟先生孫偉智(原住民名Dagula)舉家離開台北,來到都蘭。

兩夫妻把生命的順序重新排序,之前賺錢為首要,現在是家庭第一。Dagula曾跟南僑師傅學做手工皂,自己再花上兩年時間,結合冷製與熱製法的優點,研發出自家的專利工法。臨門一腳加入Avi的點子,提煉檳榔、菸草、小米的精華入皂,與在地原住民文化連結,成為自家特色商品,他們將品牌命名為「足渡蘭」,代表一家人「足跡移渡至都蘭」的意思。

在阿美族的文化中,檳榔、菸草和小米,常見於部落裡各式祭典,是與祖靈連結的神聖作物,卻在今日社會被汙名化。看待事務總有一體兩面,想要翻轉世人對檳、菸、酒的刻板印象,Dagula特地將手工皂送檢,檢測結果發現手工皂可被大地吸收分解,是友善環境的產品;檳榔跟菸草有滅菌效果,小米可滋養美白,解決許多人皮膚的困擾。這樣的例證讓Avi每次在向外人解說自家產品時,總是成就感滿滿,「因為在地使我們更有自信。」她說。

至今,一家人最認真做的事情是「生活」,「我們其實很不正經開店。」Avi笑說。帶著小孩子去衝浪、融入在地社區,了解原住民的生活,才是現階段更重要的事。孩子在大自然裡玩得過癮,也各自找到自己的興趣。小學五年級的兒子,從幼稚園開始迷上三太子,每天照三餐跟Avi分享他對三太子的喜愛。今年和父母商量,買了一尊三太子偶,他帶著三太子到處出陣、拜壽,近期的熱中是表演三太子打爵士鼓,小小年紀就在生活中找到自己喜歡的事,Avi描述這段過程時,臉上的笑意讓我們很能感同身受她當媽媽的滿足。

一趟返鄉的路,成就不一樣的人生風景。曾經因為研發不順遂,到山裡把眾神明咒罵一輪的Dagula說:「我感謝以前的挫折,是它讓我拿到勇氣的鑰匙。」

「我會稱讚自己說,做得好!」Avi感性的說。感謝當初改變的勇氣,還有那麼努力的自己。

希巨蘇飛──

用翅膀帶族人回家

從足渡蘭門前的小路滑行下來,會遇到建於日本時期的紅糖製造廠「新東糖廠」。我們來拜訪阿美族的木雕藝術家希巨蘇飛(Siki Sufin)。

Siki的故事,說的是責任和歷史的荒謬。

他離家、返鄉的原因一點都不稀奇。為了生活他到台北謀生,為了照顧家人,他又回到都蘭。

曾在原住民雕塑家拉黑子門下短暫學習,Siki回到都蘭後,邊打工邊創作。以漂流木為素材,傳遞阿美族的神話故事。他是最早進駐新東糖廠、帶起當地創作風氣的元老。

Siki的作品表面多不經處理,「我就是喜歡鏈鋸留下來的痕跡」,讓作品的概念直接刺入觀者的感知。

回到家鄉,他發現部落裡有些長者,明明是深邃阿美族臉孔,卻操著一口普通話,這樣的突兀,他不解。四處詢問,才挖出了被塵封已久的「高砂義勇軍」(二戰期間日軍動員台灣原住民前往南洋叢林作戰之組織)的歷史。隨著政權迭換,原住民被徵召為當權者赴前線戰場,卻在戰事終了後被棄之不理。人們不曾在歷史裡反省,同樣的故事也發生在部落裡的「台籍老兵」身上。在國共內戰時,花東原住民被徵召到中國大陸打仗,1947年後,被留下成為共軍部隊,回首他們的一生,充滿了不知為何而戰的荒謬。

知曉這段歷史的人太少,Siki因此拍攝紀錄片、成立劇團努力想讓更多人記得。借用阿美族的神話:死在異鄉的族人,可以向祖靈祈求一對翅膀,讓它帶著你的靈魂回家。Siki因此用漂流木雕出一對對翅膀,讓這些客死異鄉的族人能被翅膀帶著,找到回家的路。

他還與族人親赴高砂義勇軍的新幾內亞戰場,在那邊就地拾取漂流木為亡佚的勇士做了一對翅膀,立下「高砂的翅膀」紀念碑,召喚漂泊在外地多年的高砂義勇軍的靈魂「返鄉吧」。

「這些看似是部落的事情,其實放大看,是整個國家的問題。」Siki說,知道「高砂義勇軍」、「台籍老兵」的事情已經十多年了,藝術家將整個生命投入,希望喚起社會的重視與反省,「有能力的話幫他們蓋一個紀念碑。在都蘭鼻那邊,讓他們有一個可以休息、在一起的地方。」Siki說。

踩踏間的美景

騎行的路程繼續往北走,我們去馬武窟溪出海口探訪新、舊兩座橫跨溪上、各具特色的東河橋。新橋紅色的橋身,陽剛充滿現代感。舊橋建於1930年,由日籍工程師吉田課長設計,為了因應兩岸地形,橋墩北段設計成拱型結構,南段則是支架式,兩邊形成有趣的對比。

鄰近還有名字十分有趣的「八嗡嗡自行車道」,原為舊台11線,今規劃成自行車道,大部分的路段貼近海邊,騎行途中隨時伴著迷人的海景。

離開台11線,轉進靠近三仙台的比西里岸部落,可見由拉黑子率領族人以漂流木創作、重現當地養羊風光的裝置藝術「領頭羊」。

續行往長濱忠勇社區,這邊有金剛大道,隨著不同的季節,兩側的稻穗從青綠到金黃,筆直的道路直奔太平洋,美景盡收眼底。

來陽光佈居──

遇見不一樣的自己

從金剛大道繼續上坡,可以在路旁的電線桿、矮籬上發現一顆顆的小太陽。這是民宿「陽光佈居」的小巧思,像玩大地遊戲一般,一路收集了許多小太陽,到路的盡頭,可以換來與主人一席翻轉觀念的談話。

與後山的相思樹林融為一體的民宿「陽光佈居」,是男主人張念陽和女主人陳慈佈在中年失業後的另一片天地。張念陽總是笑得瞇瞇眼,模樣像是櫻桃小丸子裡的友藏爺爺,女主人陳慈佈則氣質親人如鄰家大姐。

當了17年的公務員,張念陽在一天想著「夠了」,興起轉職的念頭,轉換跑道到電子公司,卻遭遇經濟不景氣,公司飄搖欲墜,八年後張念陽正式中年失業。

過程中,他焦慮也擔憂,任何一根可以當作稻草的都不願放過。人生卻因緣際會地在台東長濱落腳,買了地,蓋了民宿,開始努力融入當地生活。

經營民宿之餘,夫妻倆開辦「長城計畫」,「長城」指的是台東「長濱」和他昔日久居的新店「花園新城」。

張念陽喜歡交朋友,朋友也都臥虎藏龍;而偏鄉家庭缺乏經濟、社會與文化資本,孩子們對於未來少有想像。如果將兩者架接起來呢?藉由長城計畫,為偏鄉孩子開了一扇窗,看見外面的世界,夫妻倆企盼在孩子最重要的成長過程陪他一段,啟發孩子未來更多的可能性。

這樣的念頭,引來各式各樣的人共襄盛舉。超馬好手林義傑主動來陪孩子跑步,YAMAHA爵士小號台灣代言人魏廣皓搬了整個爵士樂團來長濱辦了一場音樂會,世界級的髮型設計師來跟學子們分享心路歷程,編舞家余彥芳、醫療奉獻獎得主許明木醫師等都出現在長濱小鎮上。

陽光佈居另一個魔力是能讓人如回家一般地自在。民宿一天開始在女主人用心料理的早餐,早餐通常會長達兩、三個小時,大家圍著長桌,一起聊天。這張充滿故事的長桌,許多的人生在這邊相遇,許多的心事也在這邊洗滌。張念陽擅長觀察人的內心,讓人卸下心防,傾吐心事。陳慈佈總能觸動內心最柔軟的那一塊,許多人明明是來度假的,卻在桌旁哭得像淚人兒。

張念陽常在路上跟人搭訕,他敏銳的觀察,解讀人們無意間流露的訊息,在高鐵、火車上、公車亭等任何場所,他都會主動開口:「願意聊一聊嗎?」「別人幫忙通常是修橋鋪路,我沒這種能力,我就是啟發觀念。」張念陽說。

移居長濱十年來,陳慈佈解釋自己從喜歡一個人獨處的個性,到現在覺得一個人很好,很多人也很好。昔日總是完美主義的她,正在學習放鬆自己,接納自己。

從小都當資優生的張念陽,受教條的束縛最多,至今他仍在猶疑,比如說生活穩定了,就想著未雨綢繆,他心中仍在擺盪,是否要再多工作一點,多存一點錢。

如今陽光佈居周休二日,正努力向周休三日邁進,房間只要八成滿就好,夫妻倆滿足地說。

這態度、這心情,搭上東海岸的生活,恰恰好,也剛剛好。                                                   

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