Hey guys, I’m back (and about to run off again, on a work related trip that is inescapable). But what I hope to share with you before I run off is the experiences that I have had in Taiwan.
Now, many people see Taiwan as nothing more than a place to shop and eat and shop and eat. But what most people probably miss is the rich culture and history that makes up the country’s “backdrop”. Way beyond the hustle and bustle of the city life, and countless night markets that make Taiwan, beyond the outskirts of Taipei, Taichung and numerous other large developed cities, lay many small towns that are saturated in artistic and historical culture that dates back at least for many decades, even centuries. These cultures and history include wood carving and pottery amongst many others, all of which have inspired me not just to share with you what I have seen, but also to urge you to go there yourself and look beyond the bright city lights.
The first experience I want to share with you is the small town of 三義 (pronounced san1 yin). About an hour away from Taichung and a three-kilometer walk form the train station, 三義 looks nothing more than a one main street town. However, this place earned the title of the “Woodcarving Kingdom of Taiwan”, with is long history of intricate wood carvings that vary in size from that of your thumb nail to as large as ornamental statues seen in any rich estate. Polished with such a high sheen till it looked like a semiprecious stone, one would hardly be able to tell that each masterpiece’s medium was wood.
But that is not all. This small word carving town goes beyond the conventional chisel and hammer, to taking the raw form of the medium and letting the viewer’s imagination do the work. As can be seen from the pictureabove, two wooden elephants guard the entrance of their township’s museum. Upon closer inspection, what you would realised is that these “elephants” are in actual fact not carvings at all, but merely wood that has naturally grown and died in the shape of elephants. All that has been done to these pieces only amounts to a few knocks and scratches to truly ignite the imagination. Personally, it is such a great representation of the Chinese culture of simplicity and minimalism, how a few stokes of a brush in monochrome can capture the essence of something as vast as an entire landscape. As I did not go into the museum, I cannot say for sure how great the experience is, but walking along the street provided was more than sufficient to immerse myself in their woodcarving culture. For those who desire a more detailed and historical account of their craft, the museum would give the information that you seek.
Here are some of the many photographs of the small township in Taiwan:
The first picture is that of one of the shops along the wood carving street, which also houses many other wood craft shops as well as the woodcarving museum at the very end. As I did not going during high season, there was a slight lack of atmosphere (this would be during fall to winter, November to December). For those that are considering visiting the area, the best time would probably be in the late spring or summer. As you walk from the train station, you would also see small shops selling their own personal woodworks.
Before I leave for my next trip, I will attempt to make some time to share with you a few more of my experiences in Taiwan pertaining to the arts and culture in the hope that I will be change some perspective about the milk tea and fried chicken cutlet nation.