2009年3月23日 星期一

Memories of 濱栗 and more...

The following is a comment posted recently under "Climate in Danshui 1885" by a Mr Anonymous who is obviously from Danshui and has lived there for a long time. His description of life in Danshui, probably in the early 1950s, is so interesting, we thought it a good idea to re-post it here:

Never heard of anybody swimming across the [Danshui] river successfully but we did swim often to the delta, which was shown on the US military map of WWII but since disappeared.
Ref. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ams/formosa_city_plans/txu-oclc-6594794.jpg

[The map site is still active, click the above link, see also below:]
(Map of Danshui 1944-5. Locations are in Japanese pronunciation and military targets are in English. Click to enlarge.)

The best time to get to the delta is at the low tide and the best spot is behind the public market. By the way, living in Tamsui we need not to have a tide table since noontime is always high tide upon the first and fifteenth of the lunar months. The salt-water fish arrived with the tide and the biting only lasts about half an hour. For catching the fresh water fish, like striped bass, you have to go upstream as far as to Kan-Tou 関渡, at the red arch bridge designed by Prof. T.Y. Lin 林同棪of the University of California at Berkeley.

The delta, we call 浮線 (Pu-Swaah, close enough, EyeDoc?) is merely 100 yards away at low tide but the river flow is fast, so aim upstream diagonally and start swimming with full speed, hope you will reach the other side within several hundred yards downstream. There is nothing on the delta except a single tomb, built by sailors for an orphan. Sailors adopted him but he drowned in the river later.

Navy has a small ship similar to U-Boat parked behind the Police Department, probably 100 yards from the shore. Swimming over and board on the ship time to time, soon we make friend with the sailors. We learn later that the boat is there for a sole purpose, waiting, in case high-ranking offices need fast escape from island. The duty of the sailors is simple just turn on the engine key once every day and make sure the boat will start. Not a high-ranking officer but a VIP, madam Chiang visits Tamsui often, especially near the sunset, probably for enjoying the famous scene.

Ah that clam, it is Hama-Guri in Japanese, (濱栗) means the chestnut of the beach [see picture on the upper left]. There is a native kind; sharp edged more like a wedge, however, the familiar kind is new immigrant from Japan and it can grow up to 4 inches size though they are harvested prematurely nowadays. The common method of clamming is using a rake on the sandy beach that showed up at low tide. For the big ones, we call 老蛤 (Rao-Gyou, close enough, EyeDoc?) we have to dive to get them. Once upon a time, at the lowest tide of the year, I dive into the ship channel, probably ten feet deep and grope with both hands. There are many gravel-sized clams partially embedded into the riverbed every few inches apart. They are the big ones. I have collected almost 20 pounds of big clam that day.

Boil and season with ginger and onion is the best way to make clam soup. For the big ones, we can simply bake it on the fire. It is ready to eat when the shell pops open. Japanese like to add few drops of Sake but I do not. I have discovered a big worm, couple of inches long inside the clam once. It must be a parasite, I guess.

[Note: The Romanized Taiwanese names are perfect - EyeDoc.]

11 則留言:

  1. U-Boat - you mean the torpedo boat? I remember a small gunboat docked behind the post office. That was probably the same one that you saw. The Chiangs had a villa or something deep inside the forbidden zone. The latter included the now Fishermen's Wharf and other now popular sandy beaches. Their motorcade used to zip through Chung Cheng Road around sunset. One policeman once asked my grandmother not to air-dry cucumbers on top of a pillbox (concrete machine gun nest now replaced by Dr Mackay's sculpture) because it might not look good to President Chiang when he passed by. His advice was naturally ignored and we got to enjoy the most delicious pickled cucumbers in this corner of Taiwan.

  2. You are right, we saw the same boat, wither it was gunboat or U-boat.
    It is honor to allow participating on your site.
    Thank you.

  3. The honor is entirely ours. Your memories bring back so many of my own.

    It is amazing, I can almost taste the pearly broth of the big clams by just looking at the picture. Such a distinct and wonderful flavor, too. Indeed we did use a rake to harvest the clams and fish only at high tide.

    Most kids used a literally 10-ft long skinny bamboo pole, maybe 0.5-inch in diameter at the base with a nylon string tied to the end. Another shorter string was used to tie the hook and there was an olive-sized/-shaped lead sinker as well. All three were joined onto a tiny 8-shaped metal ring. The knot-tying was a skill all by itself. Also the hook line must not be too short or you'd be fishing for bottom-feeders. The hooks came in different sizes. Usually the smallest one was used to catch the bite-sized 金錢仔 (Gim Jhi-a). For bigger and better fish, you'd have to get on a small 舢舨 and fish in the middle of the river. The most prized one was 沙梭 (Sua saw) for reasons unknown (didn't taste all that special). The fishing poles were similar to the ones seen in the US, short with a reel and maybe a hundred feet of nylon strings. For the bait, the best was the sea worm (海蟲, Hai-tang, which looked like a centipede) found in the muddy beach during low tide.

    Swimming in Danshui River was too risky (the sharks), did that in a tiny brook behind the Danshui Golf Course.

  4. I have to respond as it was my comment on the old guy telling me he used to swim the Danshui to save money on ferries that provoked this interesting commentary. First of all, when I hear about swimmers or fisherman on the Danshui, I have to juggle it with what I know today. The Danshui is so polluted it has become a dead river. In a way, it's beautiful as a dead river. There's no visual clutter to mess up its workings. The Danshui has the best long views in the city. Sometimes, I sit at Ma Chang Ting with a cold beer or two and watch Taipei glimmering across its waters at night. And the fish still jump from time to time. A couple of days ago, as I was riding to Guangdu (關渡), I saw a guy with a fish he'd pulled out from the water - a good two to three pounder. I was wondering if he'd eat it, especially considering what a friend from Canada's dad told me after testing the river; he's a biologist and he advises a tetanus shot if we are so much as to dip a hand in the water. I also had a nice breakfast at this new cyclist cafe out in Guangdu. We ate chocolate and banana waffles and drank strong coffee, and pondered how Taipei's main river gets so vacated in the space of 50 years.

    Eyedoc, as a scuba diver, I would've scoffed at your comments about people getting chomped on down round the Danshui by sharks. Man-eaters do not have much use for warm waters such as those around Taiwan. You'll normally find them either more south, like in Australia or South Africa, or up around the Bay Area in California. The only sharks I've seen around Asia in my dives are sleepy reef sharks. Then I saw this a few months back: http://www.taiwansurfshack.com/blog/archives/162

  5. That is a Great White all right. The ones hanging around in Danshui River, however, were tiger sharks - the main ingredient of fish balls of the past.

    The ships packed with stones deliberately sunk at the mouth of the river in 1884 may have contributed to the pollution issue. It made the sedimentation problem worse and slowed the water outflow. Then the familiar story: 50 years of industrialization upstream plus over-development of the town itself eventually did it in. Crabbing up the north shore is still quite active, probably the only saving grace. There is a sparsely used bike path up that way, BTW.

    My other hometown Boston has the same problem. You cannot swim in the Charles River until recently, after years of aerating the water near Longfellow Bridge. Actually no one does still. And the Wollaston Beach in Quincy has to be closed a few times each summer for high E coli counts. The last I heard, a few lobsters were spotted in Boston Harbor. The news was regarded as a sign of hope that the war on pollution was being won - apparently a beer-soaked opinion.

  6. E coli in the water - that's the strangest thing I've ever heard of.

    We must have six degrees of disconnection. I was just on NPR today, then Wikipedia, trying to figure out this place called Quincy. They were running a story on John Cheever (not to be mixed up with the great Boston Bruin goalie Gerry Cheevers), the interesting American writer who hails from Quincy, MA. You could probably get another blog going on important American writers that have lived within an hour of your MA doorstep. Anyway, I'll look forward to reading about Danshui's contribution to Taiwan's literature.

  7. The source of E coli (Escherichia coli, literally colon bacteria) is human wastes. The ancient sewage system of Boston cannot handle the overload when it rains, and the overflow gets into the bay and circulated onto the South Shore. News reports do mention the "E coli counts", probably a provincial thing.

    So by now you'd have found out everything about Quincy. What you won't find is that it has become a second Chinatown (the original is located within Boston City limits and Malden being the third) where we sometimes go shopping for Chinese groceries.

    Now that is a wonderful suggestion: Danshui's contribution to Taiwan's literature. Thanks. Actually music as well. Growing up, we hear people practicing piano and violin near where we lived, not to mention the local sponsorship of Taiwanese opera. One of the performers participated in the Battle of Fisherman's Wharf.

  8. Sorry, post on the wrong place. Let me post again.
    The greatest piano teach that Tamsui ever had is Miss Taylor, being called 徳姑娘. Her student, Mr. Tan Sue-Chi陳泗治 teaches piano at his home in Shi-Lin士林 before becoming principal of Tamsui High School. His daughter was my daughter's piano teacher in Tamsui, though most of the time her mother was teaching. Nobody can afford to have piano at their own home, so they come to teacher's home and get lessons and use the piano to practice. Mr. Chin has passed away few years back in Southern California.
    There are many artists living in Tamsui, before Kau-Fun 九份 becomes artist's colony. Do you remember the house belongs to 楊佐三郎, the famous oil painter?

  9. Yes, we all know Mr 楊三郎. I believe his house was next to the British Mission (its huge gates were always shut) near Fort San Domingo. He moved away after the 228 Incident. If I am not mistaken, the 柯/Ke family (one of Dr Mackay's daughter's family) also lived there, might have moved in after. I remember seeing oil paintings all over but am not sure whether they were left behind by Mr 楊 or the 柯 kids were also artists. The latter was also quite possible. One of the kids was in my elementary school class so I visited his house often. And in art class, while we were all just doing simple piggies and duckies, he was drawing the most realistic and intricate locomotive engines. That kid could really paint. And presumably his older brother was even better at it.

    We should all post more on Mr 楊佐三郎.

  10. Yes, I remember his house very well, in the right hand side of street going toward 神社.
    I do not know why 楊佐三郎 is not in the famous Tamsui residents listing. He is considered resident of 中和 than Tamsui since his art museum is located at 中和. BTW, his son-in-law is writing a book called “両個楊三郎”. Odd enough, there are two artists, painter and musician, with the same name from same town, 中和.

  11. I found this report on 楊佐三郎's house:


    So it may even become a memorial site. Which is good. Maybe Danshui has more artists than other cities and towns, one fewer makes no difference. Just kidding. He is most definitely part of Danshui history.