2009年7月31日 星期五

Danshui then and now and more

A then and now comparison of interesting sights in Danshui
Plus: Catching the flathead mullet part 1
(click arrow to start)
Written and produced by Lin Guo Feng of Danshui Teng Feng Fish-Ball Museum, 2008

Catching the flathead mullet part 2

2009年7月27日 星期一

Going to school in Danshui

Occasionally, traveling down the memory lane can be fun.

For those growing up in Danshui in the early 1950s, the daily routine was of course going to school, boys to Danshui Elementary School and girls to 文化Wen-Hua ES. Either way, it meant going uphill for many from 中正路Chung Cheng Road, starting from a small triangular area, known to the locals as 三角窗 - with the back of Dr Mackay's head pointing straight up to DES. The photo here looks into 老街the Old Street. Where this huge bust of Dr George Leslie Mackay now sits used to be a concrete machine gun nest. Going in the opposite direction of the side street (i.e., Dr Mackay's right-hand side) is where the Mackay Clinic and the Danshui Presbyterian Church are located; it continued up to WHES.

This Clinic was where 200 wounded Qing soldiers were treated in 1884. In latter days, it was also where Romanized Hoklo alphabet was taught - so kids could read the Bible in Taiwanese (not all kids were so diligent as to complete the lessons, though). Next to the Clinic is one of the the best known landmarks in Danshui, the Presbyterian Church, originally established by Dr Mackay. The brick building on site now is, however, a more recent construction (1932). On its ground level, there was a kindergarten for children from the immediate neighborhood. It is still in operation today.

For older kids, it was a long trek uphill. One of Bill Cosby's comic routines mentioned his dad's going to school in deep snow, trudging uphill - both ways. This never fails to evoke a big smile as it always reminds us of our days in the unpredictable Danshui weather.

This is the infamous hill (right), then a narrow cobblestone passage which all boys must travel. It now looks more like a slope; although it certainly felt differently when you had shorter legs. And when it rained, which was quite frequent, one either went bare-footed holding on to one's snickers or was forced to wear smelly black rubber boots that leaked all the time, even when brand new. It was a wet mess either way by the time one reached the top of the slope. Worse, now one must wade in a river of red mud, known as 中山路Chung Shan Road, to enter the school ground.

Actually, girls might have had harder time going to school, because the slope there was even steeper (see photo below). Wen-Hua ES was next to 淡江中學Tam-Kang High School across from the Little White House. The latter was in a forbidden zone in the 1950s. Farther along the narrow street were the 純德 Girls' High and finally the always gated British Consulate (now 真理大學). Fort San Domingo was also in a nearby forbidden area. Now the whole area is open to tourists. For NT$40, one can peruse the past in both the Fort and the residence of the Customs Chief.

Back to kids going to Danshui ES: At the top of the hill, an original brick house still stands (below left; Chung Shan Road is in the foreground). This was where it got interesting. A flock of red-faced aboriginal ducks (called 番鴨, might have been the black muscovy) congregated here. Their mission in life was to attack little boys on their way to school.

In the 1956 movie, Friendly Persuasion, starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins, Little Jesse was harassed by his mother's pet goose, Samantha. Again, this evoked a sense of familiarity except the aboriginal ducks in Danshui were quite mean-spirited and they seemed to have armed with teeth. One such flock (on a farm, but you get the idea) is shown below on the right.

In later years, the much gentler and most definitely lovelier white Peking ducks were introduced into Taiwan. Too bad they did not arrive soon enough for little boys going to school in Danshui.

All the "hardship" paled in comparison with that of kids who must travel daily by rowboats (the sampans) from Bali and still others who walked miles from 紅樹林 and 關渡 to attend Danshui ES. In the wintertime or whenever a typhoon hit, it became dangerous at times. These days, children of course go to school in air-conditioned vehicles.

So this is what Danshui ES looks like now (left), absolutely no resemblance to the past. As Mr ChoSan has lamented in a recent personal message (we are sure he does not mind our quoting from it):

"Our old charming Tamsui is gone forever; they even built a new road across Tamsui Elementary School, cut directly into the lovely spot and my play ground called 杉塊庭."

2009年7月25日 星期六

Story from the Sino-French War 1884

Well-known painting incorrectly attributed to 第三世歌川国定Utagawa Kunisada III (1848-1920) while it was signed off with his original name 梅堂國政Baido Kunimasa who was aka 歌川国政Utagawa Kunimasa, etc
(Woodblock print - Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

2009年7月17日 星期五


This is the oft-mentioned commemorative tablet awarded to 媽祖Ma-Zu the Goddess by Emperor 光緒Guan-Xu (1871-1908) for her helping Sun Kai-Hua defeat the French in the battle of Fisherman's Wharf. The 4 words read from right to left, i.e., the traditional Chinese way of writing (left to right was consider the barbaric way). This wooden tablet is hung above the three large incense pots in the mid-court of the 福佑宮 in Danshui - known to the locals forever as the 媽祖宮. This temple was also the headquarters of General Sun during the Sino-French war and outside of it, the dead fusiliers marins were temporarily placed.

[A Danshui-ren's observation: 媽祖 herself was known to have spent 3 days and 3 nights searching for and eventually found her father's body who was lost at sea. She would have and probably did report those who showed disrespect to the French war-dead - to even higher authorities. In the "pagan"-Taoism, punishment in the after-life is meted out in 18 levels of hell.]

Ma-Zu's original name was 林默娘Lim Vo'g Niu (960-987AD) (the name was literally a girl who was silent). She was deified during the 宋朝Song Dynasty for the many well-documented life-saving miracles during storms at sea. Indeed she is still regarded as the guardian of all seafaring fishermen of the southeast coast of China, even today. Early Western missionaries to China mistook her as the Virgin Mary incarnate. They were quickly disappointed upon learning that her family tree could be traced clearly. In fact, some of her descendants still reside in Taiwan.

A strictly followed Taiwanese fishermen custom is that whenever they need rescue from some maritime disasters, the prayer must never ever invoke 媽祖's official title 天妃(Heavenly Mother), or it'd take longer because, to befit the title, she'd need time to properly dress up and presumably to wear make up also. A prayer to 媽祖 would produce much faster outcome.

媽祖's miracle in Danshui was as a matter of fact [i.e., how else can the Chinese victory be explained], duly reported to the Qing Court by Liu Ming Ch'uan, hence the royal award of the wooden tablet.

2009年7月13日 星期一

The French version

(Left: a Quartier-maître fourrier前哨班長 of the fusiliers marins during the Tonkin, i.e., the Sino-French, war, 1884.)

The French version of the Battle of Fisherman's Wharf - essentially, 600 Frenchmen against thousands of "invisible" Chinese infantry; 17 dead abandoned on the battlefield, and 49 injured:
法國方面的看法是"[節譯自下引]李斯埤少將認為攻打淡水會扭轉先前攻打基隆的敗勢.所以在10月1及2日由炮艇 Vipere,戰艦 Triomphante, Galissonniere 和 d'Estaing 擊毀裝有德製克虜伯大炮的白炮台及紅炮台.10月8日600名陸戰隊登陸進攻,但又與基隆之役一樣,遇上數千佔地利隱蔽不見影的中國步兵.我方在寡不敵眾,17人戰死無法收殮,49人受傷的情況下撤兵":

"Le contre amiral Lespès, ainsi qu’il le fit à Kelung au mois d’août, mena remarquablement bien la seule partie de l’opération qui fût possible. Avec la canonnière Vipère, les cuirassiés de croisière Triomphante et La Galissonnière, et le croiseur d’Estaing, il mouilla devant Tamsui le 1er octobre, et , le 2, réduisit non sans peine au silence les forts Blanc et Rouge dont les Krupps
[Cannons de fabrication allemande] avaient ouvert le feu sur nous. Restait à démolir le barrage de la rivière et anéantir les torpilles défendant la passe. Le 8 octobre fortes de 600 hommes, les compagnies débarquèrent […]. L’infanterie chinoise, invisible, bien à l’abri, occupait les environs du fort […]. Elle était si nombreuse qu’en vain nos obus tentèrent de l’arrêter […]. Comme à Kelung encore, au mois d’août, ils se trouvaient 600 contre des milliers d’ennemis ayant l’avantage de la position. Il fallut battre en retraite, se réembarquer par une mer grosse, abandonner dix sept morts […]. Nous avions 49 blessés. Nous dûmes renoncer, du reste, faute de monde, à une revanche et nous borner à bloquer le port et la rivière de Tamsui jusqu’à la paix."

2009年7月8日 星期三

More on Carozzi/Bentley

(Left: A view of Danshui with Mt Ta-Tuen in the background. To the left is Ft San Domingo; to the right, the customs office and the ship docking area.)

The following is from Simon (communicated through our friend Mr Patrick Cowsill), an expert on John Dodd and Jardine Matheson:

"I am not convinced Bentley worked for anyone.

1) The Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs was founded as agency that would collect import duties from international shipping and use them to pay indemnities owed to the great powers by the Chinese government. It was staffed and organized by foreigners to ensure a smooth flow of cash as previous ventures relying on Chinese management were plagued by corruption. There's a book in the NCCU library about foreigners in Shanghai that discusses the organization in depth.

The organization was not using foreigners because of 'Chinese ignorance of navigation'. By this stage the Chinese already had several domestically oriented steamship lines...and besides a failure to organize navigation would have greatly inhibited foreigners from plying their trade inland from the coast. Something that one would assume to be appealing to the Qing.

2) The hiring of foreign experts by the Qing was a very common practice. For example, JM supplied the engineers for the Liu Ming-quan's railroad. The Huwei Fort north of ft. Santo Domingo was built by French or German engineers...etc., etc.

Bentley may well have been used in organizing the defense of Tamshui. He was employed by the Chinese government...through the ICMC...so there is no reason to think he wouldn't be involved.

That said, Bentley - as a British / Italian national - would have been expected to not act in a manner that would conflict with his own nation's interest. In working for the ICMC he would certainly been more than a tradesman, though likely not a member of the aristocracy (or even Gentry). WA Pickering was hugely touchy about the 'honor' thing and did essentially the same job as Bentley.

One would assume that in the Victorian era this would have implied a degree of loyalty to one's employer. This, I suppose, lends credibility to the idea that he was in fact working for someone. But there is more...

3) British commercial interests in Tamshui were seriously threatened by French actions. This is very clear in Dodd's book. There was a high degree of anti-foreign sentiment among locals. They burned all Mackay's churches...and both George and John resisted evacuation to the Cockchafer because of concern for 'property' left unattended. The French actually hit Mackay's schools in the shelling.

Moreover, in the China trade, the great power's were largely divided into two camps...The Russians, Japanese and French were into the idea of carving up China into colonies (or spheres of influence) while the British, Americans and to a lesser degree the Germans consistently advocated for a policy that ensured the stability and survival of Imperial China - coupled with open ports and free trade.

The French attack on Taiwan, then, stands in stark contrast to the prevailing British policy of the period. I believe this makes it highly unlikely he was working for either a British company (like Jardines) or the British Foreign Office.

4) I think it is important here to consider the 'Tidewaiter' role. The dudes who did the job: Pickering, Tait and Bentley...were not white trash (exactly) but nor were they successful financially. They were working for salaries in an environment that saw others make and loose huge fortunes. It was a stepping stone. Pickering went on to some government post in Singapore, Tait eventually founded Tait and company...Bentley...well maybe he decided to make his score selling info to the French...and for a large sum by the looks of it.

My guess is that he was acting of his own accord. There certainly was little reason for him to stay on in the employ fo the ICMC...where he was fair game as an enemy combatant (the french shelled his Tamshui quarters). The only question that really bugs me is why the name change? My guess is that while his abandoning post was certainly not a betrayal of the British national interest...it certainly would not have been something that was viewed favorably socially. Maybe he was just doing the whole pseudonym internet comment thing..."

2009年7月6日 星期一

Sino-French war medals

This is one of the two medals awarded to members of the French Tonkin Expedition Force, one for the army and the other for the navy. On the backside, all campaigns are listed, 7 for the army and 8, the navy. Formosa is among both. Including the non-combatants, 30,000 in the army and 35,000 in the navy received the medals.

China typically rewarded the leadership group generously with promotions and royal gifts. Soldiers also received citations (below right) and monetary prizes.

It is unclear what the pay for the French or the Chinese soldiers was. The Hakka militia in Danshui each received 8 Mexican Silver Dollars per month, presumably a handsome sum at that time. The French looted Keelung at the beginning and confiscated merchandise on ships during the later blockade of Taiwan. So much cargo was intercepted, the French naval officers and sailors both had a great time plundering.