2009年8月28日 星期五

Bricks of Danshui

[An 1899 map of northern Taiwan detailing all towns, big and small, located between Danshui and Keelung; click to enlarge.]

The navigational difficulty of Danshui River and Harbor owing to the sandy deposits has a long history. The following is quoted from Colquhoun, A.R., and J.H. Stewart-Lockhart. "A sketch of Formosa." The China Review (1885): 161-207:

"The harbour [left: an 1893 French map of Danshui Harbor, click to enlarge] is really formed by the debouchure of numerous streams rising in the mountains in various directions, and at distances varying from twenty to seventy miles from the mouth. The main branch comes from the south-east, but another important one rises in the north-east, in the immediate neighbourhood of Keelung, a few miles to the south, on the southern side of a hill-pass, the upper reaches being covered with fierce rapids. These streams flow towards Mêngka, called also Bangka or Banca, where they form a junction, some fifteen miles from the sea, into which they empty themselves. Large quantities of silt are brought down by the river, especially when swollen by heavy rains, the result being a troublesome bank in the middle of the river, and the narrow bar at the entrance, on which the sea at times breaks with great violence. A dangerous surf rises with a fresh breeze, and vessels cannot count on entering, or once within, on leaving the port. In fine weather and at high tide, coasting steamers of small draught can enter, but vessels of any considerable draught do not venture in, on account of the insufficient depth, and the surf-swell. The anchorage has shifted from the southern side, where it was within the memory of native residents, to the northern bank. This has been generally attributed to the wholesale deposit of ballast from junks in the river, never interfered with by the Chinese officials."

Apparently the authors did not realize the "wholesale deposit of ballast..." was in fact a defense against the French fleet consisting of stone-laden ships sunken on order of Liu Ming Ch'uan and later reinforced by Sun Kai-Hua.

The "ballast from junks" was actually red bricks used to stabilize small transport ships sailing across the often stormy Taiwan Strait from China. The bricks were a valuable commodity not to be discarded haphazardly as implicated in the above quote. Once arriving in Danshui, the bricks were sold locally. Many houses in Danshui were constructed with these ballast bricks and some still can be seen today. They are not to be confused with the bricks for the famed Fort San Domingo. The latter were of a different constitution; the Dutch had them shipped in from Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia).

And of course, in later days, bricks were produced in Taiwan by 台灣煉瓦株式會社 (Taiwan Renga Co) and 撒木耳煉瓦會社 (Samuel and Samuel Co) - the bricks were marked with TR and S (or reversed S), respectively.

Danshui Presbyterian Church, on the other hand, was built with
30,000 "high-quality" bricks imported from Amoy, possibly the same type of bricks used previously in the construction of the villa of oil tycoon 黃東茂. The 黃 residence was located in the area marked "Maisons européennes" in the lower right corner of the French map (see above). The "Europeans" refers to John Dodd and Dr Mackay's missionary colleagues. This area was vacated for the construction of the tiny seaplane airport in 1939. This international airport was bombed on Oct 12, 1944, by the Americans, three years after it opened for business.

黃東茂, nicknamed 五舍 (for 五少爺) was one of the three most wealthy locals of his time (the other two: 許丙 and 洪以南). Only they could afford to join the Danshui Golf Club.

6 則留言:

  1. A surprise to learn that 五舎is 黄東茂.
    I was told that very rare flower named Peony can only be found in his garden.
    Now I have two at my backyard.
    He made money as the Shell Oil (掃手牌)Distributer, no wonder there was a big oil tank near his estate.

  2. The legendary 黄東茂 (1886-1929) was from Amoy. A recent biographical article, in simplified Chinese, is here:


    Surprisingly (to me anyway), he was the original owner of the famous 蓬萊閣 in Taipei. The restaurant was later sold and re-sold and became a hospital. Now a condo building.

    The 台湾日日新報 Dec 31, 1918 issue listed him as one of the few Taiwanese 産業調査会委員 of 台北商工会の産業調査会. So he was not just a merchant during that time.

    His oil business was later taken over by the Japanese. Even his estate was lost to "eminent domain" in 1939 for the seaplane port construction. That parcel of land is still under military control, off limits to all civilians. You can just see a little corner of it from the edge of the river near Danshui MRT Station.

  3. I remembered well that in 50s, 蓬莱閣 was hotel and restaurant. One of my brothers had his wedding party hold there and the dinner menus included 九孔. 蓬莱閣 was showed up in 1966 movie, “Sand Pebbles.” The movie also has many scenes from the old Tamsui. I repeat viewing the movie when I get home sick.

  4. The most expensive seafood dish 九孔 - I had that in Danshui last month. Now there are canned 鮑魚 from Mexico and Australia. Just not the same.

    Your brother's wedding party at 蓬莱閣 must have been quite a social event. Everybody knew about this restaurant even those who'd never set foot in it. 黄東茂 was quite a businessman who seemed to have enjoyed life to the max. Too bad we know very little about him.

    Yes, Steve McQueen and the movie. They had caused some controversies while on location in Danshui. I guess in the movie the KMT army was portrayed in an unflattering way?

  5. 九孔 are small size abalones,merely inch or so in length, which has nine holes in their shells hence the name.
    The California gold rush of 1849 was gone in a matter of years; followed immediately was the California Abalone Rush. The left over Chinese laborers started picking up the abalones from the sea shore. Up to that time, abalones were little consumed by the locals though they were considered as delicacy in other side of the world. While dried abalones were shipped to Far East, the abalone shells kept piling up in the California beaches. Who knew that using the shells for making buttons would create another rush called Abalone Shell Rush next?

  6. Just like lobsters in Plymouth, Massachusetts (in the early 1600s). Too many of them, so they were regarded as pests of the sea. The Pilgrims even fed them to the pigs. In Danshui in the 50s, lobsters served with mayo were almost as expensive as the 九孔, even though they were just sliced jumbo shrimps served on lobster shells. Now there are Maine lobsters available everywhere.