2013年8月23日 星期五

Black Mullet in Tamsui River 淡水河的烏魚

烏魚Black Mullet (Mugil cephalus, also known as 鯔魚) is a migratory fish. Each winter, schools of them travel from along the shorelines of Chinese mainland, through the Taiwan Strait to reach western shores of Taiwan. They actually follow the warm ocean current southward. And, almost like clockwork, they arrive around 冬至 (the beginning of winter) and start spawning. The fish is in fact harvested for its roes (i.e., ovaries full of eggs). After processing, this is the final product:

烏魚子Mullet roe is a very expensive delicacy, also known as Black Gold. Traditionally, it is grilled gently over charcoal flames, then thinly sliced, and served together with garlic seedlings (diagonally cut):

Some fish actually swim into Tamsui River. This video, courtesy of Teng-Feng Fishball Museum, shows the easy catch with an umbrella fishnet:

Notice the inverted V-shaped mouth, a distinct feature of the Black Mullet

Black Mullet fishing has a long history. Each winter, ancient Chinese fishermen would follow the fish to Taiwan. The Dutch East India Co (1624-1662) had levied a 10% tax on the harvests. And during the Ming-Cheng rule (1662-1683), fishermen were required to pay for permits - in the form of a white flag printed with the fisherman's name stamped with gov'tal seals, to be displayed on the boat. One document from that era recorded 94 such permits in Feng-Shan District, "... 給烏魚旗九十四支,旗用白布一幅,刊刷烏魚旗子樣,填寫漁戶姓名,縣印鈴記,插於船頭,帶綑採捕". Taxation, of course, continues to this day.

Unfortunately, Black Mullet fishing in Taiwan may soon become a thing of the past. Out of either greed or ignorance, or both, Mainland Chinese fishermen have intercepted the migrating fish before they even reached Taiwan Strait. These pirate-like fishermen use giant nets to corral the fish, then catch the fish with smaller nets with hooks, a barbaric practice frowned upon by the Taiwanese. As a result of this pre-emptive over-fishing, Black Mullet are deprived of the opportunity to spawn and the stock is now much depleted.

Some have argued that the water temperature in the Taiwan Strait for some reason is no longer high enough to attract and guide the migration; although this theory seems to go against the natural geographical instincts of all migratory species.

In any case, the counter-measure will have to be through large-scale fish farming. This remains a work-in-progress, however.

2013年8月21日 星期三

Typhoon and Tamsui

It gets a little tiring, every time a typhoon visits Taiwan (this time, 潭美颱風), TV news reporters will congregate in Tamsui to show that Tamsui "老街" is flooded, when in fact, only two spots along the Tamsui River are. One is in front of the Starbuck's where George Leslie Mackay's kneeling bronze statue is located, and the other is on the outer skirts of the new landfill area. Neither is anywhere near 老街.

Below: reporters, Starbucks, and the praying George Leslie Mackay:

And the landfill area (flooding is an expected consequence of claiming land from the unforgiving sea):

Of course, the real 老街, i.e., 中正路, is just a little wet:

So is the rest of the area along Tamsui River:

There you have it: Tamsui is safe and sound. Please pay no attention to the false news reports.

A bit of nostalgia here: It was the same way when we were growing up in the 50s, not much flooding was going on, either. Our elementary school remained open, as were other schools both big and small, and we had to cross a muddy 中山路 to reach the school ground. The aftermath was even more spectacular. The River would turn yellow from soil washed down from upstream. It took a few days for the high water level to subside. Nothing much has changed since - except these days schools are sometimes closed for safety reasons.

2013年8月6日 星期二

Tainan Airfield(s) 1944-45 Part 4

Memories of 1 March 1945

Contributed by Wu Jung-Ming  


3/1/1945 - My grandfather's pharmaceutical company 榮安堂 caught fire from the incendiary bomb attack on the first day of Tainan city bombing (3/1/1945). We were told that it displayed brilliant color fireworks in succession as the different stock chemicals in the plant caught fire and burned over the next three days.

Bronze busts of Mr and Mrs Wu, founders of 榮安堂

疏開 [so-khai, evacuation] - We escaped the burning city that night on foot on pitch dark dirt road, headed for country side, i.e., so-khai. The river of fleeing refugees was overflowing the dark dirt road leading to the countryside villages.

On the road, there wasn't much voice conversation but the noise of foot steps and semi monotonic sounds of rolling steel wheels of ox drawn carts hitting the uneven dirt road. With the exception of a few lucky families with carts, most refugees, small children and all, were on foot carrying minimal luggage. The city was burning behind us. The dark sky was painted with orange and red by the burning city.

Partially melted bronze bust of Mr Wu

Silent witnesses to the war - My grandparents' bronze busts recovered from the rubble after the war show the intensity of the fire. The burning heat was so intense that it partially melted and deformed my grandfather's bust. The bronze bust of my grandfather survived WWII to tell the story of the Allied fire bombing of Tainan.

2013年8月1日 星期四

Tainan Airfield(s) 1944-45 Part 3

Eiko Airfield, Formosa. Note bomb-drop pattern following strike by planes from USS Essex. January 4, 1945

Tainan is a historical city, the seat of power of the 17th century Dutch East India Co colonialists, the Ming-Cheng Kingdom founded by Koxinga, and the Qing, barbarians from the north. And since Koxinga's time, with the establishment of the very first Confucius Temple, the city had become the educational/cultural center of Taiwan. This venerable tradition continued even under the Japanese rule of between 1895-1945.

This, however, did not seem an issue of concern to the US military. Similar to the bombing of Dresden in Feb 1945, for the American planners, the decision to bomb Tainan was a military one that targeted not only Tainan Airfield(s), but also military installations and war-material-producing factories. Apparently also targeted were the Tainan-shu prefectural gov't and the headquarters of the Taiwan 2nd Infantry. "Targets of opportunity" that had caused the most civilian casualties, unfortunately, appeared to be any building that had anti-aircraft placements on the rooftop or adjacent to it. This in fact meant most of the city. By the end of the war, 51% of Tainan City had been wiped out. Yet, curiously, there was almost no official post-war record of the Tainan bombing as if it had never happened. We are left with only some personal recalls and remembrances.

Here is a chronology of the events:

12 October 1944: At dawn, between 7:20 to 7:45, 3 dogfights between American and Japanese fighters broke out above Tainan City, witnessed by a number of very surprised residents. On the same day, the whole Taiwan saw at least 1,100 US bombing runs. Older folks still remember that the Americans came early in the morning and quit at around 5PM, office hours, in fact. Sensing the impending doom, large-scale evacuations to the countryside started. In Tainan, residents moved to towns such as 大内 and 關廟, some even further away to 玉井 and 楠西.

1 March 1945 (the "Longest Day" in Tainan City history): Carpet bombing with incendiary bombs; 1,520 houses destroyed, 90 dead, and 146 wounded. 

3-17 March 1945: By the 17th, the symbol of power, the building of Tainan-shu Admin Office had been reduced to rubbles. A large bomb shelter behind it received a direct hit and 40 people killed as a result. The buildings nearby including the tallest building in Tainan, the 5-story Hayashi Departmental Store, were all damaged.
The Hayashi Departmental Store today

20 March 1945: The FEAF chronology had stated simply "B-24s bomb the town of Tainan", when in fact, around noontime, 18 B24s attacked Tainan Normal School and its affiliated elementary school and dropped 126 incendiary bombs on the campus. The area erupted into a gigantic fireball that continued to burn for 2 hours. The ammunition stored in one of the buildings (possibly the real target) also exploded, further adding to the destruction. 90% of this campus quickly went up in smoke. In the city itself, along 西門路, 南民權路, and 永福路, most houses were burned to the ground. The Railroad Station, Tainan Hospital, Dept of Justice, several Buddhist temples, and a number of factories were all severely damaged. The 東岳殿 slum area, apparently mistaken as military barracks, was attacked 3 times. Miraculously, the temple itself remained standing with only minor damages, not the hapless residents, though. In fact a still unknown number of them had perished. Not only the East District, the historical An-Nan District was also hit for it was where a major chemical plant was located. Luckily, Ft Zeelandia and Ft Provintia were spared.

The intended targets therefore had included not only the Tainan Airfield(s) but equally important, the admin center of Tainan-shu and the barracks of one of the two garrison forces, the Taiwan 2nd Infantry台湾步兵第2連隊, then headquartered in Tainan.

The multiple bombing of Tainan Airfield in the US records can probably be explained that it actually meant 2-3 targets. On the other hand, the dogged efforts of the defenders in repairing the damages probably should not be overlooked. In fact, the last FEAF entry on July 10 1945 stated: "B24s bomb Tainan Airfield destroying several planes", this seems to indicate that the airbase remained operational despite the umpteen attacks.

17-18 year-old Kamikaze pilots from Kyushu, some stationed briefly at Tainan Airfields
Sadly, at least two squadrons of Kamikaze pilots, all around 17-18 years old, almost all of them from Kyushu, had either based here in the Eikosho and Eineisho Airfields, or were further sent to Kiirun宜蘭 Airfield in Eastern Taiwan to carry out their final mission.

A little bit of a long-forgotten history here: The Taiwan 2nd Infantry was commissioned in Japan in 1907 and sent to Taiwan to be the garrison force. In 1937, the 2nd and its sister army the Taiwan 1st Infantry, then stationed in Taipei, were both dispatched to fight the KMT force in Shanghai. The 2nd had quickly returned to Taiwan while the First had fought all the way to 武昌, and subsequently, re-deployed in southern China, Hainan Island, Indo-China, the Philippines, and finally Java. At some point, the 2nd Infantry had also joined in. Both eventually surrendered in E Timor. Taiwanese soldiers were promptly separated from the Japanese in POW camps.