Sunday, October 23, 2011

Books: Song of Orchid Island

Like the author's Chingchuan Story, Song of Orchid Island is an engaging first-person account of life and missionary work alongside indigenous people. Not published in English until 2006 (two decades after the Chinese-language version was a local bestseller), it was in fact written back in the early 1970s, just after Martinson had spent a year on Orchid Island (also known as Lanyu, 蘭嶼).

The island has changed a great deal since then. Martinson describes serious poverty and widespread, though never fatal, malnutrition. Age-old traditions were still observed, for example the requirement that fathers change their names to match their eldest sons':

"The man's name was Jayud. The son's name was also Jayud. The reason their names were the same was not because the boy had been named after his father, but because the father had been named after his son. Jayud explained that when a couple had their first child, the father changed his name to that given the child."

In one memorable episode, Martinson leads his students on a walk to another village many of them had never visited.

"At least two dozen of the mothers and fathers were going with us. The men wore armor and carried spears to protect their children from the spirits."

The book's 55 black-and-white photos, all taken by Martinson, are excellent. To buy this book, directly contact the publisher, Tau Books, or visit the specialist website

Monday, October 10, 2011

Taiwan Wine Cellar

Recently I dropped by the Taiwan Wine Cellar (go here for the address, a map and other details), a shop in central Taiwan that sells locally-produced wines and spirits. Opened in 2008 by Erlin Township Farmers' Association, it has an impressive range of alcoholic drinks, including liquors made from passion fruit and pineapples. Connoisseurs of good European or New World wines are unlikely to find anything to anything that pleases their taste buds, but if you're looking for liquid souvenirs of your time in Taiwan, this shop is a good bet.

Changhua County's Erlin Township (彰化縣二林鎮) is said to have the highest concentration of wineries in Taiwan; the staff at the Cellar told me there are 19 legal wineries in the area, a legacy of grape-growing on a large scale for sale to the government's Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau. When Taiwan joined the WTO in 2002, the monopoly was abolished and the bureau converted into a state-run enterprise, TTL. Because TTL now sources its grapes from elsewhere, Erlin's grape farmers have began making their own wine.

There are wine producers elsewhere in Taiwan. One I've visited, and whose products I like, is CJ Wine Village (藏酒休閒農場) in Yilan County.