Friday, July 24, 2015

Oral history of the Puyuma people

Outside Taitung's Immaculate Conception Church, more than two dozen painted wall panels depict scenes from the legendary and oral history of the Puyuma people, one of 16 indigenous ethnic groups recognized by Taiwan's government. As of June 2015, just under 13,500 Taiwanese were registered members of the Puyuma (sometimes called the Pinuyumayan) tribe.
Most of the pictures lack captions in Chinese let alone English, so working out what they represent is far from easy. The top image presumably shows a Puyuma elder telling a foreign priest about his tribe's traditions. The second picture, I'd guess, depicts part of the Puyuma's creation myth.
Does this show a forest fire that resulted from carelessly roasting a pig? Typhoons and earthquakes are the most common natural disasters to afflict Taiwan, but serious forest fires do occur from time to time.
Here, a Puyuma brave fights a bear. Oddly, the animal doesn't resemble a Formosan black bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus), Taiwan's only ursine species.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Zhiben Catholic Church

The exterior of the Immaculate Conception Church in Zhiben, Taitung County resembles neither a European church - there's no steeple - nor any of the Catholic houses of worship around the island which incorporate Chinese 'Northern Palace' architecture. Like many buildings that date from the early 1950s, it's a simple concrete box that leaks when there's heavy rain. Yet the grounds are spacious and the interior reflects the heritage of the indigenous Puyuma people who worship here.

According to the priest, around 70 people attend Sunday service, and both Mandarin and the Puyuma language are used in the church; click on the photo below to enlarge it, and you'll notice the hymn book has romanized Puyuma as well as Chinese script. Visitors should ask for permission from the priest or caretaker before entering the church, the address of which is 15, Lane 331, Zhiben Road Section 3 (知本路3段331巷15號). There's a map and Chinese-language information here. The wall which surrounds the churchyard has paintings which show scenes from the tribe's oral history.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Design*Sponge's guide to Taipei

A bang up-to-date and very comprehensive introduction to places to shop, eat, drink coffee and soak up culture, the Design*Sponge Taipei City Guide is recommended for people planning to spend a few days or more in Taiwan's capital. Among the 100-odd listings are sightseeing highlights like Bopiliao and Shifen, some of the city's museums, tea-houses, and the seafood market-restaurant complex called Aquatic Addiction Development, which I visited recently to research this article.  

The guide was compiled by Stephanie Hsu, aka The Thousandth Girl, on whose site you'll find other useful Taiwan-related articles.