A living cultural museum: Tu-Niu Hakka Museum
Words and photos by Shi Yong-feng
Translated by Alicia Yu
Situated in Taichung City's Shigang district, Tu-Niu Hakka Museum is housed in what once was an old "huofang" (literally "communal house" in Hakka; a semi-closed courtyard-style house for the extended family) of the locally prominent Liu family in Tu-Niu. Although the entire original "huofang" collapsed during the 921 Earthquake, it was rebuilt six years later at the original site according to its original appearance and was renamed the Tu-Niu Hakka Museum on May 9, 2006.
With an area of more than 7,000 square meters, the museum is the first "living cultural museum" ever established in Taiwan. It includes an exhibition hall with static displays of Hakka cultural relics and historical documents, but also remains a home for the Liu family, which still conducts its religious rituals and rites of passage here. Furthermore, museum visitors can practically participate in the authentic Hakka daily-life ceremonies, giving them a hands-on experience of this impressive, lively culture. This effectively gives the museum the function of passing down Hakka culture and makes it a top destination for understanding the Hakka culture of Da-Pu (a cultural branch passed down by the Hakka immigrants from Da-Pu county, Guangdong province) as it integrates tourism, education, Hakka cultural industry and rituals.
Worshiped in the main reception hall of the cultural museum are the "spirit tablets" from every earlier generation. Every morning and evening, Liu family members come here to burn incense and on special days, such as the lunar new year, Tomb Sweeping Day, Dragon Boat Festival and the "Double Ninth" Festival (senior citizens day), all relatives from the extended family return to their hometown to worship their ancestors. The "weilong" (exterior wings) houses built on the two sides of the main reception hall also house some of the Lius, who often can be seen sitting and chatting beside the half-moon pond, or drying quilts in the sun in the courtyard. Visitors can also observe many examples of traditional Hakka living while walking along the magnificently sculptured and painted winding corridors of the "san-ho-yuan" (three-in-one courtyard house).
In addition, themes for exhibitions in the museum have been changed several times. From dsplays focusing on local culture in earlier times to the integration of Hakka elements in the original Da-Pu, the large number of exhibited ancient cultural relics have attracted many visitors, including those from institutions and schools interested in Hakka culture.
All-in-all, the museum park includes the Liu's main reception hall and four major exhibition halls, surrounded by the four families currently living at the park and the original facilities and features, such as breadfruit and longan trees, an old well, clothes-washing area, a "hsi-tzu-ting" (literally "pavilion for cherishing words"), feng-shui ditches and a half-moon pond. Other parts of the museum park are undergoing overall re-planning, including, for example, all the public space and facilities surrounded by the walls as well as the Hakka Literature Room, Briefing Room and offices located on the first and second floors of the activity center.
Main Reception Hall of the Liu House: The ancestral shrine in the middle is composed of several step-like levels. Spirit tablets from different bloodlines are displayed on different levels and it can be said that these tablets are physical representations of pedigree. Also noteworthy is that the display order follows ethical norms, with "the rear belonging to those more venerated, and the left going to those with higher status".
The four major exhibition halls are Chang Chih Hall, Chang Jen Hall, Chang Hsi Hall and Chang Sung Hall. Chang Chih Hall tells the clan's story in Shigang; Chang Jen Hall introduces impressions of Shigang and the Hakka Ba-yin Music; Chang Hsi Hall displays the people and happenings of Shigang and life in the original Da-Pu as well as Shigang and Dongshi; Chang Sung Hall exhibits the Liu's old "huofang" and makes some comparisons between different Hakka lives around Taiwan.
Breadfruit Tree: Having stood here for over a century despite several major earthquakes, this giant tree remains firm and stable. Every July and August, its abundant fruit make it even more breathtaking for visitors.
Half-Moon Pond: Also known as the "fish pond", this half-moon-shaped facility is commonly seen in front of the main gate of Hakka "huofang" structures, and is usually surrounded by cobblestone pavement. From a "fengshui" perspective, this pond is reputed to make the climate mild and attract good fortune to the house, while fulfilling the daily-living functions such as fire prevention, disaster relief, and everyday enjoyment.
10, DeCheng Lane, FengShi Rd, Shigang Dist.
Tue.-Fri.9 am-5 pm (closed Mon. and national holidays)
By Taiwan Railway: Get off the train at Fengyuan Railway Station, take a Fengyuan Bus bound for Guguan and Dongshi, and get off at Tu-Niu Elementary School.
By HSR: Take exit No. 6 after getting off at HSR Taichung Station, and get on UBus bound for Guguan at platform No. 21. Get off at Tu-Niu Elementary School.
By car: Take National Freeway No. 4, exit at the Fengyuan interchange, turn left onto FengShi Rd., Sec. 2 and continue straight towards Shigang. After passing Tu-Niu Elementary School, turn left at MingDe Lane and follow direction signs.