August 2003. VOL.3 ISSUE 8
ROAD TO BANKIMCHENG
By David Oakley
the Westerners who have left a mark on southern Taiwan, few
stand out more than a Spanish Dominican priest, Fernando Sainz,
who not only founded two of southern Taiwan's finest churches,
but also played a timely role in the protection of the Makatau
the Spanish and the Dutch came to Taiwan in the 17th century,
the plains of southwest Taiwan were populated by Siraya and
Makatau tribespeople. The aborigines proved ready converts
to Christianity, yet found themselves progressively usurped
from their land by subsequent waves of settlers from the Chinese
arriving at Kaohsiung in May 1859, Sainz quickly lost
his traveling companion, and soon found himself sleeping
alone on the beach. Eventually, sheer perseverance saw
him obtain the land upon which today's Holy Rosary Cathedral
now stands on WuFu Third Road.
mission to succor Christian families led him to travel
east to the Makatau settlement of Bankimcheng (now better
known as Wanchin), at the foot of the Central Mountain
Range, to where the Makatau had been pushed by Hakka
and Minnan immigrants. The Makatau embraced Father Sainz
as a protector, and accepted his teachings, allowing
the mission at Bankimcheng to be founded in 1861.
traveled frequently between Kaohsiung and Wanchin, often at
night, and skirting the towns to avoid robbery or worse. He
broke his journey at the little mission of Kaoakhi, half a
day on foot from Kaohsiung and two hours before Wanchin. By
retracing Sainz's steps today one can learn more about Taiwan's
history and enjoy some very particular sights.
OF THE CITY
route out of Kaohsiung skirts the airport and crosses the
Kaoping River on the new Provincial Highway No. 88. The highway
arrives in Pingtung County at Shepi Village, whose fertile
soil was long occupied by the Siraya people. Today, the Siraya
seem to have been wholly assimilated into the Minnan population.
Wandan on Provincial Highway No. 27, and taking County
Road No. 189 towards Chaojou, one soon crosses the Ailiao
River. Before the Japanese built the massive dykes at
Shuimen, the Ailiao River was one of the most dangerous
in the region. The first village beyond the river is Kaoakhi,
where nothing seems to remain of the little mission that
had to be rebuilt three times after being destroyed in
the 1860s and 1870s by xenophobic mobs.
Kaoakhi, County Highway No. 82 branches towards Jutian, passing
betel-nut orchards, and into Hakka country. Deviating a little
from Father Sainz's path, at Jutian one can head north towards
Meiho on Provincial Highway No. 1 to understand more about
the Hakka and the power of water.
Meiho there is a Tseng clan house which, though modest, is
a very rare example of a U-shaped layout which shows both
the defensive structure of the Hakka roundhouse as well as
a geomantic focus on the ancestral shrine. Other Hakka sites
can be found with the help of the friendly Pingtung Plains
Cultural Association office, just north of the gas station
as one enters Meiho, at 88 HsuehJen Road; Tel: (08) 769-0095.
lane beside the Tseng family home leads off across the
Dunggang River toward Ssukuo and Wukuo, and on to Wanchin.
The word "ditch" in the village names of Ssukuo
("four ditch") and Wukuo ("five ditch")
refers to the irrigation channels dug in the 18th and
19th centuries by the Hakka that tended to marginalize
the Makatau and led to fierce struggles over water rights
between the two groups. It was to secure an irrigation
source that the Dominicans purchased greater land holdings
around Wanchin, ensuring both the self-sufficiency of
the community and the church? dominance over their lives.
on to Wukuo, one finds a village dominated by the clan house
of the Liu family, which dates from 1864. The tablet beside
the porch relates that the family is directly descended from
the Han emperor of 2,000 years ago and implies that the Hakka
were political refugees in Taiwan, not economic migrants.
The swallowtail roof over the porch and central shrine reflect
the Mandarin status of the family, which held extensive properties
prior to land reform.
Wukuo it is but a short way to Wanchin, nestled beneath the
imposing mountain fasts of the Paiwan. The basilica has been
extensively restored and rebuilt over the years; only the
main walls remain of the 1869 structure. Above the portal
is the stone tablet by which the Qing emperor conferred imperial
protection on the church and its congregation.
percent of Wanchin's people are Catholic; most are Makatau.
Much of the year this cluster of humble dwellings is a
sleepy place, but on the second Sunday each December,
at the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and at Christmas,
thousands converge on the village from all over Taiwan.
the end of a journey, one's thoughts turn to food. Excellent
Hakka-style noodles can be found in front of the basilica
gates--this is appropriate, now that ethnic enmity is history.
For a larger repast, an excellent choice is to head back to
Wanluan to sample its famous pork leg.
has parishes in the mountain districts, such as one at Laiyi,
in Paiwan territory. If you wish to extend your trip beyond
Wanchin, Laiyi makes for very pleasant exploring.