Sunday, January 24, 2010

Emperor Qianlong’s legacy of small art treasures ready to delight in a new TV documentary

By Nancy T. Lu

Only an emperor in an era of peace and prosperity could have afforded the luxury of the rare and exclusive “toys” of great beauty and refinement in equally fascinating treasure chests, now all in the safekeeping of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Only a great lover of the fine arts who had the best artisans and most ingenious craftsmen of the land at his beck and call could have ordered the creation or reproduction of the impressive objets d’art in totally scaled-down miniature size for his private enjoyment and appreciation in the Forbidden City of Imperial China.

At long last, however, the legendary miniature curios not easy to see and appreciate in detail with the naked eye are ready to be viewed up close in a new Franco-Taiwanese documentary titled “The Emperor’s Treasure Chests” or “Les Coffrets a Tresors de l’Empereur de Chine.”

Arte France, Public Television Service (PTS) and Novoprod OWL have collaborated in cooperation with the National Palace Museum to produce the full-length film scheduled to have its Asian premiere telecast on the PTS channel at 10 p.m. on January 29.

Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong stood out in Chinese history for seeking to cultivate and satisfy his sense of beauty through extensive art acquisition and collection during his 60-year reign in the 18th century. In his lifetime, he amassed more than enough art treasures to fill a modern-day museum. Treasure chests or so-called “drawers of 10,000 objects” storing miniature art items of great value constituted just a portion of what he left behind.

His revealing or concealing curio boxes of jade, lacquer, sandalwood and bamboo have marvelous and ornate external features like carved dragon patterns all over or a lid design full of crafted auspicious symbols using precious materials like jade, coral, and ivory. The intricately designed containers and their priceless contents, in fact, are some of the reasons explaining the endless daily crowds of curious visitors at the National Palace Museum.

Images from the film which took about two years to produce zero in on a priceless and awe-inspiring cultural legacy. Items are introduced in succession against a background of the historical development of the arts and crafts like pottery as well as lacquerware in Imperial China. The traditional occupations requiring special skills are still continued to this day.

Famous ancient carver Chen Zu-zhang in 1737 transformed an olive pith into a miniature boat with eight passengers in different natural poses. Underneath the boat he etched over three hundred words of poetry by Su Dong-po about river ride at Red Cliff. The fruit pith masterpiece measures 1.6 centimeters high and 3.4 centimeters long. Its inclusion in the documentary concludes with a glimpse of a present-day Taiwanese miniaturist painstakingly carving a very tiny boat out of an olive pith.

French director Alain Jaubert’s professional team admitted that the task of filming Emperor Qianlong’s tiny toys was very challenging because of their incredible size. As a last resort after a month-and-a half of shooting under controlled lighting condition at the museum, they requested digital pictures of high resolutions from the National Palace Museum for back-up use during the final editing of the documentary in Paris.

To watch the film is to be greeted with endless surprises. Treasure chests open in different ways to delight through previously unimaginable revelations. Each cavity, never left hollow, has to hold something small, beautiful and special.

A bamboo container designed to keep tiny curios looks initially like a holder of paraphernalia in an ancient scholar’s study. Parts, however, can be flipped open 180 degrees, transforming it into a folding screen. The museum display piece can also be turned around 360 degrees to make a square-shaped chest with many compartments.

This Qing Dynasty box of great ingenuity in design is only 24.5 centimeters high and it stretches to show a length of 18.5 centimeters. Inside is a little cylinder which can turn 360 degrees. No less than 27 “toys,”including a really rare portrait painting album of only 3 centimeters as well as scroll paintings of only 7 centimeters, are kept.

Another square curio chest has tiny windows of different shapes which seem to frame copied paintings of Yuan Dynasty masters and imitated calligraphic works of Sung Dynasty masters. The windows can be slided to flip open the four hinged parts of the box like a fan. The box with a length of 25 centimeters, a width of 25 centimeters and a height of 21 centimeters has very small compartments revealing a total of 30 treasures. Even the base has secret storage space for more miniature items.

A dark sandalwood container opens to show 12 jade Chinese zodiac animals forming a circle. In the middle is a very small book of poetry written by Emperor Qianlong but copied by his son.

The documentary attempts to reconstruct an ancient lifestyle of the highest class and privilege through paintings from the collection of the National Palace Museum. Without doubt, Emperor Qianlong lived life to the fullest.

All photographs except the close-up picture of the tiny boat from the National Palace Museum are courtesy of the Public Television Service (PTS). Visit for more information on the documentary to air on the PTS channel at 10 p.m. on January 29.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Australian desert aborigines exhibiting gift for abstract art about their close ties to their land

By Nancy T. Lu
Lines, dots and colors lend themselves to interesting modern abstract art at the “Balgo” exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Beneath the simplicity of the art style, however, lies the richness of Australian aboriginal art idiom. Elements which combine to create art beautiful enough to hang on walls of homes and offices offer fascinating narratives of indigenous culture and life of a people with deep ties to the land.

"Balgo” sounds like the name of an artist. In truth, Balgo Hills refers to a western Australian desert region regarded as the second birthplace of contemporary aboriginal art. Discovered in the 1980s, it is home to gifted artists with a living painting tradition. The artists use modern materials and techniques to create abstract art about an ancestral culture.

Art Bank, the biggest collector and lender of contemporary Australian paintings since 1980, has an ever-growing collection of Australian contemporary art and aboriginal art is well represented. Art Bank has organized the touring “Balgo” exhibition, said Richard Matthews, deputy representative of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei, at a preview of the show.

Seventy-seven-year-old Susie Bootja Bootja’s “Kaningarra, down the Canning Stock Route” finds art inspiration in the rocky cave of the painter's birthplace. The artist born in the bush covers canvas with dots to suggest bush onions and black shapes to represent bush carrots.

Meanwhile Miriam Baasjo paints an area believed to have been formed by women’s tears. Rocks here are said to have healing power.

Water is important to life in the desert. The soak, a depression in the ground, is where water exists. Sixty-two-year-old Helicopter Tjungurrayi devotes “Warrwiya Soak, Near Jupiter Well” to a large soakage belonging to his tribe.

“Balgo” opened with genuine Australian aboriginal dancers performing for guests on January 22. The collection of 26 works will be on view on the third floor of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum until February 21.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taipei International Book Exhibition to offer rare glimpses of French authors’ manuscripts

By Nancy T. Lu

Men who wanted to put down their thoughts and ideas in readable form sat down to literally write them long before the invention of the typewriter and the computer.

Famous French writers like Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, Honore de Balzac, Emile Zola, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marcel Proust and Colette left behind painstakingly handwritten manuscripts now in the safekeeping of the Bibliotheque national de France.

Visitors at the forthcoming Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) 2010 will be able to see reproduced manuscripts, including mainly but not confined to the literary scribblings of French authors like Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud. Of the manuscripts on view, the one attributed to composer Hector Berlioz is expected to arouse special interest, too.

The book fair will open at the Taipei World Trade Center’s Hall 1, 2 and 3 on January 27 and will run until February 1. France, as the country in special focus once more this year, will present some of the manuscripts.

In 1988, the Bibliotheque national de France undertook to organize an exhibition showing the use of the French language by writers all the way beyond France’s borders. Original manuscripts in the archives were selected to become highlights in a rare display.

No less than 439 titles were included in the exhibition as told in the book, “En francais dans le texte: Dix siecles de lumieres par le livre” (Text in French: Ten Centuries of Knowledge Through the Book)

The manuscripts of French writers of renown promise to be a subject of great curiosity. The photographs in the published book unravel the classic beauty of the lines and strokes executed perhaps with a traditional plume. Changes and corrections mar and even dirty some of the pages. Margins are often covered with more scribblings. The consistent individual writing styles of these pen-pushers, however, can only draw admiration.

Reproduced photographs from “En francais dans le texte: Dix siecles de lumieres par le livre” show the manuscripts of (from top) Marcel Proust, Honore de Balzac and Guy de Maupassant.

Meanwhile the interesting black-and-white photography of Robert Oisneau will put writers like Francoise Sagan (see picture at the bottom) and Samuel Beckett in the spotlight.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Women’s club members blink eyes in disbelief but agree that indeed to see is to believe

By Nancy T. Lu
The members of the Taipei International Women’s Club blinked their eyes in disbelief once, twice and a third time.

Chen Forng-shean, Taiwan’s best-known miniaturist and the special guest at the January meeting of the TIWC, had brought to the American Club in China (ACC) three masterpieces in his personal collection.

Connie Pong, the TIWC president, brought around first Chen’s tiny tiger, which was barely visible to the naked eye. In fact, the resin sculpture created over a three-month period last year was placed on the eye of a sewing needle in a glass showcase for viewing up close through a built-in jeweler’s loupe or small magnifying glass. .

Chen had painstakingly come up with the black-striped Asian cat of incredibly small size in anticipation of the arrival of the Year of the Tiger. The laughing animal measured only 0.12 centimeter long, 0.06 centimeter wide and 0.1 centimeter high.

Chen also displayed his miniature depiction of Taipei Mucha Zoo’s panda attractions Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan. The lovable black-and-white bears were shown eating bamboo.

The third showcase containing very tiny watermelons on crawling vines likewise drew gasps of astonishment and marvel. The women’s club members heaped praises on Chen’s impressive feat in carving art pieces of very small size.

The fiftyish Chen’s excellent eyesight and great patience amazed the TIWC members in attendance. This professional engraver working for the government has lately been busy preparing the new currency bills to be launched and circulated as souvenirs in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China on Taiwan next year.

Video film clips took the TIWC members present on a tour of Chen’s private museum in Xindian. How he worked on his miniature collection was likewise explained in one eye-opening film. Chen personally invited the TIWC members to visit his museum one weekend.

The time came for senior TIWC members Jane Lin, 90, Kay Chiang, 86, and Margie Ho, 82, to perform a Japanese folk dance. Suddenly the spotlight was on two octogenarians and a nonagenarian going through stylized paces.

Again, the spectators blinked their eyes in disbelief. Not many of those present could imagine themselves still dancing like the three senior citizens when already so advanced in years. The upbeat trio in Japanese costumes even gave dancing lessons on the spot. Everyone had fun swaying their arms and doing the Japanese dance steps by simply following the graceful performers on the stage.

Mayumi Hu, TIWC second vice president and program emcee of the day, gave a pictorial presentation of the December trip to Indonesia by the TIWC members led by Connie Pong. The participation in a fabulous Indonesian wedding in Jakarta was a memorable highlight of the tour organized by Lily Assana, officer in charge of hospitality. The group also saw the newly-unveiled statue of President Barack Obama as a little boy in the Jakarta neighborhood where little Barry studied many years ago. Obama is reportedly planning a visit to Indonesia in March.

Peckhee Lim, TIWC publicity officer, invited the club members to join the orange-picking activity at her farm in Hsinchu on January 30. She proved a revelation as calligrapher when she showed samples of her brushwork on red paper strips during the club meeting on Tuesday, January 19. She wanted to find out the members’ interest in bringing home her Lunar New Year couplets after a fun visit to her two-acre farm in the countryside not very far from Taipei.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

World’s tiniest tiger created in Taiwan is smaller than the eye of a sewing needle

By Nancy T. Lu

Taiwan’s best-known miniaturist Chen Forng-shean unveils every January his record-breaking microscopic creation inspired by the particular Chinese zodiac animal of the Lunar New Year.

Chen in celebration of the Year of the Tiger has a truly tiny tiger made of resin to show in his private museum in Xindian. “A Roaring Laughter That Rips Through the Air” is how Chen calls his latest masterpiece. The tiger, which is smaller than the eye of a sewing needle, is barely visible to the human eye.

“I spent three months creating this tiger,” revealed Chen. “Success came only after more than 10 failed attempts.”

Chen’s laughing tiger, which is best seen in detail under a magnifying glass, has a length of 0.12 centimeter, a width of 0.06 centimeter and a height of 0.1 centimeter. Try to visualize how small it is. It is not easy.

The introduction of the colors and stripes of the animal proved the most challenging part of making this miniature three-dimensional sculpture, according to Chen. Giving the tiger’s tongue a red color required total control and precision. A small brush stroke could easily slip out of place. Chen used a magnifying glass to carry out his creative exercise.

Watching Chen at work in his studio meant observing how he steadily went about creating something almost without moving his hands. When realizing a design, he seemed to even hold his breath completely.

Since ancient times, the symbolical depiction of the tiger has always implied a hope for accelerated ushering in of the auspicious and chasing away of the evil, said Chen.

The picture above was provided by Chen Forng-shean.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Throw party at wine shop in Tienmu with organizing help from Sonny and Caroline See

By Nancy T. Lu
Delicious food, excellent wines, and cozy setting not to mention warm and personalized service all combine to help create beautiful party memories for celebrants of happy occasions the whole year round. Those who particularly enjoy wine drinking know that The Vineyard in Tienmu is a reliable place for such events.

Wine expert Sonny See and his charming wife, Caroline See, are ever ready to help orchestrate such happenings. Both speak English very fluently.

“Collecting expensive wines cited by experts for their appellations d’origine for years can be said to be a typically Taiwanese practice,” said Sonny See, a Philippine-born sommelier who opened his wine shop called The Vineyard in Tienmu two years ago. “In fact, the most expensive wines in Bordeaux have for many years been sold to Taiwan, where buyers regard them as a good investment,” he added.

The 60-year-old See would like to change the Taiwanese concept about imported wines. As he put it, “The time has come to learn the French ‘joie de vivre’ by acquiring a taste for good and excellent wines.”

For this reason, See has come up with the unique idea of having a tapas bar at his wine shop. His wine shop, which is located not far from Takashimaya, tries to be more accessible to people.

“Customers can drop by for a glass of wine at the end of a working day,” said See, who served for many years at the Ritz Landis Taipei. “You can have a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia at lunchtime for as low as NT$100.”

A similar order in a restaurant or bar elsewhere in Taipei is very likely to cost much more.

People in Taiwan tend to have the impression that wines are generally expensive. See would like to correct this misconception.

“Good wine is to be sipped and enjoyed,” said See. “It does not necessarily have to be expensive.”

The range of tapas or hors d’oeuvres on offer at The Vineyard is amazing. See and his very capable daughter, Joanna See, make them, marinating olives with garlic and dried chili. They also saute baby potatoes with anchovies, adding rosemary. Cherry tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar make great appetizer at The Vineyard, too.

They can fry eggplant in olive oil, infusing it with ginger. They cook sweet pepper in honey with capers. Occasionally they serve pan-fried mackerel with lemon and caper. This wonderful fish is under-rated, said See.

The Vineyard in the past even had a good squid recipe, requiring marinating the seafood in olive oil with lemon juice and dill zest for at least two hours. Letting everything stay overnight was even better. Then the squid was ready to be dropped on a smoking hot pan without oil. The squid’s juice was reduced this way. Lemon juice was squeezed and onion ring slices put on top.

Customers at The Vineyard come in early in the morning for a hearty breakfast. Yes, the See family is ready to serve early in the morning. Dinner crowd shows up at around 7:30 p.m. and See is experienced enough to engage in wine talk with them. The shop is open until 9:30 p.m.

See personally pours champagne for guests celebrating a special occasion in the wine shop’s comfortable basement space. With music playing in the background, the birthday celebrant gets a cake with a lighted candle, too.

See makes sure that the champagne bottle is not too cold. He looks at the bubbles in the glass to check the champagne quality. A clear color also is important. The actual tasting to assess the fruity flavor and acidity follows.

Champagne mellows and changes for the better with age,” said See. “The champagne bottles which went down with the Titanic were very much drinkable when recovered years later.”

See’s wine stocks date as far back as 1986. The Vineyard carries Bordeaux wines of 1990, 1989 and 1986 vintages. The bottles of wines available range in prices from NT$2,000 to NT$20,000. Customers, however, can also order gift baskets worth NT$1,500 to NT$5,000.

The Vineyard is located at 196 Texing East Road in Tienmu. For inquiries, call tel. (02)2834-5026.

All the pictures were taken by Nancy T. Lu.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Follow the refreshing trail to Manyueyuan Waterfall before maple leaves disappear

By Nancy T. Lu

Manyueyuan, a name describing the full moon when the orb in the night sky is at its most round, is how a mountain and a national forest recreation area in Sanxia, Taipei County, is called.

Manyueyuan Mountain is located in the southeast side of the forest recreation area being administered by the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau.

Loggers during the Japanese colonial days in Taiwan ventured into the not very accessible hinterland for a long haul. They spent long days felling the big trees and bringing them out using the manually-pulled railcars. During many lonely nights away from loved ones, they looked at the full moon and dreamed about family reunion.

The pristine and lush timberland of the distant past no longer exists in Manyueyuan. Forests which once witnessed Atayal aboriginal hunters chasing wild animal prey and lumbermen chopping down the giant trees for transport to Sanxia Town have long disappeared. But the reforestation effort undertaken under Japanese supervision included the planting of Japanese cedar trees on a massive scale on the slopes and along the creek of Manyueyuan.

The hiking path from the entrance of the Manyueyuan National Forest Recreation Area follows the meandering Ruizai Creek. This boulder-strewn main waterway at Manyueyuan is an upstream branch of the Tamsui River. From time to time, lush vegetation and foliage hide it from view. Hikers hear only the bubbling water. In broad daylight, however, darting silver streaks in the running water indicate the presence of the “kuhua.” The fish usually appreciated at the dining table breeds and thrives only in unpolluted water.

Manyueyuan is nowadays seeing the last of its red maple leaves dropping to the ground. Flaming color splashes in some parts of this ecologically protected site are like the last hurrahs of the season.

Verdure in Manyueyuan is a refreshing sight to behold. Rainfall is adequate. So vegetation grows without problem. Giant and wild nest ferns spread out beautifully like fans. The “bitongshu” fern variety growing near the stream has a trunk tapped to build an improvised bridge over a gully in the past. Meanwhile the enormous green leaves of a tuber crop called “kupoyu” greet passersby from time to time. In the olden days, these green outgrowths conveniently became umbrellas when workers got caught in a sudden downpour. Early Hakka settlers in Hsinchu used them to wrap meat and fish. But secretion from the leaves is said to be poisonous. At the same time it is an effective antidote against a hornet’s sting.

The volunteer guide from a pool of about 123 is trained to identify the trees in Manyueyuan’s protected 90 hectares. Barks and leaves provide interesting points of reference.

Signs along the footpath point to the amphibian and bird species likely to be spotted in Manyueyuan. Frog species vary. Some are like chameleons capable of changing colors and blending with the natural surroundings..Tadpoles in the water may suddenly spread out in panic due to the approach of a hungry snake.

Hundred-pace snakes used to be very common in the wooded area. But the deadly reptile as a favorite catch due to its high price in the market did not breed fast enough to meet the market demand. In due time, this hunted species became very rare. Other crawling snakes, however, can nowadays still be encountered though.

In the olden days, too, those who went into the forests also ran into blood-sucking leeches in the wet grass. Camphor oil was applied as a deterrent against attacks by the worms normally attracted by human body heat.

Marker along the way also identifies the colorful birds lured to Manyueyuan during their annual migration period. Butterflies to fill a lepidopterist’s dream collection of winged insects also arrive in spring. Orange and tangerine orchards in Sanxia encourage their breeding. The butterflies love the fragrant leaves on these trees. Bamboo shoots are also abundant in Sanxia.

Regarding flowers in the forests, a begonia variety growing in Manyueyuan boasts a 4-petal male or staminate flower and a five-petal female or pistillate flower. The “dayenan” tree is covered with pink buds in spring.

The round peak sighted while hiking is not Manyueyian Mountain with an altitude of 872 meters. Another mountain similarly round at the top blocks the real Manyueyuan summit from view.

The invigorating fresh air makes the huffing and puffing while trying to trek to the Virgin Waterfall and the Manyueyuan Waterfall worthwhile. Failure to reach at least the Manyueyuan Waterfall’s viewing pavilion is bound to result in eternal regret.

Even those who are used to a sedentary lifestyle are not physically challenged very much by the stretch requiring negotiation on foot. The visitors in the waterfall zone can breathe in a high concentration of phytoncide to soothe both soul and mind. They can take in and appreciate anionized air.

Take a rest at a station along the way to rebuild strength and stamina. Recovery is fast for the terrain is not very steep. Sip ginger tea to ward off the cold.

After a morning of hiking in the Manyueyuan National Forest Recreation Area, enjoy a hearty lunch of trout and bamboo shoots nearby. Check out a sturgeon breeding center. Then proceed to a Sanxia dyeing workshop for a do-it-yourself dyeing art experience.

Entrance ticket to Manyueyuan National Forest Recreation Area (tel.02-26720004) costs NT$100. For more tour information, try tel (03-5224163). Visit website when seeking guiding service.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Puli in Nantou County stays hub of active artists 10 years after deadly September 21 earthquake

By Nancy T. Lu
Puli in central Taiwan has for years been attractive to artists in Taiwan due to its favorable natural attributes. Nestled in the Central Mountain Range, the land basin used to know inaccessibility due to the peaks and summits around it. Its cultural blooming started quite late, hampered by a lack of resources commonly seen in towns and villages.

Cultural activities in the early years were confined to temple festivals. The Han settlers of long ago were too preoccupied with competing and struggling with the Atayal and Pingpu aboriginal tribes in laying claim to the land.

“The rich families who eventually built their homes in Puli, establishing lasting roots there, hired artisans and craftsmen from Lugang to work for them,” said Wang Hao, a local author and painter. “The paintings and writings on the walls were done by the likes of Cheng Hung-yu .But the taste for such household decorations began to be cultivated only midway through the years of Japanese colonial rule,” Wang added when asked about art still seen in Puli’s ancestral homes today.

“Prior to the arrival of the Japanese colonizers, fine arts activities at the community level were virtually unheard of,” Liang Kun-ming, another Puli artist and pioneer in promoting fine arts in his hometown, pointed out. If these existed, they were undocumented. Cultural or historical relics handed down had more to do with the everyday life of the people. The indigenous population in Puli left behind stone coffins but these were gradually dug up and taken away by the Japanese, according to scholar Liang.

Fine arts development in Puli began to be nurtured in the 1940s and 1950s, noted Wang. The artists who actively tried to promote it saw their efforts start to grow roots during this period. The first turning point emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the protégés of Hsiao Mu-gui and Liao Ping-heng decided to return to their hometown upon the completion of academic fine arts training in Taipei. Hsiao pioneered in fine arts education in Puli. A number of retired art teachers continue to promote art education through painting classes in Puli today.

On August 21 to 25, 1971, an unprecedented major exhibition featuring 17 artists took place in Puli. Western-style paintings, Chinese brushworks, sculpture pieces, design as well as batik art were highlighted. Galleries did not exist in those days. Everything was improvised. When asked to sign at the entrance, some residents who showed up even ran away.

But experience in organizing exhibits was accumulated over a 20-year period. Exhibits were held from time to time, attracting participation by newcomers. Artists in urban settings heard about and became fascinated with the creative activities in the laid-back Puli environment. Some decided to set up their ateliers here.

The late sculptor Yuyu Yang was the first to move in. He chose a site on the Niumin Mountain side of Puli. Hsiao Chin-hsing also found his corner for creative art in Puli, finally building his own place in the Pipa neighborhood. Talk then about the birth of a village for initially 15 artists in an area measuring almost 18 hectares took a serious turn.

The three-story Puli Library used to be the main venue of art exhibits. But provisions were inadequate. Movable screens or partitions were subsequently introduced. Contributions from supporters of the arts made this possible.

Fine arts activities and tourism in Puli came together at the Niu Erh Stone Sculpture Park years ago. Naïve artist Lin Yen lived and worked using different media with great productivity within sight of the visitors for several years. The park became his gallery.

Puli, a dream work setting of many Taiwanese artists, was shattered by a highly destructive earthquake on September .21, 1999. Life, however, goes on for Wang Hao, still busy with his art and education projects. Piled high in his home, a virtual junkyard in Puli, are his work paraphernalia and props. Pasted on several malfunctioning TV sets given by his students are his drawings documenting the human fright when the devastating 9-21 temblor hit Puli a decade ago. Thus, the emotional human drama appears frozen in time.

For sculptor Chen Shi-nian, one particular work of art capturing a most dramatic moment in the last hundred years greets a visitor at his spacious atelier in Puli to this day. This piece is a tribute to the greatness of the rescue workers in the aftermath of the September 21 temblor. Thrown into the confusion then, Chen found the image of residents rushing a survivor pulled out of the debris to where he could receive emergency aid truly unforgettable. His hope then was for his masterpiece to inspire generosity towards survivors who lost their entire families and homes.

Chen, who moved from Huwei to Puli after he married a local girl, knew first-hand the pain and struggle of the whole town and felt it his destiny to create emotional art as his contribution to Puli’s poignant history.

After experiencing a frightening episode, clay artist Wang Zi-hua and his wife Chen Fang-chih decided to dedicate themselves to charity work among senior citizens, who were left completely without families after the September 21 quake. Chen now runs the Peiti Evergreen Village in Puli. Old people living in pre-fabricated homes are encouraged to learn clay art with Wang as their mentor. The famous Paper Dome of Puli, site of the 10th anniversary commemoration of the September 21 tragedy, is where the crafts produced by this community of aging residents are sold from time to time.

To spruce up the Evergreen community, the couple invited their artist friend Liang Kun-ming a few years ago to give the rusting open-air benches a makeover. Liang obliged by painting more than 10 different interpretations of the Chinese zodiac animal Pig on these seats. A sharp-eyed art collector who offered to buy the benches was instantly turned down. The benches which have been transformed into Liang’s colorful art belong to the community and to Puli’s art history.