Sunday 13 July 2008

A boat is launched on Orchid Island

Many hands make light work. This is a traditional fishing boat being launched for the first time by the Lau people of Lanyu, which means Orchid Island, off Taiwan.
The new boat is then rowed round the bay. The crew seems to be having a bit of difficulty getting together here.In a fascinating article with great pictures, blogger Caro tells how the Tao tribe face an uncertain future. Like all ethnic minorities in China, they are losing their ancient culture and traditions. The Han Chinese majority imposed Mandarin on local schools and banned the traditional house style, an interesting structure built into the sides of hills to survive typhoons, in favour of concrete and glass.
Local fishing is under immediate threat. It's a rich tradition, Caro tells us:
"The Tao people believe the flying fish is a gift from heaven. And there are many rituals and taboos surrounding the catching and eating of the fish. There are special fish types to be eaten only by the elders, by men and the women."
Every family is expected to run a fishing boat, built by family members and launched with appropriate ceremonies and a massive party.
But as the younger generations move to go to university or to find work on the mainland of Taiwan, boatbuilding skills are not being passed on, and the boats themselves are being displaced by outboard-powered fibreglass monsters. Even the fish are going, the victims of over-fishing by mainland vessels and global warming. It looks depressingly as though a beautiful and rare type of boat may become just another museum piece.
Thanks to for the heads up.

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