Sanxia: A Century-Old City Rises Again

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2017 / April

Bai Qiwei /photos courtesy of Culture Art and Nature (CAN) /tr. by Robert Green


Sanxia is located in the southwest corner of the Tai­pei Basin. Mountains rise on three sides and to the west it faces the Da­han River Valley and the coastal plains. Passing through the vicissitudes of a century, the town long ago outgrew its earlier role. Yet a deep, rich cultural heritage has helped to contribute to the unique characteristics and charming appearance of the place today.  


Strolling through San­xia’s red-brick covered walkways, one can see Baroque-style decorative facades glimmering in the afternoon sun. From the Qing Dynasty on, San­xia’s auspicious location and rich natural resources allowed it to rise up as a hub for trade along the local rivers. The trade in tea, camphor, dyed textiles, lumber, coal, and other goods favored the growth of local industry. Businesses sprang up along the streets that now form the old quarter of the town, which became a prosperous commercial center. During the Japanese colonial period, major renovations in 1915 resulted in the architecture still visible today.

The fall and rise of old Sanxia

Because its fortunes were built upon riverine trade, however, San­xia lost its significance as a commercial hub due to the construction of irrigation canals and the completion of transportation networks on land. With the ageing of the structures, many merchants eventually moved out, and for a time the buildings faced the possibility of demolition. In 2004, however, the government initiated a renovation project, and a rejuvenated old quarter was unveiled in 2007. New shops opened up in the old buildings and tourists flooded in. Sanxia entered a new chapter in its history, one that preserved the charming appearance of its past.

Because of the ease of transportation, available water supplies, and ample crops, San­xia was once the chief center for textile dyeing in northern Taiwan. On close inspection, one can still see the names of dyeworks on the facades of the old town. But although commercial indigo dyeing has waned, many have taken up the job of preserving its history.

History in a touch of indigo

From the time she first came upon indigo plants (the raw material for the dye) in the mountains, Liao Bao­gui developed a lasting attachment to indigo dyeing, and today she is involved with the preservation of San­xia’s indigo dyeing culture. By experiencing the harvesting of indigo plants and making dye firsthand, Liao has come to appreciate the wonders of the process. “After collecting fresh indigo plants, they need to be soaked and beaten, and finally the sediment must be separated out,” Liao explains. “Only then can you make good indigo and a stable dyeing solution.”

Only through this meticulous process can the ideal indigo colors be produced, allowing master dyers to use their various techniques to create works of great originality.

A temple treasury for immortal arts

For generations, Zu­shi Temple has been the chief religious center for San­xia, Tu­cheng, ­Yingge, Daxi, and other nearby towns. Rebuilt for the third time in 1947, the construction was led by local artist and professor Li Mei-shu. The temple combines unique architecture with splendid works of art—carvings in stone and wood and copper engravings. It has earned a reputation as a “temple of Eastern arts” and teems with life even today.

Woodcarving master Hong Yao­hui, who worked on the temple reconstruction from 1986 to 2001, began apprenticing as a wood carver after graduating from junior high school. He has traveled all over Taiwan with his teacher, working on wood carvings at various temples and developing a solid foundation in his craft.

Today there are few young people who want to study the craft. After more than three decades of experience, Hong knows the hardships involved. Yet devoted to the mission of passing on his skills, he offers university courses in the hopes of finding students to carry on the tradition.

When ceramics are mentioned, people immediately think of the town of ­Yingge, next to San­xia. But when master ceramist Li Zhi­hao established a creative base, he instead chose San­xia. Li, who originally studied sculpture and started his career in the field, took a job at a pottery by chance. Since he tends to be led by his passions, Li found himself working there for the next decade, accumulating a thorough understanding of pottery making techniques.

Li has taken his passion for carving and combined it with the potter’s art, and through trial and error discovered his own creative path. “In the creative process, one must speak with the clay,” he says. Harmonizing the three elements of clay, fire, and passion is essential to ceramic art, according to Li. In order to highlight the beauty of his engraving on his ceramics, he decided to forgo glazing. He also began to experiment with the firing process and added the local clay of San­xia to his array of raw materials. “San­xia’s natural environment is excellent, including the quality of the water and the clay,” he explains. “San­xia clay is particularly special because it is rich in minerals. After firing in the kiln, enchanting qualities emerge.”

Different types of clay, moreover, produce varied surface textures and patterns. The ash from the firing process also lends the pieces unique coloring, giving Li’s creations a natural, unadorned appearance. But it is the subtle details that reveal the extraordinary attributes of his work. Through its use in different settings—whether as part of tea sets or table settings or as decorative objects—Li’s ceramic art reveals an effortless beauty against the backdrop of daily life.

Traditional craftsmen as educators

Culture Art and Nature (CAN), a local community advocacy group, has been intimately involved with San­xia’s cultural preservation efforts and creating a historical record of its past. The group’s founder, Jeffery Lin, grew up in the area, and when he returned to San­xia he had to get to know it all over again. In the process, he discovered many facets of local culture that were worth treasuring. Through interviews and written documents related to San­xia, over a six-year period CAN pieced together 20 stories that shed light on the town’s traditional industries. Lin discovered that although local craftsmen retain a mastery of their craft, they face a common struggle to preserve and pass on those skills. Lin believes that ensuring the future of these cultural legacies will require finding their worth for a new generation. CAN, therefore, is helping to organize educational activities to cultivate new interest.

As a first step, CAN focused on instilling appreciation for local culture locally. In 2015, it organized an “artisans’ concerto” exhibition that toured schools, putting the written records to good use by introducing the history of local crafts to students. The next step featured demonstrations of traditional craft techniques at the schools and was intended to spark students’ interest in learning about traditional crafts. 

Aside from cultivating active learning, CAN also sees possibilities in the integration of educational activities and craft culture. In 2016, CAN created a program called San­xia Sho­ku­nin School, to foster the concept that the community itself is a schoolroom in which the artisans are the teachers. The new educational concept allows traditional crafts to be folded into the educational experience. “The knowledge and techniques involved in traditional industries are really just an extension, a practical application, you could say, of learning in the classroom,” Lin explains. “We hope that these crafts can become living teaching materials of exceptional quality.”

As well as promoting active-learning and demonstrational activities, CAN’s programming team has also developed a series of special courses at local schools, including a broadcasting program at Wu­liao Elementary and a program at Long Pu Elementary that facilitates interviews with seasoned artists by student reporters. Inviting artisans to schools and encouraging students to explore the community is resulting in lively cultural exchanges.

Finding new meaning in old arts

In order to promote the idea of abandoning old educational frameworks and reforming education through imagination, CAN and the National Academy for Educational Research have been working to flesh out the idea of using the local craft community as a classroom and using exhibitions as a platform for expanding imaginative educational concepts. They hope that by combining teachers from within the school system and the ideas of educational specialists they can find new educational possibilities.

In order to promote these ideas, they also participated in the Za Share EXPO for Innovative Education 2016, Asia’s largest innovation and educational exposition.

The San Yi Metalworking Studio is an excellent example of CAN’s influence on traditional industries. Wen Qing­long, a master silversmith, was trained as a traditional apprentice. Although he had a solid mastery of the skills of his craft, he could only find work making items to order on a case-by-case basis. With the help of CAN, however, he began to see beyond this traditional dynamic. He founded an independent studio and developed his own brand of design products, allowing him to engage in artistic creation firsthand. He also works to cultivate an appreciation for his craft through interactive demonstrations and hands-on experience sessions. By continuing to introduce new possibilities to local craftspeople, CAN hopes to continue to make use of local resources and find new meaning in old arts. 

Cultural engines powered by old and new

In addition to their efforts currently underway in San­xia, CAN has also set up Da San Ying Cultural Tours, a travel platform for excursions that connect San­xia to the neighboring towns of ­Yingge and Daxi. The three towns, long established along the Da­han River Valley, are responsible for the development of San­xia indigo dyeing, ­Yingge ceramics, and Daxi wood carving, and each possesses a distinctive craft culture. The tours are helping to popularize the culture and history of the traditional industries of the three localities. Ten percent of all proceeds from the tours is donated to local nonprofit organizations and provides funding for sustainable development projects for both the towns and the surrounding countryside. Cultural tourism thus becomes a vehicle for social change.

By compiling a cultural record, rethinking education, reviving traditional industries, putting tourism to work, and responding to public concerns, CAN is taking a multi­pronged, innovative approach to finding contemporary value in traditional crafts and discovering the potency of change. The varied plans for revitalization are infusing the old city of San­xia with new vibrancy powered by old and new alike. The town is ready for a future of endless possibilities.

繁體中文

百年老街 三角湧舊城新力

文‧白騏瑋 圖‧甘樂文創 翻譯‧Robert Green

長久以來,擁有豐富自然資源的地區,吸引人類群聚生活而形成了聚落及城鎮,順應著當地具有的條件發展出特色產業與文化。三峽昔稱「三角湧」,位於台北盆地的西南方。三面環山,僅西北一隅面向大漢溪河谷平原,經歷百年洗禮,造就這座城鎮獨特且迷人的文化樣貌。

 


 

漫步在三峽老街的紅磚拱廊,巴洛克風格的裝飾立面在午後斜陽中閃耀。自清代以來,得天獨厚的地理與物產環境,使三峽因河運而興起,茶葉、樟腦、染布、木材、煤礦等產業發展興盛,三峽老街成為商號聚集的繁榮之地,經歷日據時期大正四年(1915年)的街區改正計畫而成為今日街區的建築樣貌。

 

矗立一世紀,見證三峽興衰的紅磚老街

然而,依靠河運興起,卻因為水圳的建立、陸上交通網絡的開發完善,使其失去交通運輸之優勢,自此逐漸沒落。老街因建築老舊,商家紛紛外移,一度面臨拆除命運,2004年在政府的主導下啟動整建計畫,最後於2007年重新開幕,店家進駐、遊客絡繹不絕,三峽老街從此邁入新的篇章。

歷經了繁榮、沒落、重建、重生,三峽老街在2016年度過了百歲紀念,昔日因產業貿易而興盛的街道,一世紀之後隨著時代變遷成了熱鬧的觀光老街,過往的街區風貌只能從牌樓立面上的文字和圖樣找尋蹤跡。

邁開腳步走進街區,不同的氣味、聲音、形形色色的人文景物在此交會,不難發現這座舊城裡仍隱藏著許多傳統工藝產業,許多職人依舊堅守著本業,一生懸命,交織出了三峽特有的人文風景和氣味。

 

三峽藍染,傳承百年文化

集交通、水源、自然作物等條件於一身,三峽曾經是北台灣最重要的染布業中心,仔細觀察,能夠發現老街保留下許多「染坊」牌樓立面,三峽藍染曾經沒落,然而在地方許多有志之士的努力下重新擦亮「三峽染」這塊招牌。

「藍染的顏色很神奇,我愛上藍染創作的無限可能性。」廖寶桂參與三峽藍染文化的復興計畫,打從在山中與「大菁」(製作染料的原料作物)初次相遇,就開啟了她與藍染的不解之緣。透過採集大菁、製作染劑的親身實作,廖寶桂深刻體會到藍染的奧妙,「新鮮的大菁採集回來,必須經過浸泡、打藍、反覆沉澱等過程,才能製作出好的藍靛和穩定的染液。」廖寶桂說,唯有如此費工的過程,才能得到理想中的美麗靛藍色,搭配藍染師傅不同技法,創作出獨一無二的作品。十多年來的經驗累積,廖寶桂探索不同技法及媒材的的可能性,並將三峽人文風景融入創作,透過藍染更加認識這塊土地,也持續以雙手與大菁演繹三峽的人文與歷史,延續「三峽染」百年文化。

 

木雕、陶藝,典藏東方藝術

三峽祖師廟,自古就是三峽、土城、鶯歌、大溪等地的信仰中心,1947年進行第3次重建,由三峽在地藝術家李梅樹教授主導,集建築、石雕、木雕、銅雕等精彩作品於一堂,素有「東方藝術殿堂」的美名,至今仍香火鼎盛。

木雕師傅洪耀輝參與了1986年至2001年的祖師廟修繕工作,國中畢業後便開始學習木雕,常常得跟著師傅四處奔波,到全台各地廟宇雕刻,練就一身紮實基礎。

攤開工作包,各式尺寸、形狀的工具排列開來,只見洪耀輝手操雕刻刀,堅定而精準的在木頭上鑿出痕跡,如此一點一滴的累積,最後才能成就栩栩如生的木雕作品。「現在很少年輕人會想學這個了」,雕刻經驗超過30年的洪耀輝,知道箇中辛苦,然而秉持對傳承的使命感,持續在大學裡開班授課,期望找尋傳承的契機。

講到陶藝,大家最先想到的會是毗鄰三峽的鶯歌,但是陶藝師傅李志豪卻選擇三峽作為創作的基地。最初學習雕刻起家的李志豪,因緣際會之下來到鶯歌的陶瓷廠上班,充滿興趣的他一做就是10年,累積了對陶藝紮實的知識。

將熱愛的雕刻融合陶藝,李志豪漸漸摸索出自己的創作之路,「在創作的過程中,要與土對話。」李志豪認為「土」、「火」、「心」三者之間的協調,是做好陶藝最重要的關鍵。為了讓雕刻的美在作品上完美呈現,選擇不使用釉料,開始鑽研柴燒,更特別選用三峽泥土融入創作原料,李志豪解釋,「三峽環境好、水質好、土質也好,最特別的是三峽土含有豐富的礦物質,會在窯燒之後顯露出迷人的特質。」

除此之外,不同質地的土也會創造出不一樣的肌理紋路,加上柴燒過程自然落灰所形成的發色,讓李志豪的作品質樸而自然,又在細節中充滿不平凡。無論茶席間、餐桌上或生活中的裝飾擺設,李志豪的柴燒陶之美,盡在日常生活中流露。

 

打破學習的藩籬,隱身舊城的職人篇章

三峽在地社會企業團隊──甘樂文創深耕在地,長期記錄三峽文化。創辦人林峻丞為在地返鄉青年,在返鄉的過程中重新認識自己的家鄉,發掘許多家鄉文化的珍貴與美好。透過採訪及文字的撰寫,甘樂文創六年多來累積了20位在地傳統產業故事,發現傳統職人們雖擁有紮實的技藝,卻普遍面臨到「傳承」及「生存」兩大嚴峻考驗,林峻丞認為,要延續文化,必須找尋到傳統產業在未來的新世代價值,於是「職人小學堂」計畫漸漸醞釀成型。

第一步,甘樂文創選擇「在地文化‧在地扎根」。2015年開始策劃「職人協奏曲」校園巡迴展,轉化採訪文案,把職人產業故事帶入校園,讓每位學童認識家鄉文化,更進一步邀請職人進入校園,透過實境生動的技藝展演,引發學童學習興趣,「在進入校園的過程中,會發現職人與孩子們的互動是熱絡且真誠的,總會有特定一兩個小朋友對某項技藝特別有興趣或天份,藉此找到技藝傳承的契機。」林峻丞期待,透過三峽地區8所國小的巡迴展出,能讓在地孩子看見不一樣的在地文化。

除了更活潑的學習體驗之外,甘樂文創團隊更於2016年發展出「職人小學堂」計畫,導入「社區就是教室,職人就是老師」的學習觀念,拋出「職人工藝串聯學科」的新想像,林峻丞說明:「這些傳統產業所運用到的知識與技術,其實就是學校學科教育的延伸,也可以說是學科的實用版,我們想像這些技藝能夠成為學生們絕佳的活教材,而工藝師們就是最棒的老師。」舉辦動、靜態的展演之外,計畫團隊也與各學校串聯發展特色課程,例如與五寮國小合作的「小小主播台」,以及與龍埔國小搭配的「小記者尋訪老職人」計畫,除了將職人帶入校園,同時也邀請學生進入社區,與社區產業文化有更多互動。

 

找尋傳統產業文化的新世代價值

「跳脫框架,拋出想像,教育可以不一樣。」為了將概念推廣、激盪更多想像,甘樂文創與國家教育研究院合作策展,將職人小學堂計畫構想完整呈現,以展覽延伸為教育發想平台,期望與老師、專家們腦力激盪,找尋未來的新可能。

同時,也在2016年11月參與了亞洲最大創新教育展──「雜學校」特展,期望將理念及想像散播各地,甘樂文創相信,不同社區保有各自的產業、文化、資源,都有機會發展出一套獨特的、以社區及孩童為本的學習方案,或許能為台灣教育帶來新的篇章。

職人小學堂計畫只是個開始,林峻丞深知,要傳承技藝、延續文化,最重要的是產業必須要能夠「生存」。現代人追求方便、快速,加上與傳統文化習俗逐漸脫鉤,讓傳統工藝與一般民眾生活產生疏離。甘樂文創期望能透過「再設計」重新開啟傳統工藝與民眾間的溝通橋梁,以識別、產品、空間設計精準傳達傳統工藝的價值,重新與民眾建立連結,讓社會重新看見傳統工藝的珍貴與價值。

「三藝金工」是甘樂文創透過「設計力」影響傳統產業的絕佳範例,溫清隆是傳統學徒制出身的金工師傅,擁有一身紮實功夫,卻只能以接案代工維生。透過與甘樂文創的串聯,溫清隆跳脫傳統金工師傅的框架,成立個人品牌工作室、發展設計商品、嘗試進行藝術創作,更提供體驗服務,傳達手作金工的溫度。透過盤點與對象媒合,甘樂文創希望持續運用設計資源,為社區裡的傳統產業找到新世代的價值。

 

串聯發酵,新舊融合的文化新力

傳統產業的創新能量除了在三峽醞釀發酵,甘樂文創更建構「大三鶯文旅日興會社」旅遊平台,串聯鄰近的鶯歌、大溪發展出「鶯歌陶」、「三峽染」、「大溪木藝」產業文化,推廣三地產業、人文、歷史文化,並且導入回饋機制,將旅人消費的10%回饋給在地非營利機構,成為建構城鄉永續發展的基金,讓文化旅遊成為改變社會的方式之一。

透過文化記錄、教育翻轉、產業復興、旅遊共好、公益回饋,甘樂文創從不同面向切入,以創新模式找到傳統職人文化的新價值,在三峽這座舊城中漸漸醞釀出一股新舊融合的文化能量。