Sometimes, events from daily life trigger details from the past to spring back to life and make me go “Oooh, that’s what this was about?!”.
A few years back, I went on an organized trip by the Chinese language center. We travelled somewhere, in one of those tour buses. It was a hot and rainy day, the kind of rain that numbs the mind, inducing me in a dozy state by the time we arrived at our destination.
During the visit, all the information the tour guide spewed via speaker-phone went above my head. I just clearly recall walking through a sort of man-made cave which was pleasantly cool, and a peculiar architecture in the gift shop, made only more beautiful with the relentless rain pouring down onto the slanted window glasses, leading the water to fall right into the pond beneath. As tired as I was, I painstakingly forced myself to take a snapshot of it, to capture the fengshui this inverted roof brought to the place.
When my time at the Chinese language center was up, I packed my stuff and archived those Taiwan memories, but not without a pinch to the heart1.
Once home, my pursuit of Chinese language mastery gradually waned, but I still entertained an interest for the culture, so when I got wind that a documentary about Chinese tea and teapots was going to be screened, I made sure to be in attendance. The documentary was mainly old footages, some shot in the city of Yixing 宜兴, famed for its clay (most of it is now gone), and the teapots made from it. It also featured scenes of artisans working with dragon kilns 龍窯, an old traditional way of firing pottery. Those images felt oddly familiar, and as I was heading home that night, it hit me as if I had made a huge discovery.
This cave I walked inside of on that rainy day in central Taiwan, it was a dragon kiln! Or to be more precise, it was a snake kiln, the Shuili Snakekiln 水里蛇窯 in Nantou 南投. Yes, that’s what this was about! 😄
On an unrelated but related note, I had another “Oooh, that’s what this was about?!” moment, when I saw this tweet last week.
A few months back, I went to In Our Time looking to spend a chill Sunday evening with some live music, but having misread the schedule, I instead found myself at a movie screening. Well, why not? Except that with a lot of dialogue in Japanese, and only Chinese subtitles, the little leftover brain power I had quickly dwindled, so I discreetly made my way out before falling asleep. As I left, I wondered what I was or wasn’t missing out on, and made a note to read the schedule more carefully next time.
As you may guess, the movie turned out to be an advanced screening of — what I’m now learning is called —《灣生回家》Wansei Back Home. From what I gather, the (Japanese or Chinese?) term「灣生」is an abbreviation of「臺灣出生」(literally, “Taiwan Born”), describing the generation of Japanese who were born and grew up in Taiwan — when Taiwan was under the governance of Japan —, and who were later forced to return to the motherland when the Japanese surrendered the ruling of Formosa, in 1945.
The film will be in theaters (in Taiwan) starting October 10th, and I take it from the trailer that there will be English subtitles this time around. The documentary was successfully crowdfunded through the flyingV platform, collecting twice the targeted amount.
- “a pinch to the heart” is the literal translation of the French expression “un pincement au cœur”. I wasn’t too fond of the proposed English translations “twinge” or “pang of emotion”, and as much as it pained me to leave, it didn’t hurt enough to qualify as a “heartache” or “be heartbroken”, lol. ↩