Meinong, Kaoshiung, Taiwan: Tucked in the midst of nature, mountains, and virgin blue skies, the village is a symbol of culture and history taken seriously. If you are reading this, I am assuming you are an artist, a travelling artist and you love DIY and trying handcrafted techniques from different cultures. This is where, far from the madding crowd, that traditional culture still reigns.
For a bit of a historic background, Kaoshiung is the southwest of Taiwan, just above the Pingtung county and below the Tainan county (North) and Nantou county (North east) – both of which I visited. It is a former Dutch colony and evidence of this is seen throughout the city. Weather wise, I found Kaoshiung to be quite humid (it was the end of November), and hotter than Taipei (so keep this in mind if you decide to travel to Kaoshiung. I had a face spritzer that kept me cool).
The Meinong village is the focal point of pure Hakka culture. From the bit that I’ve read and heard, Hakka people make up the majority of the population in the Meinong township. Originally from China, they lived around the Yellow River (China’s second longest river) as the Han Chinese clan before migrating to Taiwan’s Kaoshiung county. If you want to know more about the representations of races in Taiwan, read more here.
Painting the umbrella
The elderly guide himself is Hakka but speaks in flawless English. “I was an English school teacher,” he starts to say, while he patiently dries my oil paper umbrella that I’ve painted on (yes, you may have gathered that I’ve said nothing about the actual process of painting, except that I found it to be so therapeutic and soul refreshing. If you want to know exactly how it’s done, read here and here). I learn more about the origins of the oil paper umbrella craft which is supposed to play an important role when a Hakka son or daughter get married. I then ask him about the Yellow River. You see, as a child, I learnt to sing the Yellow River and play it during school assembly (I led the school band in those days). Was is the same yellow river that the Hakka people migrated from? One will never know. All I know was that, we both sang to the tune of Yellow River while my pretty oil paper umbrella was drying.
While the area feels very touristy, there is a feeling of lived in feel.
Pound your tea
As you can imagine, once I am done with the painting of my umbrella (now tucked safely in an oblong cardboard box and ready to carry back home), I am feeling really hungry and thirsty. I didn’t have to ask for anything because we were quickly led to this room, which looks like a cafeteria, except that it’s not. The room has a low ceiling and a long table greets us. A mortar and pestle on the table, plus a bowl of black and white sesame seeds, tea leaves, and peanuts. I’ve since read else where that you can add rice and other lentils into the mix.
To make this tea, you have to pound the ingredients, not crush it. Patience is key. The lady keeps gripping my right hand to push it deeper into this deep wood mortar that has curved engraved lines in its insides. After the seeds and nuts have achieved some sort of powder consistency, we add another powder which is green in colour (it looks like your favourite green tea powder) and is made of 27 different grains including millet already ground with green tea powder. An exact recipe can be found here. This tea is also called Thunder Tea, and once prepared, you add scoops of the powder into a cup and top it up with either hot or cold water. It’s up to you. I found it very much to drinking my green healthy drink first thing in the morning. Very nutritious I bet. It’s also made as a nutritious soup, something that I learnt here.
The Meinong Hakka people are also known for their pottery, sadly, I have not had a chance to try my hand at this ancient craft. Neither was there time to admire the handmade polymer clay beads and jewelry, an artform that I use in my own art (read more here and here).
How to get to Meinung:
From Taipei City, take bullet train to Kaoshiung which should around an hour and a half. If you prefer a bus ride, then be prepared – it’s a long journey. You may decide to take the bus from Taipei through Nantou and Tainan down to Kaoshiung. Finally another bus ride to Meinung! (I’m trying to get hold of a map of where Meinung is located; a map that I can use here. Stay tuned).
While the trip to Taiwan was sponsored, all the content in this post is my opinion. The photos are also © travelartslife