|PRESERVING CULTURE & HISTORY
CERS has been involved with culture conservation for over two decades. It started as documentation of many indigenous cultures unique to China's minority nationalities, many of which were in the process of disintegration, assimilation, or simply eclipsing in modern times. We gradually moved into the design and implementation of culture projects, at times involving entire local communities. We preserve both material and intellectual culture. In the former we sometimes conserve and restore entire ensembles of architecture, up to twenty houses or more in some projects. In the latter we document and support collections of ethnic music and legends. CERS is also an important repository of many old records, select pictures and films.
TAIWAN’S EARLY HEAD HUNTERS, THE TSOU PEOPLE
Wong How Man
Ali Shan, Taiwan – 9 December 2011
An Da-ming’s face has a shiny copper-tone to it, just like his cousin An Xiao-ming, whom we called by his nickname Anmo. Whether such tan skin came from long exposure of working under the sun or was their natural complexion I could not tell. Strangely, both men’s wives have much fairer skin though they too share their load of chores in the field. For Shu-yun, wife of the former, it is their tea farm, whereas for Hui-ling, Anmo’s wife, their field of crops and vegetable. The men’s features are more robust, with eyes sunken below the brows, high nose lines and cheek bones.
Both are of the Tsou minority of Ali Shan, deep inside the mountains of Taiwan. The Tsou has a population of barely 5000 individuals and are indigenous to the island. Under the Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945, followed by over half a century of the Nationalist rule, many of the traditions and customs of the Tsou people were eclipsed. First to go was the old tradition of head hunting by the Tsou, once a proud occupation of the Tsou warriors against intruders or when faced with outside threats. Dutch and Portuguese explorers and early settlers described such “barbaric” and horrifying behaviors in their encounters with the Tsou. Today while recounting such acts by his ancestors, Anmor spoke with no sign of inhibition or regrets. Instead I could almost sense an air of pride in his tone.
THE LAST PEOPLE’S COMMUNE
Wong How Man
Garcho, Tibet - 10 July 2010
During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, the People’s Commune was hailed as the epitome of a society model. “People’s Commune is Good” was a political slogan that ruled the day. I came to China early enough (1974) to have visited many communes, from large ones like the Red Star Commune outside of Beijing, to small ones like the Three-Eight Commune in the countryside of rural Guangdong, deriving its name from its earlier market days of 3 and 8 of the monthly calendar.
But such exposure to the social fabric of China’s more “progressive” days has long become tiny threads of memory. Ever since Deng Xiaoping unleashed his economic reforms in 1979, and subsequent distribution of land to its tillers in the countryside, the communes have become a word of the past, existing only in history books. I thought the once-revered practice of co-operatives had disappeared altogether. That is, until I visited the most remote part of northern Tibet on a recent expedition.
EMERGING SUZHOU’S DISAPPEARING ACT
Thirty-five years before and after
Wong How Man
Suzhou, Jiangsu Province – 26 July 2009
"Above there is heaven, and below there is Suzhou and Hanzhou.”
For centuries, this adage has circulated widely, reflecting the two cities’ serene beauty.
I first visited Suzhou in 1974 and again in 1977, 1986 and 1988. I am back again after a 20-year absence. In 1988, I was disappointed at the fast-changing scene which dulled many of my earlier memories of this unique city with its myriad canals and bridges.
EASTER IN TIBET
Wong How Man
Cizhong, Yunnan - 12 April 2009
Father Yao Fei sports a crew-cut and stands about five foot four inches. Despite his short stature, when dressed in a long white gown, he stands tall among his followers. Here in this mountain enclave, Fr Yao leads as well as serves his Tibetans devotees of Christ in a pristine valley along the Mekong River.
He has been here for just over a year, as shepherd to his flock in a village where 80% of the population is Christian, rather than Buddhist – a religion to which almost all Tibetans traditionally adhere. Yao’s original home is Inner Mongolia but he was trained and later ordained as a priest in Beijing 18 years ago. He became a Catholic at the age of 20 and is now 45 years old.
75 YEARS AGO GERMAN PILOT GRAF ZU CASTELL
PHOTOGRAPHED CHINA FROM ABOVE
Wong How Man
Hong Kong - 14 December 2008
Between 1933 to 1936, German pilot Graf zu Castell flew for Eurasia, an airline founded in 1930 between the Chinese government and Germany’s Lufthansa Airlines. The purpose of this airline was to provide aerial access and service to remote areas of China. The cooperation was very successful and a route was opened between many cities during its first year, connecting Shanghai, Nanjing, Jinan, Beijing, Linxi and Manzhouli. Later more connections were opened from Shanghai to Nanjing and Loyang, and onward to Xian, Lanzhou, Suzhou (in Gansu), Hami, Urumqi, reaching as far as Chuguchak at the Russian-Mongolian border.