Unforgettable Formosa (Wang-bu-liao) – video by Luther Deese

This deftly fashioned retrospective of the island sixty or so years ago, Memories of Taiwan by Luther Deese, begins with the poem by Meng Hao-ran 春曉, Spring Dawn: 春眠不覺曉, 處處聞啼鳥, 夜來風雨聲, 花落知多少. Waking sleepily on a spring morning, everywhere there is the song of birds; in the night came the sound of wind and rain, and I wonder how many flowers have fallen. This, I suppose, to set an elegiac tone for how much has been lost. The images  following  start up accompanied by the maudlin Mandarin standard Wang-bu-liao, Unforgettable, which is likely how many of us who lived there back then regard that experience. For us these images are more than just Auntie and Uncle’s boring old slideshow – in some ways, our lives began there and, in other ways, they ended when we left.

My version is called Ilha Formosa – Taiwan in the 1960s, also at Youtube, and has smaller scope but is prompted by what is probably similar nostalgia. Old men try not to dwell on these things too much but, when little else is left but your memories, they keep returning.

Drying rice along the North-South highway (縱貫公路) in central Taiwan, 1960s

On my YouTube channel there is a playlist, Life in Taiwan, of several videos about the island back in the 60s and 70s, some narrated in Mandarin, when it was still a “rustic paradise” which can be better appreciated now that Arcadia is slowly succumbing to the creep of development: industry, suburbs, McDonalds, Starbucks, iPhones. A lot of the old-style life, however, probably can be found if one travels far enough into the hinterland and high enough up into the mountains. It will look like what can be seen in some of these videos.

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