The master of small things

The following feature appeared in today’s Taipei Times:

The distinctive facade of miniature model- maker Chuang Hsin-li’s studio and residence in Gukeng Township, Yunlin County.

But for a banana, I wouldn’t have met Chuang Hsin-li (莊新利).

En route to the mountains of Yunlin County, I stop for sustenance at a fruit truck in Gukeng Township (古坑). It’s the second day of Lunar New Year; the vehicle is sparsely stocked: sprigs of lycees and bunches of bananas from one of which the vendor snips my breakfast. At the cab-end of the cargo bed, a box of oranges is guarded by pint-sized pineapples festooned with red ribbons. The mauve-tinged leaves of hungry winter pineapples occupy acres of farmland here, but the type on the truck, which is referred to as a “pineapple bouquet,” (鳳梨花) is strictly ornamental.

Pineapple “bouquets” (鳳梨花) on the back of the truck in Gukeng where I stopped for a banana on the morning of Saturday February 13.

As the word for “pineapple” in Taiwanese is homophonic with a summons to prosperity, pineapple products are popular during the Lunar New Year. The bouquet variety are particularly auspicious and found at temples and household altars island wide. “Their long tails are really lucky,” says the vendor, stroking the spiky mohawk of one fruit.

Accompanied by advice, my banana proves blessing enough.

“Turn left at the traffic lights, then right at the end of the next road,” says the vendor on learning that I’m heading for the hills. “It’s quicker.”

Just before the second turn, I spot a strange collection of buildings on the corner of a lane.

Click here for to the full article.

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