From Derelict Granary to Cultural Treasure Trove: The decline and revival of Yilan County's Erjie Granary

by on 週四, 28 四月 2011 6462 點擊 評論
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Amidst the tide of modernization how does a granary that has stored countless quantities of rice become a derelict building, and then from this dereliction rise again to new life?

Can older buildings that are invested with many of the community's residents' memories bring about a new cultural vitality in a locality?

Article by Raining; Translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart





























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On the South bank of the Lanyang River, in between Yilan City and the town of Luodong, there is an agricultural heirloom with a long history - the Erjie Granary. It had lain idle for more than ten years, and almost faced demolition; fortunately, thanks to collective efforts by local residents, cultural workers and Yilan County's Cultural Bureau, this remnant of bygone days has not met the fate of many other not so fortunate cultural relics -- reduced to piles of dust beneath the arm of a mechanical digger.

 

The Station Side Cornucopia

During the Japanese Colonial Period, the rice yield of the Yilan region was abundant. The Japanese government built a granary next to Erjie train station to enable convenient transport of rice to Japan. The granary is made up of three different kinds of buildings, the earliest was the Third Erjie Office completed in 1928, the granary reserve and the rice mill were then added in succession after 1935. Under the banner of the Japanese government's colonial policy, "Industrial Japan, Agricultural Taiwan", the Erjie Granary has played an important role in the local agricultural history of Yilan, these years can be said to have been the granary's heyday.

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From the Japanese Colonial Period to the first years after the secession of Japan and the handover to China, a bustling town took shape in front of Erjie Train Station. Due to the fact that, at that time, a lot of Yilan's agricultural produce was shipped for sale to Jilong or Taipei,the train station facilitated trading convenience, and it attracted a lot of wholesalers and peddlers, who often went there to buy and trade. An endless stream of markets often overflowed into the proximity of the Erjie Granary, which turned into a large bustling fruit and vegetable market.

 

An Antiquated Granary Abandoned For New Technology

After World War II the management of the granary was handed over to the agricultural association, and continued to be used for grain storage and as a mill. However, the productivity and manpower requirements of an old granary lacked competitiveness in the face of the reduced costs and manpower required for more modern facilities, so in 1979, Wujie Agricultural Association built a new granary near Erjie Granary. In 1983 the work on the new granary was completed, and the Erjie Granary went into disuse, and was relegated to history.

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Photograph provided by Greater Erjie Cultural and Educational Promotion Board

After going into disuse, it gradually went to ruin, and became derelict. According to the accounts of local residents, the miscanthus, which grew in patches beside the granary, reached heights of 3 metres, almost burying the granary in a sea of weeds. The roof, due to the rigours of exposure to the elements and the force of typhoons and earthquakes, had partially collapsed and was in a bad state of repair.

Cultural Heritage Rescued from the Brink

The abandoned Erjie Granary is actually but one amongst many agricultural relics that went to ruin. According to Lin Dianhong, the head of the Culture and Education Promotion Board for Greater Erjie, in earlier times, Yilan had a lot of granaries, but later many were disused due to a modernization in agricultural facilities, and were demolished in quick succession. In 1998, Erjie Granary almost met with the same fate. At that time, a company had taken an interest in the land, and wanted to knock down the existing building to build a supply warehouse in its place. When local people found out, they informed the Greater Erjie Culture and Education Promotion Board, in the hope that the Promotion Board could save the building.

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Generally, when the CEO of a company hears that a building on their land may be listed, they worry about the limits this will impose on the land's potential for development and use, and this often drives them to demolish the building in question as soon as possible -- this is the bitter reality that is often faced when one tries to protect local cultural heritage. As a result of these bitter experiences in the past, the promotion board went about applying for listed status in a very low-key fashion. They first collected all sorts of information about the granary from the site, historical sources and from the people of the community. After determining the procedure for the preservation of cultural assets, they applied for listed status, handing over the results of their research into the building to the Cultural Bureau with their application. At the time the Cultural Bureau, aware of the urgency of the situation, convoked an emergency session of the Cultural Heritage Committee, and granted the site 3rd grade listed status. Fortunately, thanks to all parties working in close cooperation, within just three months, the Erjie Granary was wrested from the grasp of property developers, and was restyled as a cultural heritage site.

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Lin Dianhong relates that after the listing of Erjie Granary as a grade 3 protected cultural heritage site, in an effort to repair the damaged roof and to allow the space to become a part of the community again, the Cultural and Educational Promotion Board of Greater Erjie started to actively seek out resources and funding to restore it. In 1999, the Promotion Board asked the National Taiwan University Building and Planning Research Foundation to plan the restoration project, and then on the basis of this plan, they continued to strive to raise funding, so that the building could be restored to its present state. The Promotion board then proceeded to rename the Erjie Granary the Rice-Cultural Centre, and under the name of this cultural industry they applied for exhibition funding. At the end of October 2010, Yilan's county government handed over the entire space to the Promotion Board to take care of the project's management. After a trial period of two years, the Rice-Cultural Centre formally opened last week on the 24th April 2011.

Problems Ahead

After its official opening last week, as the Rice-Cultural Centre, what fate will await the Erjie Granary? The truth is we just don’t know. As Mayor Lin has pointed out, the future of the Rice-Cultural Centre is uncertain, as it does not receive government funding, which means the Promotion Board has to carry the profits and losses of the site itself. The Promotion Board is not, in any case, profit-motivated, and the reason they opened the granary to the public, was in the hope that more people would be encouraged to learn about the culture of rice cultivation. The fiscal reality of this kind of project means that the management of the project is quite a burden for a non-profit organization.

The reason that Erjie Granary was rescued and restored so actively by the local community is because it preserves the collective memory of local life. With its formal opening, the problem of how to attract tourists from other places to the Granary will rear its head. In facing this problem, there will need to be a package to offer to tourists who visit, and a strengthened local identity and relation to Taiwanese culture as a whole. These are some of the problems the Granary will face in the coming years.

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Raze all traces of past in the name of development?

In observing this particular case, a lot of the problems facing the preservation of cultural heritage come to light. The government has not made sufficient efforts to maintain important parts of our common cultural heritage, and it isn't able to. Many other precious cultural heirlooms have not been as lucky as the Erjie Granary; often they vanish under new landscapes, and so the Taiwan has never been a place where new and old are juxtaposed like in Europe, where tradition and modernity are intertwined.

Continually demolishing just to build again and a lifestyle which lives by the motto out with the old and in with the new, makes it impossible to distinguish any particularity or even to be able to track the course of development of artistic and cultural development of a city. This is an attitude that produces the kind of city that lacks any collective emotional attachment and we have to ask ourselves if this is what we want for the cities we inhabit.

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[inset side="right" title="Erjie Granary Rice - Culture Centre"]Address: Yilan County Wujie Township Sanxing Village Fuxing Zhong Road, No.22(宜蘭縣五結鄉三興村復興中路22號) Telephone:(03)960-0277 your text....[/inset]

 

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The building, once smothered by miscanthus was restored brick by brick by local residents
Photograph provided by the ministry of culture of the Yilan County government

 

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The completed Erjie Granary, once again standing proudly beside Erjie Train Station, silently awaiting a new life(Photography/Wu Si-wei〔Left〕、Raining〔Right〕)

 

 

the government has not implemented projects to maintain them
最後修改於 週三, 08 一月 2014 17:33
Raining (陳雨君)

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Ex-editor of Renlai Monthly

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