Shuidui Settlement 水碓聚落

Still here after all these years
Still here after all these years: the remains of a traditional courtyard house in the rural margins of Taichung.

Taichung is undergoing a massive transformation as vast tracts of rural-industrial sprawl are cleared to make way for new developments around the high-speed rail station 高鐵台中站 and the future Taichung Metro system, particularly in Beitun, Nantun, and Wuri. Google’s satellite maps are out of sync with the streets, many of which are so new that they appear only as ghostly lines coursing through the former rice paddies. With large parts of the urban periphery slated for wholesale demolition and renewal many grassroots organizations have formed to preserve cultural assets found in these doomed territories—as was the case with the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓. Today I chanced upon another example: Shuǐduì Jùluò 水碓聚落, a rare 17th century Hakka settlement in Nantun with an ambiguous future.

The main courtyard house in Shuidui, Taichung
The main courtyard house in the Shuidui Settlement. Apparently someone still lives in one of the wings but there was no one around when I passed through.

Shuidui 水碓 is named for a kind of traditional water-powered rice mill for rice, if my reading is correct. From what I understand the second character of the name is so uncommon that most blogs use zhuyin to spell it out phonetically. Now that I’ve done some reading it would seem that they’ve kept one of these mills in the forested area behind the foremost courtyard home, or sanheyuan, but I was only passing through and didn’t think to go take a look. At any rate, the web site advocating for preserving this small settlement hasn’t been updated in years and most everything I saw appeared to be falling apart so this place might not be around for much longer. See it while you still can—in a decade this part of the planet is almost certain to be slathered in high-rises and shopping malls.

If you’re curious about the surrounding settlement you can read more about it in Chinese (and see many photos) here, here, here, and here.

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