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Hakkas the pioneers of Camphor in Taiwan

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Hakkas the pioneers of Camphor in Taiwan

Postby chungyn » Tue Aug 09, 2016 7:36 pm

The pioneers of camphor industry in Taiwan

Taiwan was officially incorporated as a part of China in 1684AD and was
made a prefecture (郡) of Fujian province (福建省). The Qing Government
(清朝 1644AD to 1912AD) considered Taiwan a savage land. People, who had
been convicted with even petty crimes from the province of Guangdong (廣
東省), were banished there. Many of these so called convicts were Hakka
Chinese. In order to live far apart from the authorities these Hakkas established
themselves in the fringes of the hills particularly in northern part of
the island. They built huts surrounded by strong stockade and erected watchtowers
and at night locked themselves in the forts.

During the sixteenth century, Camphor forest extended down on to the plains
and even to the west coast. As more and more emigrants from the Mainland
arrived in Taiwan forests were cleared for the cultivation of tea and other
staples. Thus camphor trees were disposed of with other trees indiscriminately
without replanting young trees.

Crystallized product, a drug, could be produced from camphor trees.This
drug was and is still being used to cure rheumatic pains. Apart from the
drug, the camphor tree yields a valuable wood for general purposes, ship-building
and cabinet work. Clothes boxes made of camphor wood are to keep the insects
away as they, especially the moths, disliked the scent of camphor or mothballs.

During the early eighteenth century the Hakkas pioneered the first camphor
industry in Taiwan. As the forest, including all the camphor trees, on the
plains were destroyed to give way for cultivation. Most of the remaining
camphor trees were in the mountain regions stretching through the heart
of Taiwan island from north to south. Mountainous regions are the places
where the Taiwanese aborigines lived. The methods of obtaining camphor products
was to destroy the trees without replanting the young ones. The aborigines
disliked the camphor workers and refused to grant them permission to cut
down the camphor trees in their domains. Ways had to be found to obtain
their permissions to acquire the trees.

The aborigines were very fond of roast pigs and samshu, a kind of intoxicating
drink made of rice. The Hakkas promised to give them a few pigs, a jar or
more of samshu, some rice and salt if they allowed them to cut down the
camphor trees in a certain district. Many a time agreements were made and
trees were fell, but the Hakkas could not afford to give them the articles
they promised. Thus antagonism existed between them. Sometimes fighting
broke out between them resulting in the lost of lives. The aborigines and
the Hakkas distrusted each other and hostility continued. Finally the Taiwan
Prefecture authorities stepped in and declared the monopoly over camphor
industry in Taiwan. The authorities decreed that the penalty for cutting
down a single tree in contravention of the regulations was being death.
Under such a rigorous law, just in one year in 1720, over two hundred people
were decapitated. This so enraged the Hakkas that in May 1721AD a rebellion
broke out and Tainanfu (台南府), the capital of the island fell into the
hands of the rebel leader, Zhu Yigui (朱一貴). Many thousands lost their
lives in this rebellion. be continued.....

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