Youth team on a mission to preserve Hakka culture in Miaoli

A team of passionate youths has been exploring and preserving traditional aspects of Hakka culture by engaging the members of Shihciang Village (石墻村) in Miaoli County over the years. Located in Miaoli’s Gongguan Township (公館鄉), the village was once renowned for red dates, its agricultural specialty, and grass-woven sandals, a traditional Hakka handicraft.

(Photo: Keep-Tripper)

Tsai Yi-yun (蔡依紜), one of the co-founders of the Keep-Tripper (青履客) group that works to revitalize Shihciang’s Hakka heritage, said that she participated in a work exchange program that brought her to this village when attending college in Miaoli years ago. The experience motivated her to learn more stories about the small town and inspired her to contribute to the region.

By interacting and conversing with local residents, Keep-Tripper members found out that apart from traditional Hakka pickling culture, other famed handicrafts in the past such as pottery and woven sandals have been gradually fading away since only older villagers maintain the skills.

To pass on the distinctive heritage, the team visited and interviewed an 80-year-old ceramist to document the history and development of the region’s pottery industry. In addition, young members also learned the methods of making sandals with both conventional and Japanese-style weaving techniques.

Tsai noted that, during the harvest season of red dates in the village, the team invites young people outside of Miaoli through its work exchange project to learn how to make woven products with a kind of local common plant called “soft rush,” thereby bringing such weaving crafts into daily lives.

(Photo: Keep-Tripper)

The team also launches various activities every week for townspeople to partake in, and sometimes work exchange participants are invited, all in hope of discovering more cultural legacies of the area and raising the profile of this unique Hakka village.

According to Tsai, the team is planning to collaborate with local residents to build a cultural brand with agrarian products and handicraft items featuring Hakka characteristics. Moreover, by organizing afterschool tutoring programs, team members provide the opportunity for children to delve into the history of their hometown and help them become more interested in preserving and passing down their precious culture.