Lo Family Traditional School


Lo Family Traditional School in Hsinchu
(All photos courtesy of Lo Family Traditional School’s Facebook page)



Chinese name: 羅屋書院

Located at: Guanxi Township, Hsinchu County

In one of well-known Taiwanese documentary maker Chi Po-lins (齊柏林) aerial filmed documentaries, the green and lush rice stalks growing in the southern part of Guanxi Township in Hsinchu County gently sway, caressed by the breeze, and amid the rice fields spread out along Fengshan Creek, stands an ancient southern Chinese red brick courtyard house. This is the century-old Lo Family Traditional School. In the past, the building served as the private school for the children of the Lo family, a prominent clan in Guanxi, as well as a gathering place for the literati.

In recent years, Lo Shih-lung (羅仕龍), a descendant of the Lo family, has returned to his hometown to take over the management of the old Hakka house and try to revive it. He has turned it into a gathering place for cultural activities participants and a B&B for tourists, hoping that through various interactions with the community and revitalization measures, he can increase people's participation in efforts to breathe new life into this century-old Hakka house.

Lo Shih-lung said that before he returned to his hometown, his relatives and friends were not optimistic about his plans to do so since he had a stable job in Taipei. Worried that this historic structure full of Hakka cultural and educational significance might fall into disrepair and eventually disappear with the changing times, Lo insisted on returning home and doing what he could to revitalize this asset that carries precious memories of himself and his family. After returning home, he first used the former school as a platform for exchanges in Guanxi’s real estate industry and then transformed the residential space of the building into a guest house. The former school was officially opened for tourists in 2015. Travelers to Guanxi can stay overnight in this ancient house and experience the tranquility, slowness, romance and beauty of the long-established Hakka house in an in-depth way.

Lo Family Traditional School


Construction of the Lo Family Traditional School began in 1904. The complex and exquisite totem carvings can be seen everywhere in the compound. In addition to giving a clue to the financial resources of the Lo household, the way the house was built also gives visitors a sense of the importance the family placed on education. Stepping into the compound, visitors will see above a door a stone plaque on which is carved the hall’s name "Yu Zhang Tang," an indication of the family’s origin in mainland China. All around the compound, there are carvings on stone, wood or brick, as well as clay sculptures of Cochin pottery. Each totem has a meaning, like the Cochin pottery on the top of the house, which tells the stories of ancient Chinese history and the Three Kingdoms period. The carvings on the guatong (瓜筒) (nicknamed melon tube), a piece of wood used for supporting the weight of a beam, depict a mouse biting into a pumpkin, which symbolizes having numerous offspring. Every detail exhibits dazzling and beautiful craftsmanship, and expresses the expectations and reminders for future generations.

guatong


In recent years, there has been a strong interest in visiting old houses across the country, but Lo Shi-lung, the manager of the Lo Family Traditional School, pointed out that there are many difficulties in operating ancient buildings. That’s why he has turned his family’s old house into a platform to promote Guanxi’s local arts and culture. Numerous cultural lectures and guided tours have been held here, linking the house with local activities in the town, and forming a Hakka cultural revival. Currently, the Lo Family Traditional School also provides accommodation inside the house and camping set ups in the courtyard for overnight guests, as well as guided tours, and DIY activities, such as learning how to make Hakka vegetable buns. From time to time, Hakka singers are invited to give concerts at the Lo Family Traditional School, providing local youth orchestras and performance troupes with a place to perform. It is hoped that the development of the traditional Hakka house will not be limited to the main body of the building but will facilitate the integration between the reborn version and the locality. If you are free on weekends and holidays, you must come and stay overnight, listen to the guided tour, taste tea, eat the Hakka buns you make by yourself and truly experience the beauty of Hakka culture.