“The Precious Boat on Shallow Waters: The Biographical History of Tshiu-te-a”

  • 23 January, 2021

It probably doesn’t come as any surprise that Taiwan, an island nation, has had its fair share of boats throughout history. From the strikingly painted seagoing canoes of the Tao people from Orchid Island off the southeast coast to the grand Chinese-style junks of centuries past, there’s a lot to marvel at where Taiwanese boats are concerned. But while these flashier boats get much of the attention in the popular imagination, there are also humbler, more plain vessels dotting Taiwan’s past that also deserve attention. Take for instance, the  thoroughly ordinary tshiu-te-a, a workhorse boat that once helped power the economy around the southwestern city of Tainan back when roads had yet to knit together much of the city’s swampy hinterland. This wasn’t anything fancy, but it was a dependable ride through the shallow inland waters, carrying cargo so innocuously that it was barely noticed until it had disappeared. Today, the National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan holds the only surviving boat of this type in existence, and it is around this simple vessel that it’s built one of its first exhibits after a year of closure for renovations. Exhibit organizer and museum researcher Su Fengnan joins us today for a look back at a ship that shaped a city.