Snake Kiln (Shuei Li, Taiwan)
It's the oldest and most representative firewood kiln in Taiwan, and is also my favorite place in Nantou county in central Taiwan. Since I got to know the place in times of my university studies, I've been to the kiln for minimun five times in ten years. Most of the time, I passed it by with my foreign friends when I took them to the Sun Mook Lake. The reason I always take foreign friends there? Well, it's a characteristic and unique place and is one of the best places to demonstrate Taiwanese kiln culture.
It's been more than six or seven years since I last visited the Snake Kiln. I took two Italian friends there in June 2006 to see this old friend of mine. After I tried my best to translate and introduce the background information of the kiln in Italian, my friends went exploring the site by their own. I took the chance to enjoy the "quietness" brought by heavy rain. There're indeed very few visitors that day!
Broadly speaking, it can be categorized as a museum. But the term "museum" makes it too serious and people rather call it as "cultural park" for a more vivid image. After all, many people do not like the atmosphere of a traditional museum, and for this "living" kiln the term museum is quite out of tune.
If not for the little black mosquitos, I enjoy pretty much the feeling staying inside the kiln. The dim light and the coal black walls bring ti me vivid imagination. With the burning firewood, ashes fall onto the terracotta and create various color patterns and antique texture. On that specific day, my mind was brought back to a piece of terracotta bowl I saw in Miho Museum in Japan several years ago. It might be a pretty "far" connection but it's a very nice feeling to think of something that I've seen in the past, coz I still remember the "shock" brought to me when I saw it in Miho four years ago.
It's the very first time I went back to Nantou after the catastrophic earthquake in 1999. Though the kiln I saw this time was rebuilt in 2000, I still felt like seeing an old friend. Whether it's that very kiln or not is not any more important. The most important thing is the cultural continuity bring to us by the new kiln.