Landscape Sketch (139)-SB20 (35.10-11)
紙本鋼筆Pen on paper
Though a large part of the visual field is blocked by the uphill groves, a projecting pagoda is visible against the sky and the adjacent house shows part of its roof stretching to either side of the low hill. In the small town downhill, the architectural complex is filled with both tall and low buildings, which closely tier along the riverbank. It looks like a crowded place bustling with activity.
Judging from the distinctive features of the landscape, the distant pagoda depicted in the sketch is the Octagonal Tower of Tamsui Middle School. To the right, the square building looks exactly like those colonial buildings with arched corridors located on the hill at Pu-ding (i.e. the Fortress Hill).
Amusingly, before the painter’s line of sight is a small sampan at anchor; it seems to suggest that the painter was looking to Tamsui and sketching the landscape from the shore. However, at Pali, on the opposite shore, one cannot see clearly the scenes of Tamsui. In that case, where was Chen Cheng-po when he made this sketch?
One possibility for the answer is the sandbar which had existed in the middle of the river course till 1960 and was known as “the floating line” to the old locals at Tamsui. During the period of Japanese colonization, the area of the floating line was really broad and covered with vegetation all the year round, which was a unique scene at the Tamsui River estuary. The stretch of this sandbar was also depicted in other Tamsui landscape paintings by Chen Cheng-po.
In The Ripples Across the Tamsui River, a novella written by the distinguished scholar Wang Chang-hsiung, a boatman named A-chuan learned to draw paintings. One day, A-chuan took his admired girl to come to the sandbar by boat. On the sandbar, seized by a surge of excitement, A-chuan picked up his sketchbook and started to draw the girl’s looks on the paper.
Looking at the superb landscape of Tamsui Town, Chen Cheng-po also opened his sketchbook on the sandbar. Did he feel a similar surge of excitement?
The Sandbar in the Middle of the River Course.
Katô Hayao, Always Summer in Taiwan, (Taipei: Always Summer in Taiwan Publishing House, 1928), p. iii, cited from Database of Taiwanese Old Photos.
The Octagonal Tower of Tamsui Middle School
Pu-ding (Black House)
Sandbar (the floating line)