How the Island''s Waters Provide for its People - Conception of Water with Social Change in Iraraley Village, Lanyu
In the past, when Lanyu was completely isolated and it was impossible to import food from the outside, private ownership and control of water resources had been the essential means to survival. Water is the source of life; possessing water is vital to raising a family and continuing one’s descent line. Besides, the utilisation and management of water resources is key to accumulating social prestige. Water embodies an abundance of social qualities: It causes strife but is also an intermediary for reconciliation in social and personal relationships.
This paper takes a look at the Iraraley (Langdao) village’s water landscape including rivers and streams, headwaters, stone aqueducts and diversion channels in Lanyu, and then considers the changing patterns in water use for irrigation and domestic home life as the people undergo social and cultural change. Although it imported food from outside is available for Tao people’s survival today, the social institution they have constructed through the way they use irrigation water traditionally is still the core of Tao culture. Externally provided food and lifestyle changes make it possible for Tao people to use their property waters in the home, while publicly installed pipes and council housing projects are influencing the way people obtain drinking water: from manually carrying water from the village well to piping directly into the home. Still, for concerns such as quality, private ownership of water sources and cost, more than sixty per cent of Tao people get their own pipes and use their private water sources instead of public water service provision. On the other hand, the convenience of having tap water has contributed to a growth in the number of people using public water supply services.
Water flows through history reflecting development of Tao people’s survival culture in a closed island system; it also tells the story of adaptation, integration and conflict in response to the impacts of foreign material cultures into Lanyu. Different generations of Tao people experience their environment differently, resulting in a change in their conception of water – from water being the principal economic capital for sustaining livelihoods to the idea of not owning water but using public services for household water supply. From past to present, the island’s waters, by transforming into various ways and methods, still support the island’s people in their survival into the future.
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