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Preserver of Tik-long-a-tshu Construction | Li Yang

  • Date:2023-09-14
李養(National Museum of Taiwan History).jpg

Chinese Name: 李養

Born: 1943

Place of Birth: Tainan (Southern Taiwan)

Did You Know?

 "Tik-long-a-tshu (竹籠茨)" is a term in the Taiwanese language that refers to a house constructed by interweaving bamboo pipes and assembling them with a thatched roof. This traditional construction method, which relies on intricate craftsmanship, precise measurements, and the intelligent use of local materials, is highly admired even by modern architects.

The Anping area of Tainan City was once a place plagued by salt, alkali, drought, and unpredictable underground water and riverbeds, resulting in frequent flooding over the years. In order to have stable housing, residents developed the tik-long-a-tshu construction method, which involved interconnecting bamboo pipes of various diameters to form the structure of the house. The roof was covered with reeds and thatched with straw to provide protection from rain. Surrounding walls were often made of bamboo and mud. The foundation of these houses was simply placed on flat, hard ground without being buried underground. When floodwaters receded, the houses that had not collapsed were dismantled, and the walls were knocked down to reduce weight. They were then manually carried to higher ground to wait for the floodwaters to subside. This traditional form of housing fully reflects the survival wisdom of residents in salt-affected and flood-prone areas.

From a young age, Li Yang learned the tik-long-a-tshu construction method from his father and older brothers. After graduating from elementary school, he officially joined the family workshop and started his livelihood in building tik-long-a-tshu houses. During the Japanese colonial period, Li Yang’s family specialized in constructing tik-long-a-tshu houses in the Anping area of Tainan. Initially, Li Yang’s skills were not as good as the other apprentices, but he was determined not to settle for less. He considered himself a serious and strong-willed person, and was driven to give his all to accomplish whatever he set his mind to. He gave himself six months to become more skilled than anyone else in every step of the construction process, and soon became a valuable assistant to his father and brothers, playing an indispensable role in the workshop.

While Li Yang continued to build tik-long-a-tshu houses, he also kept up with the times and learned about cement brick construction. After completing his military service, Li Yang initially returned to work in his family workshop. Later, he established his own business and worked as a contractor at a construction site in Kaohsiung's Luzhu district. His first project was the construction of a factory building for a feed mill. Due to his serious and high-quality work, Li Yang’s workshop gradually gained a reputation. Throughout his career, he has never had a case where he had to pay compensation.

Since the 1960s, tik-long-a-tshu houses, which provided warmth in winter, coolness in summer, and were lightweight and earthquake-resistant, became outdated as people considered brick houses a sign of progress. The tik-long-a-tshu, which had been phased out by the market, vanished for almost half a century. Even the few remaining old houses, including Li Yang's own two tik-long-a-tshu houses, had long been damaged and collapsed.

In 2008, the National Museum of Taiwan History found Li Yang and his two brothers and commissioned them to create scaled models of tik-long-a-tshu for the museum’s collection. Initially, they were all very puzzled as to why the museum would ask them to build houses that no one wanted to live in. However, they later understood the museum's intention to preserve the craftsmanship and techniques. They subsequently completed a tik-long-a-tshu house and several scaled models. During the construction process, Li Yang's two brothers passed away. With the departure of his two most compatible partners, Li Yang became even more determined to rebuild tik-long-a-tshu.

Li Yang explained that bamboo has elasticity, so it can absorb the twisting forces during earthquakes, making it more earthquake-resistant than brick houses. However, if the joints between the drilled holes and bamboo pipes are not tightly sealed, the house will not be stable and may produce noise during strong winds. Additionally, because bamboo is not a perfectly straight plant, the spaces between columns will not form perfect rectangles. The challenge lies in how to adapt the bamboo strips to the varying widths of the walls. This requires experience and skill. Overall, Li Yang's passion lies in conveying the common wisdom and practical aesthetics of tik-long-a-tshu, as well as his unparalleled craftsmanship that he has cherished for half a century.


In 2016, the National Museum of Taiwan History invited Li Yang to construct a 26-ping (approximately 860 square feet) tik-long-a-tshu using traditional methods for the exhibition "Carrying Home Along the River: The Local Culture and Nature of Taijiang (扛茨走溪流:台江風土與自然)." The house was intended for display purposes. On June 24, 2018, after more than a year of planning, the National Taiwan Museum of History officially launched the "Carrying Home" exhibition, inviting local residents of Tainan to experience the wisdom of their ancestors during the Japanese colonial period in avoiding floods, and to rediscover the history of their villages. Over 100 people participated in the event, including two scholars from Japan. Each person carried an average weight of 22.5 kilograms, collectively carrying the traditional home for approximately one kilometer.