Chishang Bento Boxes 池上便當

On my way between Taipei and A’tolan, I take the Taiwan Railway Eastern Line through the Eastern Rift Valley. The trip takes several hours, but luckily there is a place of refreshment: Chishang, where vendors sell boxes on the train platforms. The Chishang Bento Box owes its fame to the quality of the rice grown around Chishang Township, which has one of the purest water sources for irrigation. During the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), rice from Chishang was one of the Taiwanese products given in tribute to the emperor. Today, the Bento boxes sell on the platform for 60 NT, a good deal for a lunch or dinner if you can get on the platform and back to the train in time

I am fond of the Chishang Bento, but my own love for this product has to do with its place in the Taitung soundscape as well as its taste. Stopping at Chishang or Guanshan on a calm night, the sound of vendors mix with the idling train engines and crickets. Vendors stand on the platform advertising their wares in two syllables, elongating them in a way that resembles steam whistles, no longer a feature of Taiwanese trains but recognizable as part of an iconography of train travel:

Be—–en To————ng! Be——en To——ong!

The sound, with its combination of loneliness and the promise of at least a filling meal, touches the wanderer’s heart

The Chishang Bento is more than just a sound associated with the feeling of train travel, however; it is a witness to the transformation of Chishang over the past 100 years. Large scale rice cultivation and the train line, in fact, are inextricably related. Expansion of irrigated paddy land in the Rift Valley was coordinated with the development of the narrow gauge railway between Taitung and Hualian Harbor in the early twentieth century. In the intervening years, the Chishang Bento has increased in fame. It is now iconic, perhaps because of the nostalgic relationship between agriculture, trains, and the past in a Taiwanese historical imagination. Partially, this imagination has been fed–literally–in consumption of the Chishang Bento boxes, now not an absolute necessity, but hearkening to a time when travel to or from Taitung took much longer than the six hours it takes today. It would be interesting to see whether one could track label designs for the wood slat bento boxes and consumption patterns to track the intersections of provisioning, nostalgia, and development at play in the history of the Chishang Bento. Although we might not recall this history each time we hear the vendors’ call, this sound of Taiwan’s Eastern Line captures the history of the island’s development and the postmodern desires of Taiwanese people today to experience that history anew

哇!終於到池上,可以吃池上便當喔!

池上便當之所以有名,來自池上米,因日治時期列為進貢物品,有貢米之稱,再加池上具有台灣最乾淨的水源,所以池上便當成為搭乘台鐵時大家會想購買的特產

不過我喜歡池上便當,不只是因為好吃, 我覺得池上便當形成了花東線 soundscape (音響景觀)中的一個奇觀,就是池上便當的叫賣聲!
池上便當的叫賣聲,很特別,月台上的便當販都將聲調修改,兩個字都啦的很長很長,在東部寧靜的夜晚,這種叫賣聲觸動了遊子的心

ㄅ—————ㄣ ㄉㄜ————-ㄥ!

不過,池上便當叫賣聲,有其歷史背景,池上水田農業生產的發展,跟台鐵息息相關,從日治時期水田面積擴增和窄軌鐵路在花東縱谷開通到1970年代品種改良和北迴線通花蓮,農業生產跟鐵路有關連,當我們聽便當的叫賣聲,可以感覺到
下次經過池上,聽聽看吧!

One Reply to “Chishang Bento Boxes 池上便當”

  1. Administrator Post author

    thanks. i’m engaged in a long-term project of documenting the soundscapes of taiwan and hope that my blog will encourage people to write more about the history of such simple materials that nonetheless constitute our experience of place

    Reply

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