What Do You Do in Your Free Time? I Own a Caterpillar and I . . .

I don't think I'll ever tire of Taiwan's sign culture. I photograph signs around Taiwan all the time. Some of them are amusing. Others are eye-catching and brilliant examples of advertising. A lot of the time, Taiwan's signs can be downright baffling. I ask locals and they don't know what they mean either. 

I asked a local about the one below and she thinks it's related to mountain-top deforestation, which is carried out for the purposes of construction and betel nut farming. As anyone living here can tell you, the scraping away of trees from Taiwan's slopes has been met with disaster time and time again. Tree roots hold soil and rock in place. Once they're gone, there's not much left to prevent landslides, which seem to happen every time we have a typhoon or heavy rain. It's true that betel nuts grow on trees. The roots of betel nut trees, however, are shallow, making them a poor replacement for the cypress, yew, etc. that belong at medium to high altitudes.

I have some serious doubts about this sign, taken at up in Baoshan (Bao Mountain), nonetheless:

1. Taiwanese people don't normally own Cat excavators. They have cars, scooters and bicycles instead

2. If the operator goes ahead and actually digs into that slope, he or she is taking a plunge

3. I think you'd have to have some kind of official permission, even if you were doing it on your own property, to proceed; hence, there's no need for a sign

Of course, we can play the devil's advocate and say: "There must be a precedent, or there wouldn't be a sign." Whenever I see something goofy like this, I ask myself: "How is the company that makes these signs connected to the government? Is he or she related to an official?" Simply put, I look for the corruption angle. 


Okami said...

In the defense of the sign, fill earth is kind of valuable and useful. There have been quite a few illegal ops having done such things I know of one in Hsindian that got one of those operators serving a prison sentence. There was one in Taichung, where everyone thought it was legal till someone blew the whistle. These aren't small operations either. You'll have 2-3 of those excavators, a manager, 2-5 truck drivers, and assorted help. This is the industrial construction complex that rules Taiwan.

An even better scam is illegal wiring from Taipower. If you can bribe the right Taipower guy, you can get electricity anywhere you want. Been there, saw that and that guy got grassed out, too.

Patrick Cowsill said...


"An even better scam is illegal wiring from Taipower. If you can bribe the right Taipower guy, you can get electricity anywhere you want. Been there, saw that and that guy got grassed out, too."

I am very happy to hear that certain individuals have been jailed. Can you give me some literature / news reports on this topic?

Okami said...

Some of it I have seen on the Taiwan news or read about in the Taipei Times. I only knew about the Taipower thing because my friend's landlord's husband was an excavator operator that did some of the work and went to jail for it along with the Taipower guy. Most of this stuff happens out in the countryside where everyone knows each other. That only got reported because the 3-5 families that lived on that small road didn't want city bumpkins speeding up and down their small quiet road.

In the countryside you can rent your house out for gambling for a princely sum. I've seen them build temporary brick walls with no mortar to keep the cops out, too. I've seen a sign in Sanxia telling people not to grow marijuana and a sign in Hsindian offering $10,000NT to report illegal gambling. One of the ways I knew the KMT won the Taipei County chair was they built some really nice houses and factories in a watershed area that has building moratorium.

Anonymous said...

Now I got it; they steal the top soil using Caterpillar to excavate and utilize the heavy trucks for delivery. Taiwan was never that kind of place when I left her half a century ago. TaiPower happened to be my former company and we were so proud to work for that company. It is sad, isn't it?