1 Originally published in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. 11.2 (SU 2004): 267 – 270.

2. “cháoshŭ” (Micromys minutus).

3. Rallus aquaticus, a solitary and reclusive nocturnal bird of riverbanks, marshes, and rice fields. When I asked the poet for the Latin names of all the animals mentioned in this poem, he sent me a fax in which he referred to the bird in this poem as “hong guan shui ji” (Gallinula chloropus, the Moorhen). His fax goes on to describe the outer appearance of the Moorhen, but this is followed by a behavioral description which is more appropriate to the Water Rail (extremely shy, active at night, etc.). Furthermore, the Moorhen is not active at night, so the speaker in the poem is obviously hearing a Water Rail.

4. Goddess of the Sea, a patron deity of fishermen and sailors in Taiwan. Sometimes associated with Guan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Matsu is a Daoist/Buddhist diety, born a fisherman’s daughter, on an island off of China’s Fujian province, in A.D. 960.

5. The oldest Matsu temple in northern Taiwan, founded around A.D. 1661. There are an estimated 383 Matsu temples on the island. Guandu, the area over which this Matsu Temple (and Goddess) presides, is home to a wetland and mangrove forest surrounded by industrial, commercial, and residential development.

6. First published in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. 11.2 (Summer 2004): 267 – 270.
The Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) is an extremely endangered species (only 772 were documented in a 2000 census), of which about 50% are believed to spend some time yearly in Taiwan, the majority in the Tainan Qigu wetlands and lagoon area in southern Taiwan. In 1994, a nationwide grassroots movement formed, to oppose a proposed joint petrochemical and steelmaking project which would have destroyed much of this precious habitat. More recently, a botulism toxin has been passed through fish to the birds, killing many.

7. The ban on American beef imports had only just been lifted and was much in the news. The waitress later assured us that the restaurant only served New Zealand beef.

 

Liu Kexiang is a well-known poet, nature writer, birder, historian, journalist, and literary editor in Taiwan.  In addition to several collections of poetry and novels, he is the author of dozens of books and articles on the natural history of Taiwan, Taiwan flora and fauna, natural science, ecotourism guides to regional Taiwan, studies of Taiwan regional bird populations, and other works.  He is also a talented artist, providing the sketches drawings, paintings, and maps for his books. He is the editor of the China Times, Literature Supplement, and is completing a wildlife survey of Ah-Li Mountain and a guide to the edible plant life of the mountain regions of northern and central Taiwan.