Viewing Stones in Taiwan
We had the opportunity to visit several serious stone collectors in Taiwan in February, 2014 to see native Taiwan stones and to learn about the status of stone appreciation there. I was especially curious to learn how much stone appreciation on this island had been affected by the Japanese guidelines as opposed to the Chinese criteria. Taiwan was occupied and under Japanese control from 1895 until 1945. According to the people we spoke with, Japanese suiseki had little influence during this time. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, Taiwan was basically a rural developing country. The Japanese occupation focused on the introduction of management and organizational skills policies and the mining and removal of natural resources. The introduction of cultural aspects were not significant during this fifty year period.
The development of a viewing stone culture can be traced to the 1980s and early 1990s. The rise in stone interest in Taiwan coincides with the rapid expansion of stone appreciation culture in mainland China. Taiwan stone collectors developed close ties with counterparts in Luizhou in Guangxi Province, the birthplace of modern Chinese stone culture. Stones and books about stones were flowing into Taiwan. The Taiwan Viewing Stone Association was established in 1992 and now has over 2,500 members. This association publishes an occasional magazine, the more recent one was an exhibition catalog celebrating the 100 anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China.
Collectors began to search the mountains, rivers, and streams in Taiwan for suitable stones. Later, the government began restricting the collection of stones in certain areas and rivers. This led to search for stones in the shallow waters off the coast of Taiwan and the discovery of interesting new stones. Taiwan has become well known for several types of stones including the watermelon, rose, nail, turtle-shell, iron, and beautiful pattern stones.
The majority of stones seen in Taiwan stone shops are from mainland China, particularly Guangxi and Guizhou provinces. Several serious collectors were early visitors to Luizhou and purchased numerous high quality Dahua and Pottery stones before these stones became widely known and more expensive. These were brought back to Taiwan in containers. This proved to be a good investment for Taiwanese stone dealers because mainland stone collectors are coming to the Taiwan stone shops to try and buy back many of the outstanding stones.
In 2009, I. C. Su published a beautiful book, Suiseki Collections in Taiwan, which features many of the best viewing stones native to Taiwan. Numerous Taiwan stones were featured in a trilateral major exhibition of stones from Korean, Japan and Taiwan in 1991. This early exhibit was documented in the book, Oriental Excellent Stones, published by the Korean Suseok Research Institute. See this book under references-Korean language.