Photographs and Information about Taiwan's Culture, Nature and People by Rich Matheson

Xinhua’s Jiajiang Troupe 新化吳敬堂的家將

Tainan’s Wujing Clan Hall Zhentou Troupe 台南市新化區鎮狩宮吳敬堂陣頭社 is a well known, award winning traditional folk arts troupe. I first read about them in my favorite Guanjiang Shou book (臺灣家將臉譜藝術:官將首卷) and have been on the lookout for them ever since. Their base is Nabalin, where I pass through almost every other week so I figured it was inevitable that I run into them one day. Nabalin, by the way, is a small town on Hwy 20 between Shanshang and Xinhua. I confess the only reason I know the name is because Steve was researching it for an article, I don’t think it is signposted. I never saw the article so I don’t know what it has to offer tourists. I stop for sugar cane or at a nice winter gourd tea shop. It has a 7-11 and a spanking new Family Mart, too. I suspect Steve was writing about it because he has already written about every other place in Taiwan. It’s a pretty nondescript place. Strangely, I didn’t find them in Nabalin, but down in Pingtung City during the National Akau Mazu’s Cup of Ba-Jia-Jang and Guan-Jang-Shou Competition. Incidentally, A-kau is the old name for Pingtung. I had run into them earlier in the day and in the effort of making small talk while taking photos I always ask about their troupe, roles, etc. Usually beginning with where they are from. The two guys pictured below (not sure what their actual roles were, but suspect some kind of support for the jiajiang troupe they were with) below told me they were from Xinhua, but it didn’t strike me as particularly interesting at the time (my goal for the day was to get some shots of performers having their faces painted, and more on the Guanjiangshou front) and I moved on. Later in the day as the sun was going down and I had my face painting shots in the can I came across them again. They had finished performing and were chatty so we exchanged cards. That’s when I noticed they were from Nabalin. I got all weird and excited like a trekkie meeting William Shatner.  I think I freaked them all out a little, but when I pulled myself together I took a few pictures and they told me some interesting things about their troupe showed me all the pictures of them in the aforementioned Guanjiang Shou book that I had with me for reference. Here is their face painter, I think he is pretty well known. Nice looking guy, too. Although I didn’t say that to him ’cause, as his expression shows (he’s ready to run if I get any closer), he is still a bit freaked by my fan-boy show. He actually offered to paint my face later because they had about five hours down time before the end of competition. Sadly, I declined as I still wanted to get a few more pictures, but didn’t get any because it got dark and I was too lazy to pull out my lights.They placed third in the competition, which is pretty spectacular considering the caliber and amount of talent there.  Altogether there were 44 troupes!This one might be another troupe. Not sure.I believe the man above, with the lucky bat motif on his forehead, is the second generation temple head and the boy directly above is one of his three sons. Third generation. Cool.Barely pulled this shot off, failing light, stopped to 1.4. Kind of like it, though. They have an amazing shot of a bunch of the kids in a van on their facebook page. Check it out.

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