When I was a professor in Tamsui Oxford University College in Taiwan, my students liked to invite me on outings to see other parts of the island. One time a whole group of us, students and professors, traveled together to the town of Jiufen, (九份) which means “Nine Portions”.
There are many things to see in this town, but what they particularly wanted to show us was the house of the ghost mask maker. All the way there, the students were chattering about the ghost mask maker, and I had no idea what they meant.
“There is a man,” they tried to explain. “He makes ghost masks. That is all he does, all day long. Because of this, the walls of his house are covered with ghost masks!”
I did not know what to think of that, until we got to the ghost mask maker’s house. He was a happy, jolly man, and sure enough, the walls of his house were covered with ghost masks. He seemed to enjoy acting the part of a crazy man for the students, and I wondered if that is all there was to him. Was he just a crazy old guy who made ghost masks all day?
In the corner, on the floor, I saw some canvases. I asked him about them, through the interpretation of the students. His aspect changed. It turns out he had been a famous painter once. He had had shows. There was even an artbook with prints of his paintings. I wanted to buy the book, but he would not accept my money. He gave me a copy of his book for free. I still have it.
His name was Wu Jyh Chyang. And today, I shared his paintings with Bow. Bow very much enjoyed the art of Wu Jyh Chyang. I wish I could share this photo of Bow and the artbook with the Ghost Mask Maker of Jiufen. I wonder how he is today.
Copyright 2013 Aya Katz — Words and Pictures
[This article was first published in 2013 on a site that has since gone defunct.]